My friends, the time has come to dig into my vast, detailed records -- which are comprised of Excel spreadsheets, my daily planner, and most impressively/obsessive-compulsively, ticket stub scrapbooks that date back to 1994 -- and explore the ins-and-outs of my record-breaking movie-going year! Why, you may ask, would we want to do this? Because, quite simply, this is the kind of shit I do.
I went to the movies 155 times in 2011, which includes 154 different movies, as I saw HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 twice. This, of course, was a NEW PERSONAL RECORD, shattering the old mark of 141. After reaching that total in 2010, I remarked, "My guess? This record is unbreakable." Well, I stand corrected!
This also marks the 11th consecutive year that I saw 100+ movies on the big screen. I am nothing if not consistent (and insane). But clearly we've entered a golden age of movie-going, thanks to a variety of factors that we will now discuss further.
I saw my first movie of 2011 on January 6th (COUNTRY STRONG, ugh) and didn't let up for a moment. I was on par with 2010's pace (actually slightly ahead) for the first three months, before kicking it into overdrive in April, May and June -- ten more movies in those months than in '10, primarily due to an influx of pre-summer advance screenings. July was the one slow month, due to two major factors: I got really sick for a week, and then went on vacation the following week, and only saw one movie during that span. But business picked back up in August and September. I saw my 100th movie of the year on Sept. 13th -- a French thriller called LOVE CRIME -- which is the earliest I’ve ever hit the century mark. Then I absolutely exploded in October with an incredible 19 movies -- a record for a single month (the previous mark was 17). November was relatively laid-back, quantity-wise, but rife with quality: I saw FOUR of my Top 10 films that month (HUGO, THE ARTIST, TAKE SHELTER and MELANCHOLIA). And then I finished the year with a flurry as the Oscar bait was unleashed. The record-breaking 142nd movie occurred on Dec. 9th (THE SITTER, not exactly worthy of the occasion), and I saw my final movie on Dec. 31st (the Iranian masterpiece, A SEPARATION). Done and done!
Now, never say never, but I’m fairly certain THIS record will not be broken so quickly. For one thing, I will likely make a conscious effort to cut down a bit in 2012. Don’t worry -- I will still see a TON of movies. But the fact is, seeing 155 movies actually got kind of draining towards the end! So my plan this year is to see slightly fewer movies BUT write about them more frequently and promptly (as opposed to the end-of-month recaps I did last year). So it should be a good trade-off. We’ll see if I stick to that!
• Full price admissions: 69
• Free advance screenings: 53
• Free passes/awards programs/gift cards/etc.: 33
Every year I hear the age-old question: "Ben, how in the name of all that which is good and sacred in this crazy, mixed-up world do you manage to see so many movies, especially since regular admission is $13 at most NYC theatres?!" Well, the answer is two-fold. First, going to the movies is my favorite hobby & passion, and while I certainly find time to do other things (eat, drink, travel, go to ballgames & concerts, visit my niece, laze around, etc.), I am always ready and willing to go to the movies. Even if it’s a shitty movie (and this year had more than its share of those), I’m game for the big-screen experience, for better or worse.
Secondly, as you can see, I either did not pay a cent, or paid a discounted price, for the vast majority of the movies I saw. Yes, 69 full-price admissions still amounts to around $900. But, hey, it could’ve been worse. It helped that I scored lots of free AMC Gold & Silver passes from work (not to mention discounted Groupon-type deals). But the real kicker is that my wanna-be-film-critic ass saw 53 free advance screenings, which was also a NEW PERSONAL RECORD, way up from 41 in 2010. These included press screenings, word-of-mouth screenings, early test screenings, a couple of Tribeca Film Festival screenings, Q&A’s and more. (Only one red carpet premiere, though, for MEET MONICA VELOUR, where I caught glimpses of Kim Cattrall and, of all people, Liza Minnelli.) Now, a magician can't give away ALL of his secrets, but my biggest resource for such screenings is Cinemit.com, a site that has grown by leaps & bounds over the past year and offers screening opportunities in a number of cities. If you're interested in participating, you can sign up, enter the drawings and check out the message boards... just don't take my spot in line or we’ll have a problem.
