I had an opportunity to take my oldest son out to see a movie in Thailand yesterday. This was our second attempt. The first left us confused and frustrated. Even movie-going can take a cultural adjustment.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with the process; I just didn’t understand it. As a result, we were late for a movie that wasn’t actually showing last time. We couldn’t figure out the showtimes or the ticket purchasing requirements, and though our preferred movie was advertised at different places in the mall, it didn’t turn out to be one of the five they were showing that particular day.
Though that experienced chaffed in our memories, the draw of a potentially good guy-movie kept singing its Siren song, and we couldn’t resist trying again. This time, I found a website that helpfully showed the showtimes in English, so I felt confident of success. We arrived in plenty of time to make sense of the ticketing process, and having secured our seats, we went to have some pizza and talk about movie trailers and video games.
The movie was advertised at 9:30p (21:30), so we greeted the ticket taker at about 9:10p in order to get the best seats. Surprisingly, that’s not how this system works.
“Come back later.”
“I’m sorry. You want us to come back at a later time?”
“Yes. Movie starts at 9:30.”
“Right. That’s why we came now. Can we get to our seats?”
“Come back later.”
“Uh…okay. When should we come back?”
“Movie starts at 9:30.”
“So we should come back at 9:20 or 9:25?”
“Please come in.” (At this point, the two of us had exhausted our Thai-English vocabulary, and she had given up trying to make me understand.)
“No, that’s okay. I’m just having trouble understanding. We should come back when the movies starts?”
“Yes, come back later.”
A little confused, we stepped aside to wait until the prescribed time. As we did, I noticed that there were dozens of people sitting around waiting for the correct time to approach the ticket taker. I’m sure our conversation was amusing for those who knew how the system really worked, so I stood hoping someone else would come and make the same mistake so that I could look on and share the joke. No one did.
At 9:30p, everyone milled toward the ticket taker, but the process was slowed by the need to search everyone’s bags, purses and murses (that’s “man-purse” in case you’re not up with the fashion trends, and they are very manly and not the least bit effeminate looking – when I carry one, anyway). The searches, it turns out, were for video camera’s and other recording equipment. Thailand must be the world’s capital for pirated movies, music and software, and the theatre didn’t want to be responsible for allowing this type of entrepreneur through on their watch – at least not for free.
Murse examined and approved, we headed for our screen, but we didn’t get far. Someone stopped us and told us that we would need to check our bag – we had some leftover pizza. We surrendered our snack in exchange for a claim ticket and then continued on to screen seven, where we passed through a metal detector (yes, a metal detector) just in case we were terrorists looking to hijack the theatre. But past the metal detector, everyone milled around again, waiting to be allowed into the movie. We could hear movie-type noises coming through the door, but no one other than me seemed to pay it much attention. Most sat around having conversations or reading the paper while they waited.
Five minutes later, we were allowed access. Previews were well underway, which always disappoints me, because that’s my favorite part. But it turns out, we didn’t miss much. Most of the previews are really just commercials for banks, stores and things we just couldn’t make out with the language difference. The commercial for the 7-11 convient store chain stood out. Not because it was an exceptional commercial but because they were interviewing people and for some reason had chosen to interview one who wore a shirt that said (in English), “I like girls who like girls.”
When you see something like that, it makes you really curious what the rest of the commercial could have been about. It’s not like he was showing his support for the gay and lesbian community; he was doing his own bit of personal advertising – just in case any “girls who like girls” might see the clip and want to look him up. My son probably summarized it best when he leaned to me and said, “That was random.” (Teenager speak for “Where did that come from?”)
Also included in the movie warm-up time was a preview for a Thai horror movie. The trailer was pretty gruesome, but it was a strange, horror-slapstick genre of movie that had the audience laughing regularly throughout. In the middle of the trailer, the main character (a male) did a strip-tease (without the tease part) until he was completely nude. This, too, generated a good deal of laughter from the crowd. I leaned over to my son and said, “That was characteristic of a process of selection in which each item of a set has an equal probability of being chosen.” At which point, he said, “Huh?”
Forty-minutes later…the movie was about to start, and I was beginning to wonder if I could stay awake through the whole thing. But before any movies play in Thailand, there is a brief video about the king’s life. It’s very well done and gives you an idea how much the Thai’s love their king. Everyone stands to their feet during the video. I took off my hat. I’m not sure if I was supposed to or not, because I couldn’t see anyone else, and better safe than sorry. If you read last week’s blog about “Walking Street,” you know I need to earn points where I can.
Other than the Thai subtitles and occasional dubbing, the movie was just like one you would see in The United States. It was good to see Anakin Skywalker didn’t really lose his legs in that other movie a few years back, and both of us really enjoyed the show. We were so busy planning the sequal on the way out that we forgot to claim our pizza and had to turn around at the parking garage to go back for it. (Our “No Pizza Left Behind” program.)
One thing I forgot to share…In Thailand, you get assigned seats at the movie theater. When you buy your ticket, they show you a schematic of the theater, and you tell them where you want to sit. Seats are priced according to how close you are to the screen (we sat in the middle and paid about $4 per ticket), and the seats in the back of the theater are premium. When we left, I noticed that the back row is made up entirely of Lazy-Boy recliners! No kidding! They are huge and comfy-looking with room to kick back and places to keep your refreshments. Even if I have to watch the horror-slapstick movie with the naked man, I’m going back.