My friend and roommate Chuck and I found that fourth row center was the optimum place within most auditoriums to view most movies. Heaven knows in all of the hundreds of movies we have seen together over many years we tried just about everywhere else.
In the large auditoriums, like the Jefferson Square Theater and auditorium one of the Spring Valley Theaters, the seats are a reputable distance from the screen, and the fourth row is close enough to be enveloped by the cinema experience without being so close that one’s view of the motion picture is distorted. In the smaller venues which offer smaller screens, any further back than fourth row and one may find oneself distracted by restless audience members and the occasional top hat.
We were also careful to formulate our ideal fourth row center snack package, which consisted of the following:
An ice-cold Coca-Cola is the perfect cinema refreshment, and if you think I have to back up or justify that statement then you are out of touch. Diet Coke is an acceptable substitute. Root Beer, Hi-C and lemonade are okay if you are holding a child’s ticket. All other beverages are imperfect to the ideal forth row center cinema experience. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with an espresso beverage during a film (I live in Seattle, after all) or a bottle of water or an Orange Crush if that’s what you enjoy sipping on when the lights go down. All I am saying is that a crisp, icy Coke is part of the formulary for the ideal cinema snack package, and nothing works as well in concert with a bag of crisp, freshly popped popcorn and a box of crunchy, wholesome Goobers.
(Sadly, one cannot find Goobers at the candy counters these days. I recently asked an employee at the Cineplex Odeon in downtown Seattle why that was. His reply: "Goobers? Nobody eats Goobers anymore! They're not very popular.")
Chuck and I partook of many cinematic delights over the years we lived with or close to one another, including a memorable viewing of Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast, a late-night preview of Aliens, and a rather tiresome screening of the first five Star Trek movies one long day in Atlanta in 1991.
(Then there was the infamous screening six months later of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a miserable experience marred by not only the fact that Chuck had a serious eye condition at the time, rendering him practically blind, but I suffered an asthma attack in the auditorium just as Kirk was being arrested for assassinating the Klingon Chancellor.)We would even, on occasion, blow off work during an afternoon in order to enjoy a movie, giving our bosses an identical excuse, something about having to deliver blueprints to Aiken for our father's business. It was hogwash, of course. We would just rather be at the movies than at work any day.
But the most important aspect of our viewing movies together was the discussion of the film afterward, an exercise which completes and cements the movie-going experience.
Alas, Chuck is now living on the east coast and I on the west, but I am not without illuminated and film-literate movie companions. Mike and I regularly take in late Saturday night showings of movies at the Big Valley, often followed by serious discussion of the films afterward, and Dan is always available to enjoy a few days at the Seattle Film Festival when that time of year comes around. Both are excellent cinema companions, though neither subscribe to the fourth row center philosophy as rigidly as my old pal Charles. Besides, as I pointed out earlier, Goobers are hard to come by at theater concession stands, and I am not as inclined to snack as much at movies as I was when I was younger. And thinner.
But when I attend movies alone you can always find me where I am most inclined to be: fourth row center. And I leave the seat next to me open and available, just in case Chuck happens to be in the neighborhood.