Speaking of which, it's worth noting that 53 advance screenings means at least 53 hours spent waiting in line just to get into the screenings (not including the few times I didn't make it in). Not a total waste of time, because I got lots of reading done and played lots of Words With Friends -- but it sure would be nice to get press credentials someday and bypass that process! Anybody wanna hook up a humble blogger up? :)
No huge surprises here. Friday is obviously the biggest movie-going day of week -- though, oddly, I saw one FEWER Friday movie this year than in 2010. Monday was probably a slow day because I needed to come home and watch HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. Tuesday and Thursday are big nights for advance screenings, hence the big numbers there. Wednesday is down from last year, probably because AMC did away with their “Free Popcorn Wednesdays.” Too bad about that, though I more than got my money’s worth from the new AMC Stubs program, so it balances out. I actually saw TEN more movies on Saturday this year than in ‘10 -- the reason for this is that I would often go to the movies on those nights with my lovely girlfriend, Rachel, after she got out of work. (Aww!) And Sunday, of course, is usually a day of rest. Can I get an amen?
MY VARIOUS HOMES AWAY FROM HOME
AMC Empire 25 - 44
Loews Lincoln Square - 23
Regal 42nd St. E-Walk - 19
Lincoln Plaza Cinema - 11
Loews 34th Street - 10
Clearview Chelsea - 5
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center - 4
IFC Center - 4
Loews Lincoln Square IMAX - 3
Ziegfeld Theatre - 3
Tribeca Grand Hotel Screening Room - 3
Coliseum Theatre - 3
Loews Village 7 - 3
Sunshine Cinema - 2
Regal Union Square - 2
Loews 84th Street - 2
Cinema Village - 2
Angelika Theatre - 2
Regal Hadley Center (NJ) - 2
Loews Kip's Bay - 1
Loews Orpheum - 1
Disney Park Ave. Screening Room - 1
Sony Wonder Technology Lab - 1
Lighthouse International Screening Room - 1
92nd St. Y - 1
Montgomery Cinema (NJ) - 1
Loews New Brunswick (NJ) - 1
Fun stuff here. The AMC Empire dominated, mainly because I work five minutes away and would often hustle over there to catch the convenient after-work showtimes. (This is also why the E-Walk and 34th Street theatres are high up there.) Surprised that I didn’t see more movies at Lincoln Square, since it is the best overall multiplex in NYC and offers one of the best movie-going experiences. Even more surprised that I only saw THREE in glorious IMAX (SUCKER PUNCH, TRANSFORMERS 3 and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 4); this is down from the prior year, too, so I guess I was more selective or something. Lots of movies at Lincoln Plaza, my indie theatre of choice. And then there’s an eclectic mix: Glad I saw a few screenings at the Tribeca Grand, one of the city’s hidden cinema jewels. Of course, the Ziegfeld is always a magical experience. Only four movies at the IFC Center?! That will change in 2012 because I am now a card-carrying member (thanks to Rachel!) and I need to see at least 16 movies there to make it worthwhile. I also saw four at the shiny new Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center, which is a tremendous addition to the NYC film scene. Couple of movies at the quaint Cinema Village, which is cool. Couple of movies at the Angelika, which is a couple too many. One apiece at Kip’s Bay and the Orpheum, which is random. ZERO movies at the Paris Theatre, which is a damn shame -- not sure how that happened (or didn’t happen). A smattering in my old New Jersey stomping grounds (though one of them was my #1 movie of the year, HUGO, which somehow seems appropriate). I was even granted access to some interesting screening rooms, particularly Lighthouse International, which is an official screening room of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (I saw MY WEEK WITH MARILYN there). Lastly, everyone please pour one out for my local Washington Heights neighborhood theatre, the old Coliseum on 181st Street, which has apparently closed its doors. Here’s hoping this is just temporary and it is reborn soon, because even though it was a shithole, it was also the oldest-running movie theatre in NYC and should be preserved!
Oddly, double-features were down this year. I saw 20 of them in 2010, and only 13 this year (plus two triple-features). What that means is that I saw multiple movies on 15 different days... and I saw a single movie on 123 different days... so altogether, I went to the movies on 138 of the 365 days in the year. Wild. Anyway, here is the list of double-features. Most were formed out of pure convenience -- but some funny combinations resulted nonetheless:
- ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN (Saw these at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. Swanky.)
- OSCAR-NOMINATED ANIMATED SHORTS and OSCAR-NOMINATED LIVE ACTION SHORTS (My favorite movie tradition of the year!)
