February 1, 2006
Fridays are rapidly becoming my least favorite day of the week. Given that our calendar has no sense of humor, we seem to be averaging about one Friday every seven days, give or take. Then again, I guess we could blame pirates rather than the calendar for the general suckage of Fridays. Not the pirates who speak using only the consonant “R,” but the ones who leak copies of movies out to the world before they are officially in DVD release.
Back when I was learning the ins and outs of this funny business, we picked up our films from this place in Portland called, strangely enough, “The Film Depot.” All prints of all films were picked up by exhibitors at this magical place. Translation: We knew where our prints were going to be and who was the last person to handle them. Double translation: We knew WHEN we would get our prints and the last projectionist to run the film was ACCOUNTABLE for the condition of the print when it got to the depot. Well thanks to fear of pirates (“Arrrrrrrrg.” “Eeeeeeeek!!!”) getting their hooks on film, the single-digit IQ guys at the film studios decided we needed to have the movies in our possession for as little time as possible because the film might get pirated if left lounging in our projection booths. So we are not supposed to have the movie until the first day of the run. This means that the print often arrives minutes before, and sometimes days after, the first show on Fridays. Then they want the print back the minute it comes off the screen, and sometimes sooner. To accomplish this shuffling of prints, movie companies use various couriers. Those of us on the theater side of this equation pretty much think not-too-much of those on the sending side of this equation. I’m sure the sentiment is reciprocal. Now, the actual folks who drop the prints at our doors are usually pretty good folks, however, their dispatchers tend to occupy the lower end of the evolutionary scale.
You could make a drinking game out of the predictability of the excuses they provide when the print is actually not even located in the same state as the theater where it’s supposed to be played.
“The previous theater missed the pick-up.” One shot of cheap whiskey.
“There’s some real weather happening there.” One shot if it’s summer and the pick up was supposed to happen below the 45th parallel. Two shots if it’s spring and they’re talking about Tucson, AZ.
“The studio never contacted us.” One shot if the studio swears they did. Two shots if they told you yesterday the studio did clear it. Three shots if it’s not even coming from a studio. You can kill the whole bottle if the person at the other end of the help line suddenly launches into some non-Latin-based language, mid-sentence, and claims to never have even spoken English.
As you can see, all this convoluted print moving has resulted in the complete elimination of movie piracy. It’s true, no more do they sell bootlegged copies of currently showing movies on the street corners of almost every American city with a population greater than four. Certainly there is no place on the Internet where one can find a copy of a movie not yet in DVD. Pride can’t begin to describe the feeling I get knowing I’m part of the piracy solution. Which leads me nicely into last Friday.
This week I’m gonna have you help me write the story of the weekly disaster. Circle the one that works best for you: Last Friday it was: a) raining so hard you needed scuba gear to walk to the mailbox. b) still arriving right after Thursday. c) the first day of my new diet consisting of pain pills and sweet cherry nut logs.
The movie we were supposed to be playing that evening was: a) lost on a life raft in the Pacific. b) floating down the Willamette toward Corvallis, until they figured out the Willamette flows AWAY from Corvallis. c) used as an emergency rope to lower passengers from a derailed train on a trestle.
When the print arrived, it: a) looked like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN after Pat Robertson edited it. b) was so late we could only build up the first two reels before starting the show. c) turned out to be a Chinese language version of DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? with Swahili subtitles.
Once we got it on the screen: a) the customers released the snack bar people they were holding as hostages until the film started. b) the projectionist ran bottomless through the auditorium while doing the chicken dance. c) the clouds parted, a shaft of light beamed from above, the choir sang an ascending C, and the rest of the night went off without a hitch.
Now add up the numbers of each letter you chose. Here is your score: Mostly As: You’re a type-A personality, or you’re from Canada and say, “eh?” a lot. Mostly Bs: You’re a type-B personality, or you like yellow and black striped sweaters and have antenna. No jokes about the stinger, please. Mostly Cs: You knocked over a bottle of Henry’s Root Beer in the Avalon in 1999 and you still wonder if Paul knows you’re the one who left that sticky mess. Thanks for playing!