Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Same But Different: Movie Theaters

There are a lot of things in Japan that are The Same But Different. As I remember more examples, I'll put them together.

We went to see Inception recently, and this was my first experience in a Japanese movie theater.

The Same
The overall look of the lobby is pretty similar to what we have in the States. Dark-colored carpeting, ropes corralling people in line to get their tickets, and there's a digital display behind the cash register showing movies and times.

You get in line and purchase a ticket for the time slot you want and get directed to the correct theater after a quick stop at the concession stand. The concession stand sells popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, and soda. And probably candy, but I was too busy sounding out the few items on the menu that I could read (nothing in English) to see what they had.

The seating area in front of the giant screen was on a slope, the seats are cushy, there are cupholders in every arm rest, and there are 20 minutes of PSAs and trailers before the feature starts.

The lobby of this theater also had a kind of gift shop with souvenirs from classic movies, largely American movies. When you buy your ticket, you choose where you are going to sit - they have reserved seats with designated row letters and seat numbers. This is kind of cool because if you get your tickets far enough in advance, you can get an awesome seat even if you're running a little late for the movie itself.

Inception was available either dubbed or subbed, which I thought was cool. Not being fluent (and really disliking dubbed movies), we opted for the English showing. It happened to be a later show (about 9pm on a Wednesday), so it was less expensive than a regular show (no discounted matinees here). That night also happened to be Ladies Night, so a few hundred more yen were taken off my ticket price. It was still expensive by my standards, but I think it was on par with ticket prices in the States.

The popcorn at the concession stand isn't automatically buttered; you have a choice of salted popcorn, caramel popcorn, or a bucket of both with a divider down the middle. Popcorn buckets aren't as big, either. In the States you can probably re-use a Large bucket to bathe your dog. Here, you could probably only bathe a cat.

Before the movie there are similar "don't be rude and talk on your phone" messages, but I don't think they had any straight commercials. There was some cartoon nonsense (the animation was restricted to the mouths and the characters appeared to be pretty hastily drawn, but that might have just been the style), but because it was centered on what they were saying rather than how they moved or what they did, I haven't the faintest idea what it was about.

I also noticed that the people sitting to our left, even though they entered the theater from the right, preferred to walk through an empty row and step over some chairs to get to their seats instead of asking us to stand up. I don't know if that's a general custom when the theater isn't full or if it's just those particular people.

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