Summary Judgment: A Record Summer For Movies

Despite economic woes, domestic ticket sales topped a record $4 billion this summer. Slate.com's Mark Jordan Legan caught up with a few movie-goers to see what they enjoyed about their cinematic experience. Food prices weren't part of it.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

It's Day To Day from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand. And usually on Fridays, we go to Slate's Mark Jordan Legan for Summary Judgment, a roundup of what the critics are saying about new movies. Today, though, Mark tries something different. He goes to you, the people who actually watch these movies. Mark joined the line at the box office, and asked people about their movie-going experience, and it turns out what they love and what they hate, it's not so much about the movies.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Nowadays it seems, with the huge entertainment centers many people have at home, why go out to the movies anymore? But folks still do, and in fact, this summer's domestic gross broke all previous summer box-office records, over four billion dollars. One of the biggest complaints from ticket buyers was how expensive the concession stands are. So, it seems a lot of people are ignoring the no-outside-food-or-drink signs.

What's the most elaborate thing you ever, like, snuck into the theater?

Unidentified Woman #1: I think full meals. Like, I've - today I've brought a burrito.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEGAN: Wow. I should have sat next to you.

Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah.

LEGAN: A pizza.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, I brought in pizza before.

Unidentified Man #2: I got one of those 7-Eleven big gulps in once.

LEGAN: Did you really?

Unidentified Man #2: I did.

LEGAN: What - how did you sneak that in?

Unidentified Man #2: Giant sweatshirt, that's all I needed. There was...

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEGAN: No spillage?

Unidentified Man #2: No spillage.

LEGAN: What about food? What was the most elaborate food thing you might have snuck in?

Unidentified Man #2: I just can't - I never really go all out for food, but...

LEGAN: Right.

Unidentified Woman #2: My grandma used to bring a big purse, and we would go to McDonald's and we'd stick like entire meals in her purse.

LEGAN: OK, what's the most elaborate thing you've ever snuck in?

Unidentified Woman #3: I've snuck something pretty elaborate things in there...

LEGAN: Please share.

Unidentified Woman #3: Spare ribs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEGAN: Oh my...

Unidentified Woman #3: I was on Atkins, and I couldn't eat anything.

LEGAN: So, you're eating spare ribs.

Unidentified Woman #3: I was...

LEGAN: Remember the movie, by any chance?

Unidentified Woman #3: No, it was really girly. I don't remember what it was.

LEGAN: OK, but wow, spare ribs.

Unidentified Woman #3: Uh-huh. Spare ribs, yeah.

LEGAN: That's a main - good for you.

Unidentified Woman #3: And people were like, do you smell spare ribs?

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEGAN: People are also passionate about the annoying things all the other people do in the movie theater.

Unidentified Man #3: Mobile phones.

Unidentified Woman #4: Chocolates with a crunch.

Unidentified Man #3: Crunchy bags.

Unidentified Woman #4: Making a noise.

LEGAN: What's, like, the most annoying thing the other patrons do?

Unidentified Man #5: It's got to be talk during the movie.

Unidentified Man #6: Clap at the end, talk on their phones.

Unidentified Woman #5: Oh, talking.

LEGAN: Talking?

Unidentified Woman #5: Talking, yeah. Although texting is becoming worse. Texting is becoming worse. Now it's that light flashes in your face while you're watching the movie.

LEGAN: Have you ever answered your cell phone during a movie?

Unidentified Man #7: No, I have not.

LEGAN: OK, you?

Unidentified Man #8: I've never answered. I've texted.

LEGAN: Oh, he's texted.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #7: Oh, (unintelligible)...

Unidentified Man #8: I've texted during the movie. I've never ever answered it.

LEGAN: I just want to know some people's pet peeves are people texting during the movie. OK. What's the most annoying thing other patrons in the theater do?

Unidentified Man #9: It's - when they talk, they add their own commentary onto the movie. I wait for the DVD, then listen to the movie with audio commentaries. So, that's the one thing that bothers me quite a bit.

LEGAN: We also inquired if people like trailers and/or commercials before the movie.

Unidentified man #10: I tend to not really pay attention.

LEGAN: OK.

Unidentified Man #10: I zone out.

Unidentified Man #11: It doesn't bother me, because it's just when you get there extremely early. So, if you get there early, that's kind of the price you pay for getting a good seat.

Unidentified Woman #6: I like the cinema trailers, but I don't like adverts.

LEGAN: You hate the commercials.

Unidentified Woman #6: I don't like having to pay for a ticket and then somebody start to sell me commercials.

LEGAN: Now lately, though, trailers, they get longer, and they show major plot points sometimes.

Unidentified Man #3: They are longer.

Unidentified Woman #6: Ridiculous.

Unidentified Man #12: I do like to go for the trailers. I don't like to see trailers lots of times, though, because then you get this preconceived notion of what the movie's going to be like in your head. A good one doesn't give away the plot of the movie, just teases you so that you want to go see it.

LEGAN: Right, right, exactly. Because some of them, you have to admit, they literally - if they - it's like an Ashley Judd thriller and they showed you everything you - whether she's going to pull the trigger at the end of the movie of not.

Unidentified Man #12: Right, you can use YouTube the last scene, that's all you need.

LEGAN: Exactly. So, theater owners, take note. Patrons hate commercials, hate people talking, and at the concession stand, they wouldn't seem to mind some spare ribs sold next to the Sour Patch Kids and Icees.

But the timeless fear of the concession-stand hotdog continues. We could find no one who would admit buying a movie-theater frank, maybe because they look like they've been sitting there since "Out of Africa" was a new release.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer. He is not a text messenger. He lives in Los Angeles.

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