Out in San Diego, a controversy is brewing (stop groaning, you love it). In the San Diego Reader, Scott Marks writes about a recent change in policy at the local AMC multiplex where many critics attend press screenings. While these journalists were formerly allowed to bring whatever snacks they wanted into the theater — including coffee, most importantly — AMC is now enforcing their rules about outside food or drink, which means San Diego critics are boiling with rage. Or rather they would be boiling with rage if they weren’t so sleepy due to their lack of caffeine.
To prove why he and his fellow critics should be allowed their cup of joe, Marks proposes a hypothetical example:
“Little Scooter’s parents want to rent an auditorium at AMC Fascist Valley to throw a birthday party for their adoring tyke. They arrive with 30 ill-mannered toddlers and a Carvel Cookie Puss cake in tow. Are you going to tell me that the heartless bastards at AMC would dare deny little Scooter the joy of sharing his special birthday cake with friends and loved ones? One person’s cake is another person’s coffee. In both cases, it’s a private rental. When last I checked, neither Cookie Puss nor his sweetmeat sidekicks Hug-Me Bear and Fudgie the Whale were currently playing at an AMC snack counter near you. Neither is a freshly-brewed pot of coffee at 10 a.m. Either have a pot of hot stuff brewing at point of purchase or let us smuggle in our own containers of forty weight.”
I don’t have a problem with a movie theater enforcing its rules equally for all its customers; if we’ve learned anything this week, it’s that critics are no better than anyone else. But it does seem a bit cruel — not to mention shortsighted from a business perspective — not to allow critics in with an overpriced cup of coffee when you simultaneously refuse to sell them an even more overpriced cup of coffee from your concession stand. Likewise, from a publicity perspective, the last thing a publicist wants is a cranky audience grumbling about the lack of java and dividing their attention between the screen and their unfed addictions. You’d think someone — a manager looking to make a few extra bucks, a PR rep looking to maintain the most ideal screening environment for her clients — could find a solution to this dilemma.
Still, let me propose one other reason why it might behoove a theater chain not to permit writers on the premises with a beverage or any other consumable foodstuffs: film critics are slobs. Last weekend I was at a private screening room with a strict no food or drink policy. For whatever reason, the staff was being leinent this Saturday afternoon, and were letting people in with whatever they brought with them. After the second of three screenings, I noticed an enormous pile of crumbs in the aisle behind me; it looked like an explosion at a bread factory. Whoever’d made the mess was long gone, too. They hadn’t stuck around to help clean it up.
If you let critics with food into an early morning screening, you have to keep a cleaning crew on hand to sweep up after their slovenly asses. As Marks points out, these critics screenings are held before the theater opens, and thus before most of the staff comes in. So their no food policy may have less to do in this case with wanting to make a little extra money and more to do with wanting to save a little money.
San Diego movie criticism. Such a grind.
[H/T Movie City News]