I’d Like a Champagne with that Popcorn, Please.

All cinemas in Tokyo offer a ¥1000 admission price on the first day of the month. Without this discount, a ticket could be close to ¥2000 (bearing in mind US$1 roughly equals JP¥109). For the first time since my arrival I took advantage of this deal. Mind you, there is not much of a choice here with regard to the movies because of my language limitation. My European languages ability cannot carry me through an entire movie on one viewing only. American –mainly Hollywood– movies are indeed available, but they do not play at about the same time the American cinemas are playing them. According to a Japanese friend of mine, the theatres in Tokyo wait until a big holiday to launch a première for select American movies to ensure a big turn out and a sizable box office gain. Some movies play six months after its American première; but hey, a good movie is a good movie no matter when it is viewed.

The AMC theatres’ reclining seats in the U.S. are so darned comfortable that I could fall asleep in that plush seating in a dark and cool auditorium; not necessarily so in Tokyo, at least not in the two cinemas I have attended thus far. The Shinjuku Takashimaya’s seats are stiff, making me think that the backing and the seat part are made of wood covered with felt: it has a plushy appearance but the feel of an old style school bench. The good thing is that this kind of seating will keep you awake to see the movie for which you had paid a lot of money. The rows are so narrow that basically your shin can tell you whether the person seated in front of you uses gel, mousse, foam or a hairspray to keep that funky hair-do.

The Virgin Cinemas at the new Roppongi Hills complex fares a little better in this department: plush seats and ample amount of leg space, but the theatre imposes a seat assignment when you buy the ticket. This reminds me of the cinemas in Indonesia in the olden days up until the late 80s, when you had to specify which seats you wish to take unless the ticket seller already assigned one for you. Like the ones in Indonesia, this Virgin Cinemas ticket seller showed me the map of my auditorium and offered me a few available seat assignments.

Once when I was in New York watching a matinée, I smiled as I saw the offering in the concession stand: alongside of the regular movie junk food like popcorn, nachos and the plastic cheese, gummy bears, there were baked goods, such as: carrot cake, blueberry pie and apple pie. These were not packaged pie or ready-to-go cake wrapped in cellophane. The server had to cut a slice from an entire cake. It was served in a mini paper plate (with a doily, no less!), a plastic knife and a paper napkin. I thought at the time that it was a novel, yet quaint, idea, until I saw what the Virgin Cinemas (and possibly in other Tokyo cinemas) listed the following in their concession offerings: beer, wine (red or white), or Champagne. Yes, maybe in other theatres, on any day these mood-altering drinks will definitely help us forget how much we had spent on the theatre to see a movie in a very cramped space.

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