I love the movies. More specifically, I love going to the movies. The physical act of going to the theater — buying tickets, picking out seats, and anxiously awaiting the start of the film I’ve undoubtedly been anticipating — is an unparalleled experience of absolute immersion. The lights dim, the film rolls and the escapism begins. Nothing can pull me out of this experience…
Expect the subtle vibration in my pocket and the thud, thud, thud, of something tapping on my shoulder. I turn around to see an elderly woman, looking at me with eyes of utter and complete disdain, shaking her head back and forth. To this day, I’m still pretty sure I have three distinct dimples of disappointment embedded into my right shoulder.
The residents of Evanston and the students at Northwestern have had innumerable run-ins in the past, but none so great as the bloody civil war of passive-aggressive backward glances that I witness every time I visit the Century 12.
As a school, we really are lucky to have such a great cinema just a few blocks off campus. The Century 12 was one of the reasons I thought Northwestern was the bee’s knees when I was searching for schools. I remember looking at the show times in the paper and seeing films listed that were still in limited release (Oh my god, foreign films!). As a movie lover trapped within the cinematic barren of the Chicago suburbs, I know the value of the good movie theater.
The problem with the Century 12 is that it isn’t just our movie theater. It is also the City of Evanston’s movie theater, which, quite frankly, means that we students will often encounter elderly people.
What we have at the Century 12 is a quizzical dichotomy; two distinct types of movie-goers on opposite sides of the spectrum trying to occupy the same theater. There is a mutual lack of understanding throughout the two populations, which in turn leads to hatred.
For example, I recently had the unfortunate experience of watching A Serious Man, the newest film by the Coen Brothers. I adore the Coen Brothers. Though I have not seen everything they have made, everything I’ve seen I love. Although A Serious Man had its moments, made me laugh on occasion and was without question well-made, it ended up being a frustrating experience. Not only did I have to deal with the disappointment of sitting through a Coen Brothers movie I didn’t absolutely love, I had to listen to the uproarious laughter of the Evanstonians behind me. Things that confused or frustrated me were hilarious to the rest of the audience, mostly an older crowd, with the exception of my two friends who sat with their heads in the hands. The two demographics clearly view comedy, and cinema in general, differently.
Similarly, Evanston is probably the only place in the entire world where shows of There Will Be Blood sold out. Apparently Evanstonians read the paper. If you don’t plan ahead, you might end up without a ticket to the next “obscure” art house picture.
It’s easy to put all the blame on the Evanstonians for the civil war of cinema. While my cell phone vibration seemed like a minor inconvenience to me, it probably disturbed the movie going experience for the person behind me. We aren’t exactly the most considerate generation and my cell phone vibration is only the start of it. I sat next to a girl during The Hangover who sang along with most of the songs on the soundtrack and exclaimed “He’s so fucking hot!” every time Bradley Cooper appeared on screen.
In situations like these, no one is in the right. Both groups can stand to learn a thing or two from each other. College students should take a note from the elderly and feign complete ignorance when it comes to cell phones. Silence them. Don’t settle for vibrate. But accidents do happen and Evanstonians need to be a little more patient with others before doling out shh’s or pokes on the shoulder.
The war of the Century 12 is truly a microcosm for many other goings on in the endless disputes between the university and the city, and the same rules can be applied elsewhere. If your off-campus party is bumping (or buzzing), try to keep it down. There are people doing their own thing around you. On the other hand, if you hear a party that’s gotten a little noisy, give them a little while to quiet down. You are living in a college town after all. Hesitate before you call the cops (or poke them aggressively on the shoulder).
This cinematic civil war needs to end. Too many ill-advised tickets have been purchased and too many shoulders have been tapped. You don’t know what it’s like until the index finger of war taps you on your shoulder, and by then, it will be too late.