Somehow I have managed to avoid seeing any movie in the theater since I’ve come to China. That all changed when I went to Harry Potter recently. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the Harry Potter movies, but a friend from Chinese class asked me and I figured, why not?
First I double-checked with a student of mine to see if the movie would be in English. (I have a student named Harry, because of the movies, so I knew he would have seen it already.) His answer was yes, it was English with Chinese subtitles. Phew.
So thanks to my Japanese classmate, whose hanzi is pretty good, we found the time and location of the movie theater online and got there an hour early. The price was surprisingly high, 50 rmb per ticket ($7.50). Luckily we got the student price 35 rmb ($5.25) but still it seemed quite high and on par with matinee prices in America.
The high price might explain why, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the theater was practically dead. The tickets had assigned seating on it, and the employee decided to lump all of us together. So despite there being only 12 of us watching the movie, I had people sitting in front of me and behind me. The screening rooms were pretty small, only about 8 rows or so, but the screen was proportionally big and the sound was good so I didn’t even notice after awhile.
I did notice the little kids behind me kicking my chair, talking loudly, and the mom who kept answering her cell phone at full volume. One of the reasons I’ve never been to the movie theater before is because of talkative people. When I show a movie in class inevitably there are a bunch of students that talk their way through it. And not because they aren’t paying attention, rather they are commenting on the movie with each other.
I asked students about it and they said it is pretty common in China for people to talk through movies. Personally it drives me nuts, so Ryan and I never felt like paying a lot of money to see a movie full of talkers. Luckily at Harry Potter aside from this one lady and her chattering kids it was pretty quiet. Then again, the lady and our group made up most of the theater goers so maybe a full audience would be different.
The inside of the building looked just like movie theaters in the west, aside from a teeny tiny concession stand. There is no rule against bringing in your own food here, so the concession stand was pretty tiny, but the food and drinks were reasonably priced. Outside the theater a bottle of iced tea goes for about 3 yuan (.45), inside it was only 4 (.60).
There was an arcade on the second floor of the theater which I learned later was a dangerous place. In fact, teenagers aren’t allowed in it. A local boy I tutor told me that only “bad” people hang out in the arcade and they get in fights and demand money from the younger kids, so he is not allowed in it. To be honest I didn’t notice this seedy element, but this arcade did have an awesome defunct game room with really old, creepy games, like clown cars and 80-style motorcycle games covered in dirt.
So going to the movies wasn’t such a terrible experience. Maybe I’ll even do it again one day!