Chinese Movie Theatres

Just because I’ve been in China for a year doesn’t mean that I haven’t been able to watch new movie releases in theatres. Hyped up big blockbuster movies do come to the theatres in China, although they usually come a few weeks after the actual release date in Western countries. I’ve been able to enjoy 2011 and 2012’s most popular movies on the big screen in China that I would loath to miss otherwise, such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2, Titanic 3d, and, as of last night, the Avengers! In Hohhot there is an IMAX theatre near to our apartment in Wanda Mall and I’ve gone a number of times on my days off. The price is the equivalent of roughly $12 Canadian, and although I’m able to enjoy a good film on the big screen, the process of seeing a movie in China is quite different from seeing one in Canada.

First off, there is no air conditioning in the theatre. In Canada, I often bring a sweater to the theatre with me because it can get quite chilly (in a good way) with the air conditioning. It’s starting to get hot in Hohhot and in the theatre I go to here there is zero air conditioning! Half way through the movie you really start to sweat and feel uncomfortable. Last night a few Chinese people actually got up halfway through the movie and left, I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t enjoy the film (in which case they are idiots) or the heat was too much for them. The lack of air really confuses me because the mall that the IMAX is located in is relatively new and expensive, so what’s the excuse?!

Secondly, buying tickets is not as easy or accessible as in Canada. In Canada you can stand in line to buy tickets and the wait is never more than 10 minutes, or you can go to the personal ticket disposers and buy your own with a card. Easy, quick, reliable. In China, there are no Do It Yourself Booths, you must stand in cue that can take up to half an hour on a busy night. Sometimes you get into one line and wait and once you get to the front they say “Sorry, this line is only for people paying with credit cards. You must go to a different line”! The reason it takes so long is because once you get to the front it’s like having a private consultation with the movie ticket seller. They have computer screens built into the counter that you can both view, where you pick your movie, how many tickets, the best time, payment method, and where you want to sit. In Canada you can sit wherever you want, but in China they give you assigned seating and it always takes Chinese people FOREVER to buy their tickets.

Thirdly, the food is undesirable at a Chinese theatre. There is no salted or buttered popcorn, ONLY sweet popcorn. There is only sweet popcorn in CHINA for that matter, I’ve never been able to buy regular popcorn here. They sell small tubs of Haagen Dazs ice cream, but they are very expensive. They sell nacho chips, but no cheese or salsa! Just a tray of plain corn chips. There aren’t bags of chocolates or candies to purchase either. The only normal thing they sell are the drinks. You can buy bottles of pop, juice or milk, or you can get it in a cup. The food deal doesn’t really matter to me because I sneak food in my purse and the fact that the food sucks means I don’t have to spend money on the overpriced grub.

Fourthly, as a foreigner in China I’m only privy to watching a movie at certain times because of the language barrier. Only on certain days and at certain times do they show the movies in English with Chinese subtitles, otherwise the movie is dubbed in Chinese. Sometimes it doesn’t matter to me, like when I saw War Horse I didn’t care if I didn’t know what they were saying because I wasn’t into the movie anyway. I saw Harry Potter twice and one of the times it was in Chinese but I was still able to figure out the gist. This is why we usually go to the theatre with a Chinese person so that they can help us purchase the right movie tickets, otherwise we’re lost in translation.

Fifthly, seeing a movie in China can be VERY frustrating because Chinese people talk through the whole thing. When the movies are in English with Chinese subtitles, Chinese people feel free to play games on their phones, phone their friends to talk about their days, talk to their friends in the theatre, or bring their crying children to a 10pm showing. It drives me nuts sometimes, especially if I’m really into the movie. I sometimes shout “BIZWEI!” (shut up) if the talker is sitting near me.

Sixthly, there are no previews for other movies. A lot of people like to see movies in Canada to check out the previews that feature before the movie, or they don’t sweat it if they are a few minutes late for the movie because they know they have about 10-15 minutes of previews first. In China they play maybe one or two commercials and then the movie begins, so you must be on time.

Seventhly, almost immediately after the credits start rolling (and sometimes before!) the cleaners come in and begin cleaning the theatre. When we were watching Titanic 3D, once the ship sank and Jack died, people in the theatre started leaving and the cleaners came in and started picking up garbage, even though there was still maybe 15-20 minutes left of film!! I found this quite funny.

Lastly, the workers at the theatre aren’t almost all teenagers like in Canada. They are adults, some quite old, and this is their full time job …forever. No changes. In China, a jobs a job and once you have one you usually stick to it without much hope of moving up the career ladder. Very strange.

So that is the process of seeing a movie in China. I wont miss the experience because seeing a movie in Canada is much easier and, quite frankly, more pleasant than in stuffy, hectic China.

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