South Side Works Cinema
Saturday August 11th, 2012
1:30 PM The Bourne Legacy
Last week, I was going to go see Total Recall at the Southside Works theater. We drove over their early and stopped to get a beer at Over The Bar: Bicycle Cafe on East Carson St. Then we had another, and when it was time to leave for the movie I asked my wife if she wanted to go. She just rolled her eyes and ordered a basket of fries and another drink.
This week, we went back with a new plan. Movie first. Drinks second. We went to the Saturday matinee showing of The Bourne Legacy. We were curious, if not excited, to see the new Bourne in action. We drove past the expensive parking ramps and found free street parking about two blocks away. There was plenty of street parking on a Saturday afternoon, so unless you have a physical concern there is no reason to spend an extra $12 at the garage. Walking up to Southside Works is essentially walking through a mall. Even though you’re outside and there is a nice little fountain area out front, you can’t help but feel a bit claustrophobic. The towering cheescake empire, the conservatively funded uber-hipster mecca, the former bookstore that is naturally “for rent” all crowding around. All that commercialism makes it a bit hard to breathe that crisp Pittsburgh air. The facade of the theatre it self was impressive though. Towering with red and blue lights, it had a retro old hollywood majesty feel about. Upon entering I was impressed with regal lobby and wraparound steps leading up, up and away towards concessions and upper level theaters. That is where the love affair ended.
We bought our tickets which were $6.50 ($9.25 after 6pm) and made our way towards the concession stand. At the top of the stairway I turned and surveyed the scene below. A single ticket taker was behind a small half moon desk. She looked tiny against institutional yellow colored walls with their fancy artwork. It felt kind of disheartening for some reason. Maybe it was just a premonition.
The Snack Bar
Turning back towards the concessions stand a very enthusiastic clerk started waving her arm furiously at us. As if to say, “Look at me! Look at me! I love cats!” The other clerk was texting. I may have added that cat part. My wife loves movie popcorn so we ordered a small which was about the size of a grocery bag and cost a ridiculous $5.75. When that’s the cheapest option there is something wrong. My receipt said the bag was 85 ounces. I’m not great when it comes to estimating volume, but that seems like a freaking lot of popcorn to me. We loudly debated whether or not to buy one of the over-priced sodas ($4.25 for a small) even though we had brought our own in the wifey’s should bag. Somehow pretending to consider buying one seemed like a good way to cover up our crime. We said goodbye to Cat Lady. The other girl was still texting.
Outside the screening room was a sign was posted to remind us that it was rude to text or use our phone during the movie. As far as I’m concerned, if you answer your phone during a movie the other patrons should be allowed to violently remove your thumbs. The room and screen were huge. Like deep fried elephant ear at the fair – huge with stadium seating. Stadium seating is always nice because even if ‘Ol Tex decides to sit in front of you with his 10-gallon hat you can usually see. Upon sitting down I thought the seats were pretty cushy, but, wait, what the? They don’t recline? What kind of cheap bastards don’t put reclining seats in a theater? More on that later.
The pre-movie ads (there were a lot) were intensely, ear-piercingly loud. Thankfully it was turned down just a bit when the movie started. Not thankfully, a couple of talkers decided that since the theater seated about 5 million people and only 20 were there, that they should sit directly behind us. Even when I turned, gave my disgruntled grimace face and audibly whispered, “Shut the f@&k up, maybe?” they continued occasionally to discuss some bbq. Who are these people? Between them, the girl who kept leaving and coming back about 50 times either to use her phone or because she had an insanely small bladder it was hard to pay attention to Jeremy Renner trying to convince us he is a badass assassin. He didn’t quite make it. The theater was actually a comfortable temperature. Not so cold you you needed 3 layers and not so warm the place smelled like a locker room.
While the ending music and credits were still rolling and we were discussing the importance of nuclear fusion or something, employees started rolling in and cleaning up the aisles while at the same time, patrons for the next show were wandering in. They don’t really give you time mosey on out of the seats. Got to get that turnover!
Back in the lobby we realized the popcorn bag which was still 3/4 full was leaking butter all over. Faulty bag and all. When asking for another bag at concessions to put around the original the register clerk looked at us like a sad puppy who just realized he wasn’t getting adopted and informed us that she could not give us a bag but we could buy one if we wanted. We said something to the effect of, “Huh, what?” At which point she informed us that each bag was counted and if one was missing and there wasn’t a corresponding sale in the register she would be reprimanded and responsible for the missing funds. She seemed pretty broken up by the ridiculousness of the whole thing. We chose not to buy a bag, and grabbed about 75 napkins out of spite. I think we made out pretty good on that deal. Can’t ever have too many napkins.
- Avoid Parking Ramps and opt for nearby street parking.
- Majestic facade and somewhat depressingly regal lobby.
- Fair ticket prices.
- Either extremely eager or completely disinterested concessions clerks.
- Food is expensive but easy to bring in your own. There wasn’t very many employees around and definitely no one checking bags.
- Texting discouraged.
- Stadium seating, decent (but loud) sound and big screen.
- Penny pinchers.
My initial instinct was to give them a straight “D” but after thinking about it, the actual screening room wasn’t terrible. The sound and screen were both decent, and the seating comfortable despite its lack of recline-ability. The rest of the experience was fairly poor. I would have given the audience a D-. Who taught these people it was okay to talk at full volume during a movie? Why bother going if you’re just going to talk the whole time or leave to make calls. Call me old fashioned but it seems like there is a pretty universal common courtesy to attending a movie: Be quiet, try not to kick the chair in front of you, don’t bring a kid who likes to sing Dora the Explorer songs to an R-rated drama (true story). Somewhere along the line people seem to have forgotten that.
And yes, we got drinks afterwards. And it was lovely.