Better Know the Alliance: Theater Memories

Here’s another chance to better know members of the Minnesota Film Critics Alliance!

We’ve watched hundreds of movies at countless theaters and the experience, aside from the COVID pandemic, is very common for us. This post details our experiences at theaters, where we like to sit and what we like to eat.

Joe Botten

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

I’m a tall guy so I prefer a place where I can easily stretch my legs out and some theaters are more accommodating than others.

At press screenings you’ll most often find me on the left side of the theater (I don’t know why but given the choice, I always head left at a movie theater crossroads) in seats on the aisle. At screenings, my partner (who is also tall) and I often squabble good-naturedly about who gets the aisle seat.

I’m usually all about equity but sometimes pull rank and point out it’s because of me we’re there in the first place 🙂

What is your favorite snack?

At some theaters (like The Riverview or any Landmark theater), it’s the popcorn since I don’t have it outside of movie-going. Occasionally, I give in and get a candy but it’s only if I’m desperate. Otherwise I’m usually a boring “bring my own water” person.

What is one of our best memories at a theater?

Too many at The Riverview to count, a number of them either in the front row or the last row. Growing up there was fun. As an adult, being in the test audience for a rough cut of Australia at the Mall of America and sitting across the aisle from Baz Luhrmann and his Oscar winning wife Catherine Martin while they watched us watch the movie was fascinating.

Another one that sticks in my head also comes from The Riverview at a screening of Benny & Joon — it was at the end of the movie when “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers came on again – the near capacity audience was just wild and were on their feet dancing. Anytime a movie can get an audience to react like they were at a live performance is always memorable.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

Sad to say it but these past few years I think movie-going in general has gotten almost intolerable with all the texting, talking, and general selfishness between audience members that it robs the fun/magic out of the experience. Kids at R-rated movies (I still think free previews shouldn’t allow children at R-rated movies), free-wheeling text-ers, and people filming the movie in clear view of others is such a distraction to the rest of us trying to focus and enjoy ourselves.

The garbage we leave behind is also disgusting – another reason I rarely buy concessions so as not to add to the trash bin that has to be hauled away by some teen. More than anything, the behavior of the public at free screenings is shocking… they act as if they paid $50 to see a movie and expect to show up two minutes before the movie starts and have all of us move to accommodate their party. Sorry – even press have to get there on time.

Brian Eggert

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

My seat preferences depend on the theater, type of seats, size of the screen, and other variables. But one thing remains true: I prefer to be away from other people. More often than not, I sit about two-thirds up the stadium-style seating, usually in an aisle seat.

What is your favorite snack?

Milk Duds at most theaters. Buffalo Cauliflower at Alamo Drafthouse. Popcorn at Landmark Theaters.

What is one of your best memories at a theater?

Maybe the best theatrical experience I’ve had was seeing Grindhouse (2007) at the Thursday midnight showing on opening weekend, before theaters started to do the earlier 7 p.m. premieres. Everyone in the crowd seemed to get the high-concept approach.

Everyone cheered and laughed at the right moments. Everyone “got it,” which seemed to be a problem with that movie. Plus, I had high hopes for Grindhouse, and it met my expectations. It’s one of those rare experiences where everything and everyone was in sync, and the audience made the experience that much better.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

In my screening of The Dead Don’t Die—a film I really enjoy as a reflector of our times—almost everything that can go wrong did. Several rows back, a man made every bodily noise possible (belching, farting, coughing and sneezing without covering his mouth, blowing his nose onto the floor).

He also kept rustling through plastic bags for food, which was wrapped in more loud plastic and eaten audibly. It was a packed screening, so I couldn’t move seats. But it wouldn’t have mattered. Another guy closer to the front kept performative laughing and clapping at literally everything that happened in the movie.

A woman to my right laughed like Robert DeNiro in Cape Fear, even at the grim parts. The lights in the theater randomly turned on and remained on for about five minutes mid-film. It all felt worse because I was enjoying the movie. Looking back, it’s actually shocking that I didn’t leave the theater.

Kelly Florence

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

I love sitting in the very top row, on the end near a wall. We’re far away from everyone else and no one needs to walk by us to exit for snacks or the bathroom!

What is your favorite snack?

I love movie theatre popcorn and will get milk duds if I’m feeling like having something sweet.

What is one of your best memories at a theater?

