Watching brief
Peter Calder at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland

Don't be late for movies - please


It's started already. The dribble will become a trickle, and at
times a flood: the people who arrive late for screenings at the Film
Festival and make life miserable for those of us who don't think that
5.30pm means 5-fortysomething or I think "we've got time for one more glass" or "whatever".

A bit slow off the mark yesterday (work to do, dammit!), I didn't have a
screening until 3.45pm. The film started five minutes late - of which
more below - but four people still managed to turn up after it had
been running a few minutes. One bustled past whispering "Sorry!
Sorry", their back hulks interfering with my view, fully 10 minutes
into the screening. And - I don't think this is a coincidence - every
one of them was in my row.

I go to the movies maybe 150 times a year. I've been doing so
professionally for a quarter of a century and I probably saw half that
number annually before that, right back to when I was just out of
short pants, which was a hell of a lot more than half a century ago. I
have NEVER been late for a movie. Not once. Ever.

And no, I don't have nothing to do all day but sit around waiting for
movies to start. For most of that time I had a full-time job and was
raising two kids.

I can tell you're impressed, but don't be. It was easy, really.
Nothing to it. Here's the secret. You work out what time you need to leave home (or whatever place you are occupying just before you go to the movie) that will make it possible for you to cover the distance to the cinema, find a parking place, park the car, find your ticket, find
your seat, sit down and turn your cellphone off BEFORE the movie
starts. Your subtract that time from the movie starting time and -
here's the important bit - add another five minutes. That's the time
you leave.

Easy, eh? Then can someone tell me why about two per cent of every
film festival audience can't master it.

I hold the festival organisers partly to blame. There's a small,
slightly plaintive note in the programme each year saying that they
"reserve the right to ask latecomers to wait" and on the back of the
ticket the fine print says "Late arrival may result in non-admittance
until a suitable break in the performance".

Quite what that means, I'm not sure because once a movie has started the next suitable time to enter the cinema is when it's finished.

I reckon they ought to amend the conditions to say "Late arrival may
result in non-admittance" - end of story. Then they ought to enforce
it - ruthlessly and with a courteous smile, perhaps a Gallic shrug.

I'm picking that only the most boneheaded latecomers will need to be
turned away twice before they mend their dilatory ways.

What's more, the organisers need to start films on time. Routinely
starting five minutes later to accommodate latecomers makes a mockery
of the programme note that says "session starting time will not be
delayed in deference to late arrivals."

Starting late is very deferential, if you ask me. Cast them into the
outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, I say.
Maybe shoot a couple in the crowded Civic foyer. Pour encourager les

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