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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 2/22/2003

Big screen ads in reel bad taste

``Do you want junk?” my husband asks.

We're in the lobby of one of Toledo's movie palace monopolies, and he's using our movie-going code for ``ridiculously overpriced stale popcorn and soda.”

We find it saves time to simply lump everything at the concession stand under the single moniker of ``junk.” The reason we're so interested in time efficiency is that we tend to be, shall we say, punctuality-challenged when it comes to movie starting times.

I don't know why, but for some reason we always seem to be racing to reach the theater on time. And even if we miraculously leave home with ample time to spare, something usually trips us up.

You'd think by now we would have learned that, no matter what time the movie is listed to begin, there's always a grace period provided by the previews for other movies - and, lately, also the grace period provided by all the advertising.

Oh, sure. We could avoid all this rushing around by simply waiting until the video release, but that's not the same, and you know it. I ask you: What is better than settling back in the dark and being transported, if only for an hour or two, by larger-than-life sight and sound?

No, I love going to the movies - and, just for that reason, I now love Miriam Fisch and Greg Scott.

Ms. Fisch is a Chicago-area high school teacher. Mr. Scott is a sociology professor at Chicago's DePaul University.

Each took action this week against a sorry trend, a practice I've been hearing and reading about more and more. It all began as a kind of subterranean rumbling, but this week the Chicagoans shook things up to earthquake status - which is to say, in this country, a lawsuit.

Two of them, even.

Ms. Fisch and Mr. Scott each filed a class-action lawsuit this week against two movie theaters, aiming to end the absurdity that has movie-goers paying to watch commercials.

Ms. Fisch was quoted complaining about her experience going to see The Quiet American (interrogatory aside: Is that movie ever going to play here?), but not before she sat through four ads.

``It's frustrating when you go to the movies and you expect the movie to begin on time, `` she said. ``It's like a breach of contract.”

But more important than the inconvenience of delayed start times, I think, is to what Mr. Scott's lawyer pointed: ``People are actually paying good money to watch commercials.”

Question: Is there any public environment left untattered by commercialism?

Cop cars now look like NASCAR entries, they're so splattered with product logos. Toilet stalls are wallpapered with advertising. The floors of grocery stores host ads. The airspace over stadiums has long been claimed banners trailed by circling airplanes. You can't even sit in a hospital or doctor's office without escaping the inevitable TV blaring in the corner, offering soap operas and soap commercials.

Would I like to sit in a movie theater without a soft-drink company pitching me?

Yes. Oh, yes.

I mean, c'mon - for the next hour or two, it'll be all I can handle ignoring all the blatant product placements within the movie itself.



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