Hear me out: The best seats in the cinema are up the front | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | | #dating

You’re there to see the movie, not to watch other audience members being annoying. Sam Brooks has the perfect solution to this problem – and it’s all about where you choose to sit. 

This past week, I saw five films in the New Zealand International Film Festival, all of them at Auckland’s gorgeous Civic Theatre. For all but one, I was seated in my favourite spot: Row D, a little bit to the right. 

I got to see Natalie Portman’s poreless face in May December, count every drop that Jussi Vatanen guzzled down in Fallen Leaves, and fall into Koji Yakusho’s beatific smile in Perfect Days. It was just me, and these four (pretty damn great) films.

If I was sitting in what is generally assumed to be the best seats in The Civic – somewhere in the back half, close to the centre –  I wouldn’t have had that experience. Even during some middle-of-the-day screenings I would likely have been confronted by what passes for normal cinema behaviour in the present day – people on their phones, people leaning over to ask a question at the precise moment they forget how to whisper, people deciding whether they want to put their crotch or their rear in someone’s face as they shuffle in and out.

Instead I got to sit in my row D seat watching a film as it was intended: being able to watch the film, and just the film.

A buzzing Civic Theatre (Photo: Dave Simpson/WireImage/Getty Images)

Sitting near the front is what I do in any cinema now, whether it’s The Civic or anywhere else that’s showing a film I want to see. Even if the place is empty, I’ll still waltz my way over to a row between B and E, plop myself down with a popcorn and a wine or beer, or both (seeing Barbenheimer? Try pinotlager) to enjoy whatever is before me.

By doing this, I get around boring audience admin. If I’m alone, I’m rarely at any risk of a stranger sitting next to me, which as we all know is one of the worst things that can happen to a cinema goer. I’m also rarely at risk of having somebody say to me “Um, that’s my seat”, unless the movie is sold out.

Most importantly, I don’t have to actually see anybody. Cinemas are, essentially, public spaces. And like most public spaces, people can do whatever the hell they like in them. They can talk. They can eat loudly. They can check their phone. They can bob their head in ways that are distracting even in the enveloping darkness of a cinema. Literally, anything.

If you’re in the back row, you can see all these people do whatever they want to do. Because they’re in front of the screen you’ve paid to watch. That’s how things work, spatially.

But me? I’m in row E. Do whatever you want, rows H-Z, I’m sitting here watching Emily Blunt swill a wine in Oppenheimer, wondering if Christopher Nolan is sexist or just dumb. Come in at any time, seat S26; I’m nodding my head at America Ferrera’s climactic monologue in Barbie. Come in and out all you like, usher, I’ll be here, not making a fuss, in row E.

When I see a movie, I’m not there to see other people. I’m there to see a movie.

(Note: Like most public norms, this doesn’t apply to rowdy or midnight screenings. These are meant to be raucous, community events. I will sit wherever I can in these performances, and enjoy myself accordingly!)

Silky Otter
The front row at Silky Otter cinema (Photo: Supplied)

I can hear your objections, even as I type this, days before you angrily clicked on a headline to disagree with me.

“I’ll hurt my neck?” Nope. You might have to gaze upwards, but if you’re bending your neck to look at the screen from even the front row, your posture might be the issue. (Also, if bending your neck hurts, you might need medical attention.)

“I’ll hurt my eyes!” This one is kind of valid, but I’ve never felt any pain in my eyeballs. Again, you’re probably far enough away from the screen that you’re fine. Your phone screen is probably more of a hazard to your eyes than this cinema screen is.

“It looks weird.” OK, look. I’m gonna tell you a secret:

The movie looks pretty much the same no matter where you sit. Because that’s what the camera is for: to frame the action from a certain direction. The difference you feel when you’re sitting in the third row compared to the 13th or 30th is infinitesimal – except in the latter you’re more likely to be distracted by all of the things I have outlined above.

And honestly, it might look better. One of the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had in my life was when I’d booked supremely late to a screening of The Tree of Life in the NZIFF back in 2011. I ended up being, yup, in row D. It felt like a religious experience, to have an unashamedly cinematic experience, blown up large and shoved in my face, on a screen that was bigger than any I would ever see it on ever again.

And the best part? It was just me and the film.


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