July 9th, 2017.
Spider-Man Homecoming was actually a pretty good movie. Sure, the Star Wars tie-ins were at first amusing, then excessive, then kind of embarrassing to see Sony fawning over Marvel/Disney as a thank-you for letting them borrow Iron Man and letting Spidey be in the Avengers. And I also could have done without the ‘screw you, fans!!’ Captain America stinger at the end. But be that as it may, the movie was surprisingly good - good acting, good sense of humour, a fun ride.
But while I liked the movie well enough - I can't separate the movie from the experience of watching it. I watched Spider-Man Homecoming at B.F.I. Imax in London, on Britain's largest screen, in 3D. It's fair to say that this is also one of the most expensive ways to see the film. And, almost inevitably, with about half an hour to go at my screening, the a55hole sitting in front and to my right got out his mobile phone to start browsing and texting.
At first he did it briefly, and then for longer periods; also at first it was done discreetly, and then more openly. And he was doing this at pretty much the climax of the film. And sure I wanted to grab his phone and throw it against the wall of the cinema, but I didn't - because among other things I'm here with friends, and also I just wanted to watch the ending of this movie that I'd been watching for the last near-two-hours, and giving this pr1ck several moments of my full attention and possibly getting involved in an altercation meant inconveniencing myself even more than he already was.
So I wait til the movie ends, so I can contemplate telling this guy he's an a55hole or at least give him a death-glare… but I couldn’t do that either, because when he got up and left he was too busy chatting with his three friends to look around (plus I note he's a different ethnicity and speaking in a different language so it'd probably be a hate crime, and I'd suddenly be the history's greatest monster in this scenario). So being the passive aggressive sh1t I am, I find the nearest staff member outside, and complain to them about how BFI Imax has its staff getting up and giving speeches at the start of the movie about turning mobiles off, but do absolutely nothing beyond optimistically hoping that people listen.
The staff member apologises with all the genuineness that a combination of good customer service and not having to do anything about it can provide. Honestly, you could just as easily paint a cartoon of a concerned looking face on the wall with a sign “please address all complaints here”. Have a small cartoon tear coming out the corner of one of its eyes, maybe.
That's why I was actually surprised that in spite of that guy's "concerned" indifference, staff in the lobby were handing out little cards with “We’d love to have your feedback to help us get everything right” written on them, directing people to the website tellodeon.com/uk. So, after I got home, I did.
And the next day, I got a response and it was everything I expected and less.
Firstly, Odeon apologised. Because apologies cost nothing to give, so you can give them out freely, so thanks for that. I'll put it next to the mountain of apologies I've already gotten from my phone company and train operator. But more interestingly, I was told: “We do have team members in the auditorium at all times who approach guests if phones are in use, and I can assure you that the team approach guests who are accessible in the auditorium to stop the usage of phones. If on your future visits you do experience such behavior again please be assured that the team members are present in the auditorium, and if you can alert them about the issue they can resolve this accordingly.”
Firstly, I saw no such staff member. Secondly, the glow of a mobile phone screen is easy enough to see, so if there was a staff member they weren’t doing what they were supposed to. And thirdly the letter explicitly mentioned the process for “guests who are accessible”. I don't know what that means for sure, but does it mean only people in aisle seats will be told to stop, and that somehow you wouldn't be stopped if you’re centrally located where you can disturb the MOST people, because you wouldn't be accessible? Really, Imax??
But with all that in mind, Imax’s recommendation if I understand it correctly is that in this case, with 20 minutes to go at the climax of a film, I should gotten up out of my seat, disturbed anyone sitting near to me, stood around looking for a supposed staff member or (more likely) leave the auditorium, find a staff member outside, explain to them what’s going on, accompany them to my area, point out the offending patron, and have the staff member speak to them, all while I’m missing the movie, and more people in my row are also inconvenienced? During the climax of the movie!?
No way am I doing that so some guy gets a lecture that inconveniences him only slightly for a short while, and I miss MORE of the movie. The burden on the victim should not be greater than the punishment given to the perpetrator. And I needed to know that this person was going to get thrown out, and according to my read of Imax's response there's no guarantee that would happen. <note : I asked Imax/Odeon about this in writing but they have declined to be more specific>
But the bottom line, and we all know this, is if there are no proper negative consequences to being an a55hole, then people will keep being a55holes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a priest, a politician, a three year old child or a selfish d1ckhead in a cinema.
And just as an aside, at no time was I offered a refund (preferred) or a free ticket to see this movie again (unlikely) or another movie (unlikely). But whatever. As far as I'm concerned, going to the cinema is like making a bet against people being selfish pricks, and at GBP22 plus refreshments, that's an insane bet to take at Imax.