- BATTLE: LOS ANGELES and HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE
- THE DOUBLE HOUR and SCREAM 4
- POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD and TROLLHUNTER
- THOR and THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS
- PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
- THE TRIP and BAD TEACHER
- A BETTER LIFE and HORRIBLE BOSSES
- ONE DAY and FINAL DESTINATION 5
- DRIVE and RESTLESS
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL and SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Longest double-feature title combo ever!)
- THE IRON LADY and EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE
And the triple-features:
- THE IDES OF MARCH and MACHINE GUN PREACHER and THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE: FULL SEQUENCE (Note: These three were collectively known as “The Cinematic Centipede,” the review of which can be found HERE.)
- PUSS IN BOOTS and GHOSTBUSTERS and TOWER HEIST (Note: this was my first-ever free triple-feature -- all three were free! I also had to schlep from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side and back to Times Square to complete it. Whew!)
It’s also worth noting that out of 155 movies, I saw an astounding 127 of them by myself. I’m a loner, Dottie... a rebel. But it’s okay... I enjoy going to the movies by myself; it allows me to get truly lost in the experience. I’ve never understood why some people have such an aversion to it, or even think it’s pathetic; hell, if you’re with someone, it’s not like you’re sitting there talking to each other -- and if you are talking to each other, please do us all a favor and shoot yourselves in the face. But I digress, and I did have a few movie-going companions here and there. My oft-mentioned lovely girlfriend, Rachel, accompanied me 23 times, which was actually way down from 2010 when we saw 36 movies together (she was a busy bee). I was also joined on occasion by my friends Jill and Alex in NJ (we kept the Christmas Night Movie tradition alive for the 14th year in a row!) and Tara in NYC. Thanks, gang!
I would also be remiss if I didn’t give a special thanks to my Twitter friend, @LilEsBella, who put together this amazing homage on her own blog after I saw my 142nd movie, thus breaking my personal record, in early December. Thanks again, Lili -- I am still honored! :)
Lastly, here are a few superlatives honoring my movie-going experiences of the past year, off the top of my head... because, why not:
- MOST AWE-INSPIRING EXPERIENCE: Definitely TRANSFORMERS 3 and M:I-4, both of which I saw in glorious 80' x 100' IMAX at Lincoln Square. My eyeballs may never be the same again.
- MOST ENTERTAINING CROWD: The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 crowd at the Regal E-Walk was game for anything, and it was hilarious hearing the squeals of fright, not only when the scares occurred, but as the tension built. It wasn’t people being intentionally obnoxious or annoying -- it was a legit reaction to the film. And that is why these movies rule.
- MOST ANNOYING NEIGHBOR: I usually try not to make a big deal if I'm sitting next to a talker, even though I am likely seething on the inside. But when I saw UNKNOWN at Lincoln Square, the two women next to me just... wouldn't.... stop. So I snapped at them and they finally shut up. Plus they actually apologized after the movie ended. Apology accepted -- just don't let it happen again!
- MOST MAGICAL EXPERIENCE: Seeing HUGO at Loews New Brunswick, NJ, and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS at Lincoln Plaza both filled me with whimsy & joy and sit atop my Top 10 of 2011. But seeing THE LION KING on the big screen for the first time -- at the Ziegfeld, no less -- was pure, unadulterated Disney magic.
- WEIRDEST PRE-SHOW MOMENT: When I saw THE SKIN I LIVE IN at the AMC Empire, I'm pretty sure there was a criminal mastermind sitting in front of me. At first he was cackling to himself and rubbing his hands together diabolically -- but then when his friend arrived, he instantly started acting & talking totally normal. Considering the film's subject matter, I was fairly alarmed.
- BEST PRE- OR POST-MOVIE MEAL: The pizza place across the street from Lincoln Square (my fav in the city). Or my & Rachel’s awesome super-secret Thai place (sorry, it’s a secret)!
- BEST MOVIE EVENT: Nope, not any of the big summer superhero movies. And sadly, I missed the midnight show of HP7.2 because I was sick. So for me, this award goes to the opening night midnight show of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 -- a raucous, sold-out affair at the IFC Center, at which I received the greatest movie swag ever: An official Human Centipede staple remover!
Okay, that’s enough of this madness for one year. Unless of course anybody has any questions about my movie-going prowess! Or perhaps there are more superlatives you'd like to hear about? Ask and ye shall receive!