Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How the other half goes to the movies

Every year, prior to the Academy Awards, Sam and I attempt to see all of the movies that are nominated for Best Picture that year, and then we compete with each other on Oscar night to see who correctly predicts the winners in the most categories (it's very official; we use ballots and everything). We've done this as long as I can remember, and I believe Sam has won every year - thanks to his upbringing and wicked smarts, he's darn good at it!

This tradition has been significantly more challenging in the UAE, as there is usually a lag time of a month or two before films make it over here, and then the good ones seem to stay only a week. And let me just say that doubling the amount of nominees from 5 to 10 has not only diluted the weight of the honor, but has made our annual attempt much more expensive! We also can't actually watch the Oscars live here since we don't have satellite; besides, they air at 5 am our time. But we press on, and are actually 9 for 10 this year, with Black Swan being the only exception (it probably won't ever release here).

Two weekends ago we noticed that The King's Speech was finally showing, so we went to Marina Mall Cinema at the scheduled time only to be told there was a problem with the film and it wouldn't show after all. So we drove across town to the Khalidiyah Mall Cinema, to find out it was only playing in "Platinum Class" for a whopping 100 dirhams ($28) per person! We asked if the film would be available anytime soon at the regular price of 30 dirhams and were informed that this was the last day it would be in theaters at all. After a private consultation, Sam and I agreed we had come too far to turn back and coughed up the extra dough. 

So, what does 100 dirhams get you at the movies? Well, not much. We were directed to a separate entrance to sit in a private lobby that looked, well, like a smaller version of the main lobby. I visited the "platinum class" bathroom to see what extra amenities I might find, but apart from a more stylish sink basin, it was the same as the regular class bathroom (and out of paper too). Our movie was shown in a smallish room with a smallish screen, with just two distinct differences from a regular-priced movie: 
  1. Rather than wait in line at a concessions counter, theater employees come around to your seats to take snack orders. There are no special offerings; same candy, same prices as always, but in Platinum Class you get to listen to everyone around you give their orders during the previews, then wait until 20 minutes into the movie to get your M&Ms, all the while being distracted by the waiters attempting to discreetly distribute popcorn in the dark (not an easy feat).
  2. The seats! Everyone gets their own personal Barcalounger (aka Lazy Boy), soft as a baby's bottom and fully reclinable. We took off our shoes (everyone was doing it) and settled in for the duration, deciding the ticket was worth every last dirham.


  1. But did you like the movie as much as I did? You will be glad you saw it after the Academy Awards this Sunday.

  2. The King's Speech was excellent and will probably win, but I think my favorite movie of the lot has been The Fighter.