Thursday, June 28, 2007

Movies-The American vs. The French

Movies are a huge part of our culture as Americans. We flock to them in droves. We put up with endless commercials for a movie, only to have it fade away as quickly as it appeared, replaced by the "next big movie of the summer." Well yesterday I was reminded that not everyone in the world does movies the same way.

Our local theatre does a summer movie program where they show 2nd run kids movies for free on Wednesdays. Everyone gets in free, and the only cost would be the concessions, if you choose. Since I'm all about free family fun, we loaded the kids in the car and headed on over to the show. I wasn't sure how Ella would do. I'd taken Emma when she was 20 months old, and we had to leave about 1/2 an hour into the show. But we thought we'd take our chances.

Well, the outcome this time was pretty much the same. We got there too early, sat for too long, and by the time the movie started, Ella was ready to go. Todd wanted to leave, so we all left the theatre, and you can only imagine the tantrum that followed when Emma realized we were leaving the movie! She was reluctantly pacified with the promise that Mommy or Daddy would bring her back to the next one, sans baby sister.

As we were leaving the theatre, I couldn't help but notice how long the concession lines were. I mean, there were at least 6 lines, all with 8-10 people in them. And the moms were walking away with armloads of popcorn, candy, and sodas. We're talking "heart attack waiting to happen." And funny thing is, I found myself wanting to get sucked into the whole thing. We had purchased a large popcorn as we went into the movie, to be shared amongst the 4 of us. I noticed Emma looking longingly at what a lot of the other kids had- a "kids meal", if you will, of popcorn, chocolate candy, and a drink. It made me realize how much our culture is centered around food and how we incorporate it into so much of our everyday experiences. And all of a sudden, I was transported back about 7 years, to my last visit to Paris.

I went on vacation to Paris in the spring of 2000. I'd been there 3 times before, but always with a group, and never able to follow my own agenda. There was a new movie out with ads everywhere-the Metro, the buses, the street stands, everywhere! The lead role was played by Gerard Depardieu, one of France's most popular actors. My friend and I thought, how cool would it be to see a movie in Paris! You know, combine a little of our culture and theirs. Or so we thought.

We bought our tickets outside of the theatre, and then headed right in to get our popcorn and sodas. But something was different. The lobby of the theatre was quite small. The concession counter, even smaller. And NOBODY was in line for food! Well, that didn't stop us from heading right up and ordering our popcorn, which was served out of one of those small glass boxes that we usually see at a school carnival. And the icy cold pop? No ice, European style.

After getting our food, we headed in for the movie and started munching. And then we noticed something. No one else was munching. And amidst all the quiet, our munching seemed loud enough to be noticed by the whole theatre! It was then that we realized (yes, we are slow), French people go to the movies to see the movies. They don't eat. They don't feel the need to shovel salt and fat and sugar into their mouths for 2 hrs straight. In fact, most of them were probably planning on a nice, leisurely, 4-hour dinner after the show. They came for the movie, and they enjoy the show. And boy, I have never felt so American in my life.

I don't think I finished my popcorn that day. I was too self-conscious. And all of this reflection probably won't stop me from ordering popcorn the next time I go to the movies. In America. But it sure is an interesting comparison on cultures. And probably a lesson learned as well.


Jonathan said...

So I see a movie probably once a week. I know, it is crazy but it is my thing. I go to the first showing on monday which is my first day off each week. I now have a messenger bag that I bring everywhere so instead of buying food at the theatre I bring it in. A 20 oz soda and something to eat. The theatre never knows what its missing and I figure the $11 I just spent on the ticket is enough for the theatre to get, they dont need another $10 for popcorn and a drink.

marlise said...

I've never had the French movie experience, but I think I might enjoy it more than the American version--and don't get me wrong, I love going to the movies. I'm going borrow my brother's kids next week to go to the free family thing they have here in town.

Anyway, I never get food at the movies. First, I have too much Dutch in my background to let myself spend what they charge. Second, while I love popcorn, I can't stand movie popcorn. Popcorn is meant to be white and crisp, not yellow and soggy.

Sandy said...

we also love movies at our house - my girls grew up watching musicals (from mary poppins, sound of music, king and i to 7 brides for 7 brothers...) and also the old stuff, like gentlemen prefer blondes, the swimmer movies, things with red skelton...

so now, i have one daughter who works at the mall theater, my dad has a movie theater in his home (with 16 real movie chairs and a huge screen with projector) and we still go to the movies about once a week... it is in our blood.

and hey, movie popcorn is tops in my book! :)

thanks for sharing your french experience and the kids will grow up to stay for the whole show at some point! lol