Monday, October 20, 2008

$35 movie tickets in Orange County?

I love movies. Back in Seoul I had OCN ("Korean number-one channel!") or CatchOn blaring nearly 24/7. Now in Honolulu I have a Blockbuster membership, alternating between the DVD I get in the mail and the one I get when I exchange it at the store across the street from Don Quijote Supermarket (what is up with that name?) near Ala Moana Shopping Center.

But sometimes I like heading out to the movies. Usually it's the $1 theater at Restaurant Row, which screens popular movies from two or three months earlier, but on (rare) occasion I will pay full price. Well, full price minus the student discount.

Since arriving in Honolulu at the beginning of August 2006, I have done this only three times. Twice in Yolo County with relatives to see "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and later Tropical Thunder (the viewing experience of which is enhanced by seeing it with a giddy crowd), and again at the Ward Center Theaters here in Honolulu when I took cousins traveling from Seoul to the Mainland to see "Batman Does Something or Other" while their mother shopped.

I do not regret paying $10 a pop for any of those flicks, but it's not something I could do every day and still maintain my Coffee Bean habit. So it dismays me to see the Orange County Register's peek into the dark future: $35-per-ticket movies.

No, that is not a typo. What it is is Gold Class Cinemas' plans to have movies in a comfy couch with concierge service. [The OC Weekly also has a write-up.] Sort of like what First Class or Business Class travel is to Coach (which I have flown every one of the hundreds of times I've been in a plane, save the one time Korean Air bumped me up to First Class on a flight from Hong Kong to Seoul—oh, what luxury!).

All I can say is, may Gold Class Cinemas crash and burn. I do not want the precedent of a $35 movie ticket in my hometown. Seoul theaters started offering "couples booths" in movie theaters, but they charged only half that price, I think. OC is already expensive enough as it is without other theaters eyeing that price tag and inching toward it. What are OCers going to do? Drive to Los Angeles County? With gas at $4 per gallon, you could jack up movie ticket prices to $15 and it would still be cost-effective to stay behind the Orange Curtain (not to mention safer and less time-consuming).

I like what one OC Register commenter said, that "for 35 bucks, it should include an unnatural act." Actually, I think the idea is that the unnatural act is supposed to come after the film (sorry for that bit of crudity, Mom). But for $35, I'd be happy if they washed and waxed my car.

Let me remind everyone that I'm a grad student on an extremely modest income, my modest net worth has been tanking as the Korean won freefalls against the dollar, and the university has not paid me my modest monthly wage since August even though they were quick to grab up a modest scholarship I'd won when there was an outstanding balance on my tuition statement. In case you missed it, the theme of this paragraph is "modest."

And as long as I have lived in the United States, it has always been thus. Back when I was at the University of California at Irvine, we had $2 movie night every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the Edwards Cinema across from UCI. This eventually shrank to just Tuesdays and eventually disappeared altogether. There were rumors that people who attended lectures in the cineplex during the mornings or early afternoons (UCI was so overcrowded they'd run out of lecture halls space) parked themselves inside the bathroom stalls until evening came and watched movies for free, but that's probably an urban legend. I was tempted to try it myself.

Now I'm in grad school and, as I mentioned, I'm enjoying the $1 movies at Restaurant Row here in Honolulu. $35 for a movie? Not on my student budget. But even when I was working and had a high five-digit income (ha ha) I don't think I would have spent $35 for a ticket except for that once-a-decade movie event, like Indiana Jones 3 (not 4) or Episode 1 of Star Wars (but not 2 or 3). And only if I were trying to impress a special someone.

Gold Class Cinema, I wish you all the worst.

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