My most favorite thing about the movie theatre experience is seeing a movie on opening night in a full theatre. Having an epic, visceral reaction when a character appears on screen or cheering with the audience when a bad guy is defeated or jumping, then screaming, then laughing during a horror movie scare are so fun in a crowd.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

Any bad movie theatre experience has had to do with over talkative nearby people. I’m not confrontational so I’ve never complained, but maybe I should stand up for myself more.

Kyle Goethe

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

Man, I miss theaters. It’s been almost a year since I’ve last been in one.
My favorite place to be in a theater is the third row from the front. That way, I’m focused on my movie and not on other filmgoers.

There’s rarely anyone else that close so I kind of have my own space and my field of vision is all screen. It’s something I had heard Quentin Tarantino had done when younger, and initially I believed that was rather silly, but honestly, since trying it, it’s only made my screenings more enjoyable. My wife hates sitting that close, but when I’m alone, that’s where I’ll be.

What is your favorite snack?

I go to so many movies that I tend to forgo snacks in the theater, but when I treat myself, I tend to go with a big bucket of popcorn and most likely a box of Sour Patch Kids.

What is one of our best memories at a theater?

My best memory at the theater was seeing Solo at a press screening with a close friend. We had both been big fans of Star Wars as youths, and it was the first Press Screening for a Star Wars film that I’d been to, so it was a big moment for me.

I still have the press seat marker that was sitting in my chair. Silly perhaps, but it’s the most recent one that comes to mind.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

My worst theater experience was also pretty recent, my wife and I had gone to see “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise, and the film wasn’t great, but there was a guy two rows behind that was heckling, laughing loudly, talking to the screen, and ignoring our calls to keep quiet.

This guy was completely unaware that everyone in the theater could hear his “commentary.” When the staff came in to check on the complaints, he quieted down, and then picked back up as soon as the staff left. I’m not a violent person, but that experience tested me.

Paul McGuire Grimes

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

Dead center.

What is your favorite snack?

Once in awhile I will splurge on popcorn.

What is one of our best memories at a theater?

When I was a kid, my grandma and I used to go to movies all the time when I had the day off from school. I would scour the movie listings at all of our favorite theaters to see what was playing and what times worked out best.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

I haven’t had too many bad experiences. Once the fire alarm went off, but it was a false alarm. There was once a fight that started to get heated but they were escorted out pretty quickly.

Meg Hafdahl

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

I used to be a front sitter, but as I’ve gotten older I like the back. It’s comfy, you can see everything, and no one is talking loudly behind you!

What is your favorite snack?

I’m a Milk Duds girl. And obviously popcorn. I miss movie theater popcorn!!

What is one of our best memories at a theater?

My co-podcaster and co-author Kelly Florence and I went to “Moulin Rouge” about a million times in the summer of 2001. We had the theater to ourselves once and we could sing our hearts out.

What is your worst theater experiences?

I don’t even remember the movie, but a couple beside me kept fighting because one would fall asleep and start snoring and the other would wake them up! It’s funny now but it was annoying at the time! 😂

Melinda Lavine

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

I love this question! My theater sweet spot is in the center of the aisle, back third of the theater, ideally, with no one seated directly in front of or behind me.

What is your favorite snack?

Buttery popcorn 🍿

What is one of our best memories at a theater?

Ha, in middle school, a big group of friends and I had the whole theater to ourselves during a matinee screening of “Independence Day.” It felt special to have the space to ourselves and it brought an early sense of freedom, ya know?

Another one: I went to “Kung Fu Panda” with some friends, and I remember the mixed laughter of adults and children filling the theater. Sharing those moments really ramped up the experience.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

I don’t remember the film, but after technical difficulties and a long delay, we were sent home because the movie wouldn’t play.

Jeremy Lebens

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

Center seat in the center row. If a theater has a railing or ledge towards the mid-to-front rows, then I prefer to sit behind that as the offered foot support was once revolutionary before the days of recliner seats.

What is your favorite snack?

Hot buttered popcorn with a Coke. This age-old snack combo is one that I will never get sick of and one that I have almost every time I head to the theater.

What is one of our best memories at a theater?

I would frequently attend midnight movie premieres and I recall witnessing an engagement at the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight” at the MN Zoo IMAX. That felt wild at the time and following that up with such a phenomenal movie, with such a lively crowd made for one of the best moments of my movie-going life.

