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by Dana Harris
January 16, 2012 5:59 PM
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Watch as Regal Cinema Ads Destroy the Climax of Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo'

Screengrab from the YouTube video "Dear Mr Scorcese. This is what they did to your movie last night." sbiens
Technically, this video is piracy. But never before has piracy been to such a noble use.

On January 14, "Hugo" moviegoers were treated to a 3 1/2-hour comedy of errors at the Regal Theater in Union Square. The evening included the film breaking twice (and apparently, long delays before anyone noticed) before, in the coup de grâce, the film started again with Regal advertising superimposed over the film's climactic scene. The result is the finest misbegotten movie mashup since "The Dueling Cavalier."

As Ben Kingsley delivers a heartfelt address, praising Hugo Cabret as "a brave young man who saw a broken machine," that's exactly what the 21st audience is experiencing -- in 3D, no less! -- as they're treated to superimposed images of cell phones, ads telling you how fabulous it is to have a movie night out, animated candy bars and popcorn buckets, and finally, what appear to be breakdancing robots and chipmunks.

The pirate-tipster told Gothamist:

The approximate 200 people in the theater were offered refunds and free tickets by management, but many were so exasperated at the three-and-a-half hour experience, they left well before they were handed out: "When the movie was over people were really pissed, the managers were standing outside handing out passes and apologizing but after going through all that to get to the end of the movie and to have that happen was surreal."

Mostly, the tipster was angry that there was nobody there to watch over the film when it initially broke: "Tickets were $18 for this movie. Regal deserves to get shit for it. Maybe they can actually start putting projectionists in the booth."

To be clear, that is one hell of a crappy theater experience; it's the sort of thing that makes all the hand-wringing over declining attendance a moot point. And the irony of it happening to a film that's a love poem to the magic of moviemaking, and of the movie-watching experience -- well, if you made a movie about this, no one would believe you. Unless, of course, you saw it on YouTube.

We've reached out to Regal and to Scorsese's reps for comment. In the meantime, here's the funniest comedy that Martin Scorsese never made.

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6 Comments

  • Steve Warren | January 17, 2012 6:38 PMReply

    It was at a Regal theater in Atlanta that the press/promo screening of Inception was famously interrupted halfway through because a reel had been inserted backwards! It took over an hour to fix it, the lengthy "intermission" giving the press plenty of time to think about what had been wrong with the first half of the film.

  • Todd | January 17, 2012 3:37 PMReply

    I was there, too (and I found this article while wondering if anyone had caught any of this on their phones). There had been an earlier long delay in the projection of the movie, during which the theater was dark before and after the problem came to management's attention. When the movie finally resumed it had "rewound" to about twenty minutes before the interruption. Thus, the ads commenced right on schedule to precede the next screening, though our screening hadn't ended yet.

    My wife and I spoke to the manager afterwards while he was graciously and professionally refunding our admission charges. He explained that they only have one projectionist for 14 screens, so they can't be on top of everything. Do they NOT have at least one usher in each of the 14 houses at all times? Are the ushers not able to alert the common projection room?

    I don't think the irony was lost on anyone in the theater: that this valedictory to the magic of cinema was disrupted by what we have allowed to happen to cinema. I don't know if the audience's equal mixture of laughter and outrage comes through in this YouTube video, which I'm so very glad someone captured and posted.

  • Steve Warren | January 17, 2012 6:43 PM

    An usher in each house of a multiplex? That's taking "Hugo's" nostalgia too far! I haven't seen one usher in a movie theater in decades, unless you count those minimum-wage kids who collect the popcorn containers and other trash during the closing credits. They don't get to watch the movies because they have 15 or 20 other auditoriums to clean.

  • R | January 17, 2012 12:36 AMReply

    If it was in 3D, how did the "film" break?

  • MKSM | January 16, 2012 11:46 PMReply

    And isn't it a pity that places like Regal don't care simply because it's factored into their annual budget. Back when there was an actual projectionist, a TRAINED professional who would reside over the proceedings to fix problems immediately these things were stamped out. Now, you got some kid at the candy bar who doesn't know anything about the technical aspect and a minimum wage manager on duty. And studios think digital will fix it. No way. It's just as complicated as 35mm and not a case of stop and play. You know where this sort of things DOESN'T happen? American Cinemateque in LA, Film Forum in NY, Astor Theatre in Australia, etc. Independant havens for films lovers that mix up 35mm and digital, are not run by the bottom line and staffed 100% by movie lovers. In the rare case of a problem it's fixed IMMEDIATLEY and with explanation (helped by the fact they have actual trained projectionists). You know how many times I've seen a problem at all those places? ZERO. My local in NY, AMC Kips Bay, has embarrassing problems all the time. It took them 30 mins to NOT turn off the house lights, NOt fix the problem of no picture and all sound before finally screaming over the opening music of The Lion King 3D that free fix were available as compensation as they were had to cancel the whole session because no one could figure out how to rectify it. Great experience for the eager kids in the audience. You are not a patron to these companies. Screw these guys. Stick with the independents to remember an actual enjoyable movie night out.

  • Robert | January 16, 2012 6:37 PMReply

    I just left a 1:25 screening at an AMC Loews Cineplex here in Boston & the sound was broken! Same with this incident, they did nothing to fix things, the sound kept cutting out & all they did was wait for the film to end & hand you a free pass afterwards. If the studios want to know why attendance is failing this is one HUGE reason. At $13 a pop why should I throw away money for a less than mediocre experience at best. I can stay at home with my own home theater sans 3D but who cares at this point...