No trip to another country is going to stop me from watching movies unless they don’t have theatres or the films aren’t in English. I saw nine films in a theatre on this trip—three cities, two countries. The bulk of my movie watching was in Helsinki where I saw six. I saw two in Tallinn, Estonia and one in Turku, Finland. Here is what I learned.
I have fallen in love with the Finnish people and how they behave in a movie theatre. It is going to be a shock to return to the American norms that seeing a film consist of. Noise, either people talking or cell phone abuse (ringing or being opened) is the kind of noise I’m hinting at. This sort of noise is virtually nonexistent in Finland. Imagine that!
Do you know how surprising and wonderful it is to sit in a theatre and not get disturbed by nitwits who must discuss what is happening or attention deficit starved people who can’t bare the thought of missing a precious phone call for ninety minutes of their self-important existence? Let me tell you it is indeed wonderful. Of the seven films in Finland I saw, I heard or noticed a total of ZERO cell phones. Amazing. I did see one cell phone in Tallinn for the record. It was almost the same with talking. Only one film had two teenagers who wouldn’t zip it—the other films were completely and utterly silent. This just goes to show you how rude and lacking in manners a lot of Americans are. This rudeness manifests itself in public quite often these days, especially in movie theatres. Oh, how I wish I could watch movies year round with the civilized Finnish people.
Candy. There were some quirky choices thanks to the Candy King stores located next to many theatres. I had to be careful here as the Finns are into this strange salty licorice that sends my taste buds into revolt. I did find some new hard candy that I liked. I also broke out the old fashioned combo: raisonettes with popcorn at one film. That’s a classic.
Assigned seating. I wasn’t so into this at first (I’d done it in other cities in Europe so it wasn’t new) but as long as the people around you are quiet—and these incredible Finns are!—who cares if you sit in an assigned seat. And you do get to choose your seats from what is still available so it isn’t like they force you to sit on the front row or some other seat you despise.
Tickets remaining. I love this feature of Finnish/Estonian multiplex. As you stand in line to buy a ticket, the number of tickets left for each screening flashes after the start time. American theatres should do this now I tell you.
Commercials. Sadly, I was bombarded with 5-10 minutes of commercials just like in the U.S. At least they were in Finnish and I didn’t have to sit through some Nascar/Coke promotion or those wretched Coke young director short films. Anyone else think those films are garbage?
Theatre hopping. I’m highly skilled in the art of theatre hopping but admit it is an impossible or very difficult thing to accomplish in Finland. Each theatre is opened only a couple of minutes before the film starts. There is always a ticket taker who checks/tears your ticket as you enter. After the film you exit en masse out the back—usually some stairwell or onto the street itself. It’s also not possible to LEAVE the theatre and return from the entry doors as those doors are locked. You can leave but it is through the exit doors. I am sure this violates some kind of civil rights—like the right of every American to go theatre hopping!
So there you have it, the similarities and differences of going to movies in Finland. I urge all of you to be like the Finns if you aren’t already: don’t speak during a movie and for the love of all that is good in the world, turn off your cell phones! You aren’t important enough to not miss a call and even just opening the phone and streaking rows of eyes with light is a big disturbance. Maybe we can rise up to the level of the Finnish people and actually do what we have collectively gathered in a darkened room to do—watch a movie in peace and quiet. Wouldn’t that be a lovely change of pace?