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By Elena Garcia

HitchcockOne of the many things lacking about Shanghai, is my accessibility to my favorite feature films at the cinema! Unlike the moviegoers at home, I am not able to enjoy Star Trek at midnight, or a girl’s night for Confessions Of A Shopaholic. I am bound to my living room and the “DVD” collection I have accumulated. Of course it isn’t the same, I miss the aroma of Popcorn, the dancing Raisinettes and the lines…

Oh the lines, the ones you have to wait in for hours just to get a 50 dollar ticket so that celebrities get richer, the ones you have to stand in to get into the theatre just to sit in the front row with the back of your head smashed to your chair looking up like a 3 year old looking at Shaquielle O’Neil, knowing full well that for the next week it’ll hurt you to move your neck past a 90 degree angle. And the lines you have to stand in to get a 20-dollar bag of popcorn from a teenager with too much attitude and not enough acne medication…

Oh the lines. Goodness I miss the theatre!

In China Movies aren’t like that! There are plenty of theatres, I just don’t know when the show times are or what movies they’re playing or if I would even understand them! So for the last eight months, I’ve gone without, without the nuances that I dreaded so much and now miss like crazy. For the most part I didn’t even know what I was missing because I’m not swarmed with commercials, trailers and posters but every once in a while a huge movie would come out and I would miss it.

One day while finishing up a long day of work, a colleague of mine mentioned that Shanghai was having an International Film Festival and that they were showing loads of movies. The festival would bring Celebrities like Halle Barry, Danny Boyle and Clive Owen to Shanghai. Excited, I asked her help to look through the listings and discover what cinematic classics would grace the Chinese big screen. It took us awhile and countless efforts but finally we found a segment of the movie listings with American films! Excited, she read me the movie titles and shared in my glee as we discovered that the festival would display a collection of Alfred Hitchcock classics! Garrett and I became huge Hitchcock fans after we Netflicked “Rear Window.” And so, I decided on a few titles I wanted to see on the big screen. Lily gave me the locations and times and I went off to confer with Garrett and enter back into some of the normalcy of western life that I had missed so much!

One week later, on a particularly rainy Saturday evening, Garrett and I went to the Metropol Theatre in People’s Square and purchased tickets for the 8:30 screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

As we approached the counter, we pointed to the selection on the white laminated piece of paper and gestured that we wanted 2 tickets. The guy at the ticket window rumbled something in Chinese and then gestured toward the next people in line who were standing about 2 inches away from us anyway! Unsure what was going on, Garrett and I refused to budge knowing full well that if we did, we’d lose the authority we gained by standing at the desk. I also took that moment to glare at the couple spooning us from behind. Finally a lady from another counter came over and let us know that we needed to head to the eighth floor to purchase those tickets.

At that moment, we walked to elevator and pressed 8. As the cheesy jazz filled the space we slowly progressed to our destination.

We arrived to the counter, we repeated the ritual that we had done downstairs and pointed to our movie title and time. After pressing some buttons on her computer the cashier gestured toward her screen. Slowly she turned the monitor for us to see and pointed toward the seating chart filling the screen. Directing our attention at the blue seats, which sat at the end of the rows of red seats, she asked us to pick.

In most Chinese movie theatres seats are assigned when you purchase tickets. So the earlier you buy them the better your seats will be. Because we were unaware of the seating assignments, Garrett and I had arrived just a short time before the movie was set to begin. The only seats available were on the sides and at the very front. Fearing the kink in my neck, which would come from being a fly on a windshield at the front, Garrett and I selected a seat to the side.

80 rmb later (about 12 bucks for 2 tickets, not bad) Garrett and I had our tickets and some time to kill. We walked around People’s Square and did everything we could to watch the time pass. Finally thirty minutes before the movie was set to begin Garrett and I headed towards the theatre only to be stopped by the ticket taker. She let us know that they opened the theatre just five minutes before show time… so basically we still had time to kill. She also took the liberty to direct us to the bar across the hall where we could buy drinks and watch the time slip away.

FINALLY, it was time to go in. Garrett and I headed to the concession stand, purchased soda and popcorn (they didn’t sell candy) and headed toward our seats. As the lights dimmed, we began shoveling hands full of popcorn into our mouth, anticipating the warm buttery cloudy morsels melting on our tongue, when suddenly an odd taste filled our taste buds, the popcorn was sweet, and cold…and stale. My big bucket was done… it was not good or fluffy or buttery. It was gross.

Disappointed I maintained my excitement; I knew it didn’t matter because for the first time in a long time I was in the plush seats of a movie theatre. People climbed over us to get to their seats, adjusted their backs to lie comfortably in the big chairs and chatted in whispers as the bright lights of the screen filled the now dark room. The movie was about to begin…

The opening credits began and I realized the whispers weren’t going away. People were talking. Their voices seeming to get louder as the movie progressed. The couple in front of us continued an argument they had started before the previews, a man chatted on his cell phone and someone in the back sounded as if they were regurgitating food for a small bird.

Enraged, I finally worked up the courage to tell the people in front of us to SHHH! They glared but obeyed. And slowly the others silenced as well. It wasn’t until about half way through the movie that conversations began again. A phone rang, a man answered, talked, laughed, and then said farewell and hung up. The lady behind us broke out in song even though there wasn’t any music playing and the couple continued their whispered argument.

When the movie was finally over Garrett and I left our full bucket of stale popcorn on the floor, headed towards the exit and decided that going to a Chinese movie theatre wouldn’t ever happen again!

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