Oct 14, 2021
3 mins read
Originally Published May 12th, 2021
I really enjoy going to the movies. It has taken a dip over the past year for obvious reasons but catching a flick in a nice theater has been a steady pastime.
While most of the experience will be familiar to any moviegoer back home, there are still some European surprises in store. The most glaring of these is the language spoken on screen. The school I went to in Germany was located in a town that wasn’t quite big enough to have an “original language” screening available so all movies were shown with German audio.
After a few months of German immersion, my roommates and I finally decided it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time to try a visit. We strolled up to the ticket window and the person working asked us where we’d like to sit. Everyone else took the question in stride but I, the lone American, was pleasantly surprised. We get to choose where we sit without trying to hustle in? Nice.
This is now catching on in the US but, at the time, reserving a seat was new to me. Nearly all theaters in Europe work this way. You order your ticket online and pick a seat. Show up right before, snag your snacks, and stroll to your spot.
The concessions stand was next. As Vincent Vega let us all know in Pulp Fiction, yes you can buy a glass of beer or wine at theaters in Europe. And this being Germany, the selection rivaled the neighborhood bar.
That aside, it looked like the standard fare of popcorn, nachos, chocolate, candy, etc. However, the sizes on offer could only be described as: “oh isn’t that cute.” The largest of anything there would probably land between a small and medium in South Dakota. I ordered popcorn and a pop. Alas, there wasn’t a butter dealer to complete the combo but such is life.
We found our spots and sat through a handful of commercials and a couple of trailers. These were in a mix of English and German. I guess not everything is worth translating for everyone.
The pre-show came to a close and the screen went black. Then... the house lights came back up and we all looked at each other confused. A theater employee lumbers in wearing a sandwich board full of logos and carrying a big cooler. He calls loudly (but not confidently) into the room “Does anyone want ice cream?” He does not sound thrilled about having to do this.
Slowly but surely people start raising their hands, waving €5 bills to flag him down. For the next 10 minutes, we’re stuck watching the Germans get their fix. Little known fact, they have a serious problem with ice cream addiction. The employee leaves and the lights go back down. All movie-going momentum has been lost.
The fanfare starts to play and we dig into our snacks. The “Cola Light” (aka “Diet Coke”) is fine. I grab a few handfuls of my popcorn, each slower than the last and then stare sadly at the screen. It’s not salty. It’s sugary. It’s not even caramel corn. It’s just bland popcorn freshly prepared about a week ago with some sugar tossed on it.
I learned later that to order “American popcorn” I would have to ask for salty popcorn. They might not have any but that’s how I would ask for it.
Although in Thailand and not in Europe, I would be remiss to not mention the single strangest experience I’ve had in a movie theater. Right before the film was about to start, a rousing march begins to play. Video clips and photos of the King fill the screen. The entire audience stands up and salutes for the duration. Many are singing along.
It ends. They sit. The Wolverine plays. The anthem ended up being the best part.