I was also able to attend one of the first previews of the highly under-rated and constantly delayed “Take Me Home Tonight,” starring Topher Grace and Dan Fogler. That was a special night as both stars were in attendance and what looked like an average comedy ended up being one of the more memorable coming-of-age flicks that I hold up high, next to classics like “American Graffiti” and “Days & Confused.”

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

While attending a screening of The Dowdle Brothers’ “No Escape” I was seated behind a person that decided to take their shoes and socks off to air out their stinky feet. This smell lingered the entire time and I was unable to move as it was a sold out movie with assigned seats.

To make matters worse, this person decided to take a personal phone call during the post movie Q&A with the filmmakers. He was securing a chainsaw rental that was apparently more important than the movie in front of him and the audience all around him. Flushed face

Matthew Liedke

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

The very back, in the very middle. I like when I’m sitting right under the projector. I like the centered view and be in a position where I don’t have to move if someone needs to get up.

What is your favorite snack?

I know they’re not like true nachos, but I’m a fan of movie theater nachos. Chips and cheese, I’m a fan. If I’m in the mood for something sweet, though, I’ll grab a Buncha Crunch.

What is one your best memories at a theater?

Many of my favorites are the midnight screenings that used to take place, mainly because of the pure energy one could feel. Two stand out to me.

One was the midnight screening for “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.” Yes, the prequels had their fair share of problems, but in between “Lord of the Rings” and the MCU, this was probably the big event movie. I was in 10th grade so my parents bent the rules, allowing me to go and watch it. I was on the swim team in high school and most of the group was there, people had lightsabers, it was memorable.

The other was for “Iron Man 2.” Now we’re used to maybe two Marvel movies per year but at that time in 2010, an MCU film hadn’t been out since 2008. The wait already had people jonesing, but something else made it special.

Because of a dispute, Paramount wasn’t showing the film at the local megaplex, so instead, it was screened at midnight at the historic Fargo Theatre. My friend and I sat in the balcony and got there early.

The theater employees did a lot, they had an Iron Man armor building contest and a conversation with local comic book store owners. Everyone stayed through the end credits, with the lights coming up shortly after Thor’s hammer is shown with a loud clap of thunder.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

Amazingly, this experience was over two days. I went to the early showing of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” on a Thursday night at the Breckenridge, Minn., theater. I had seen plenty of reviews and was a big fan of the first, so I was excited for this one.

Sitting not too far from me were about three teenagers who were talking during the trailers, which I figured fine, hopefully they’ll stop when the film starts. Nope, they kept going. On top of that, though, the picture was completely blurry.

Turns out, the theater accidentally received the 3D version instead of the standard, so we were all turned away and given refunds. I wasn’t happy, and wanted to get a better experience, so I drove 45 minutes north to Fargo to watch it on the megaplex on Friday.

The auditorium was full, and sitting next to me was a kid, who was by his dad. The auditorium has those recliner, leather seats, and this kid, likely bored, kept standing up and slumping down in his seat and hitting the arm rest for a third of the movie. Amazingly, the movie was so good that I was still able to enjoy it.

Ruth Maramis

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

Center, towards the back row (2-3 rows from back is ideal).

What is your favorite snack?

Popcorn, though I don’t actually like to snack while watching movies.

What is one of our best memories at a theater?

First time watching my short film “Hearts Want” on the big screen with a packed audience at one of the 2017 Twin Cities Film Fest shorts block screenings.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

A few years ago when a kid behind me kept kicking the back of my seat!

Nick Palodichuk

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

Anywhere at the Heights Theater.

What is your favorite snack?

My movie snack is Twizzlers.

What is one of your best memories at a theater?

My best memory was seeing “Return of the Jedi” on opening weekend at age 6.

What is one of your worst memories at a theater?

My worst experience was being 12 and seeing “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade “ at the theater. The film got chewed up and ruined and we had to wait until the next day to see the whole movie.

Frank Stanko

Where is your favorite place to sit at when seeing a movie at a theater?

It varies. If I’m in a big theater, I like being in the center. If I’m in a small theater/by myself (which has happened; I was the only one seeing “Baywatch” when it premiered in Breckenridge), I’ll sit in the back.

What is your favorite snack?

Popcorn and Sour Patch Kids.

What is one of our best memories at a theater?

You never forget your first. Seeing “Aladdin” on the day after Thanksgiving, 1992.

What is one of your worst theater experiences?

I was dumped once while seeing “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” The worst part was I was seeing “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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