I get to see the new Starwars movie before the rest of the world! I’ve always wanted to attend the first showing of a movie, but for major releases at home in the USA, that usually requires standing in line at quarter to midnight. So now that I’m in an earlier time zone and the theater is right downstairs from my apartment, I plan to be the first in line. And I don’t even have to go outside. I just take the elevator.There is no showing at midnight, but that’s okay. Since we are a day ahead here in Vietnam, I still get to see it before anybody in the USA. Oddly, the theater has only 2 showings on opening day and they are both in English with Vietnamese subtitles. Usually the major movies are also offered dubbed in the local language, but not this one. Maybe Starwars is not as popular here in Vietnam as it is in the US?.
I’ve arrived at the theater an hour early to secure my spot at the front of the line, but strangely there is no line, so I purchase my ticket and return to my apartment to await start time. The theaters in Vietnam have assigned seats which you choose when purchasing your ticket. Since I was the first to buy a ticket, I will be occupying the best seat in the house: eye level, center. If you are curious about the ticket price, it is $2.50 USD rather than $12-$15 I’d be paying in the states. Popcorn costs less than a dollar but is only sold in small individual bags. In Asia, all food portions are small. That’s probably the reason no one is overweight. Everyone is thin and small. I’m 5’6” and even most of men are shorter than I.
It’s just about start time, so I go downstairs to buy my popcorn, and, again, there is no one in line. In fact, the only people in the lobby are two other Americans. And then when the theater opens, its just the three of us. That’s all. In the whole theater, only three of us! It’s almost like a private viewing. What a treat!
Speaking of treats, my popcorn held a big surprise. My family has a tradition whereas we don’t begin devouring the popcorn until the actual movie begins. Not the previews. Not the commercials, the actual movie. Imagine this: You are seated all cozy in the theater. You don’t know what to expect since you have never been in a movie theater in Vietnam. The lights dim signaling the start of the projection. All of a sudden, you hear popping sounds pinging off the wall all around you. It scares you a little bit. You look around and see nothing capable of making that noise. Then the screen lights up and draws your attention to the culprit- little colored bouncing balls. Your are pleased to discover the theater has surround sound. This fact is announced from the screen. A woman’s voice says, ” All …around… you…..” What is next you wonder. Well it’s all pretty basic from then on. A few previews, a few commercials, then that familiar Starwars narration begins to scroll. Great. Now you can relax, no more surprises or so you think. You settle in and pop a piece of popcorn into your mouth. Shock!! It’s sweet! You’re expecting the salty, buttery taste that you are accustomed to, but instead, you get sweet! It’s coated with some kind of sugary spray. The sugar is adhered to each piece. There is no getting around it. The two other westerners in the theater begin to laugh. They were waiting for this moment.
What are the theaters like in Vietnam? I can only speak for this theater. I’ll try another one later and report back. This particular theater, as well as my apartment, is located in the Pegasus Plaza high rise building which is only 2 years old. My 2 bedroom apartment on the 16th floor is already showing wear, with mold growing behind the wallpapered walls, but the theater shows no sign of wear and is high quality with excellent sound, a spacious lobby, a smoothie bar, fake trees, and a full line of movie theater snacks. It’s also one of the few places in town where you can buy diet pepsi. It’s top notch.
The popcorn takes some getting used to, but I embrace the culture and enjoy the Vietnam movie and popcorn experience. I thought the movie was just okay. In my opinion, the writers could have taken a bigger risk. My family and I have been waiting so long for this movie that I immediately wanted to start discussing it on Facebook, but I’ll wait until the whole world has a chance to see it. One of our other traditions is to never spoil the ending of a movie or book. This doesn’t count for predictions. When I was a kid, our family would watch one of those t.v. movies and soon after it began, my father would get a little piece of paper and write his prediction for the ending, then fold the paper and set it next to his cigarettes. After it ended, he’d unfold the paper and we would all be amazed at how smart he was. Now that I have more experience, I can do it too. Starwars was like that. Quite predictable.
A couple days later I go to view Starwars again and this time I am the ONLY PERSON IN THE THEATER. Everyone else is taking their afternoon siesta. Other than the movie theater, the rest of the town shuts down between 11 and 4. I mean, really, you can’t even get lunch. If you want to have the whole theater to yourself, come to Vietnam and take in a matinee.
Also opening in the cinema this week is Deadpool. The theater is packed for the opening. I can’t figure out why one movie is so popular but not the other, so I ask my Vietnamese friends. They inform me that space movies are considered to be children’s movies and grown ups are not interested in such nonsense. Hmm…interesting…space movies are considered to be for children, but comic book characters are for adults. Come to think of it, none of my British and South African friends are here either. Is it just Americans who are so enamored of space movies?
Culture tip: The Vietnamese, when using English to describe watching a movie in a movie theater, it’s referred to as watching a film in a cinema. If you speak British English, you recognize this collocation. Vietnamese students learn British English. The majority of the teachers are also from UK or South Africa so most of the young people in South East Asian countries learn British phonics and speak English with a British accent. The older people in Vietnam use the American accent due to our presence during the war. As far as I know, Taiwan is the only Asian country where American phonics are currently emphasized. I’ll be going there soon. Taiwan is one of my future destinations
Are you a Starwars fan?