No matter how bad the film is, why do so many of us stick it out at the cinema and refuse to leave early? A few thoughts right here.

It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned it in an article on this site, but Brett Goldstein’s Films To Be Buried With podcast is a real delight. A slice of movie positivity amongst a swamp of snark, and oftentimes very, very funny as well. Even when Goldstein asks one of his guests what film they don’t like that they feel they’re supposed to, there’s no sense of punching down to it. It’s just a good, friendly chat about films.

On a recent episode, Goldstein recorded a second show with comedian, writer, BAFTA-winner and Film Stories magazine columnist Romesh Ranganathan. I was really taken with this too. Romesh then cited his film that he just didn’t get as Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. If you’ve not seen it, it’s a war film with a three hour plus running time, that deliberately goes really rather slowly. I like the film a lot, Romesh didn’t. But also Romesh talked about sitting in the cinema for three and a half hours, pretty much bored out of his skull.

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Crucially, the idea of getting up and walking out wasn’t even an option for him. And I wonder if that’s the case for the vast majority of film fans too.

I say this as somebody who has never, with one mitigated exception, walked out of a film. Ever. No matter how much I dislike the movie in question, I feel I have to stay to the bitter end in the hope of finding some light in it. It’s a cinema thing: there are moments at home where I’ll just have had enough, hit pause, and never gone back to a film. But in the cinema, only when I had a thumping headache once did I feel I needed to leave a showing early.

It’s not as if the thought hasn’t crossed my mind at least once about walking out of a film. I remember the first time I was tempted to duck out. I was in my teens when I saw 1990’s Problem Child on the big screen, a film that got a wide release in the UK in the slipstream of Home Alone’s success. Appreciating the brilliance of some of the people behind it, it’s a movie I never liked, and I worked out within 20 minutes that I was disliking it. A lot. But I stuck the whole thing out, and never felt the benefit of doing so. Yet conversely, I don’t regret it. What if there’d been a major twist at the end? What if Nick Fury had turned up post-credits some 20 years or so ahead of schedule? There wasn’t, and he didn’t, just to be clear.

Now granted, I’d see a part of Problem Child on the big screen less than a year later when it made a surprise appearance in Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear, and I can confirm that Robert De Niro’s Max Cady in that film got more pleasure from Problem Child than me.

I’m a bit of a paradox, admittedly. I’m a firm subscriber that life is too short for some things, and that sometimes it’s worth cutting your losses and going to do something else instead. Yet a cinema has an exception clause to that. I think of the other films I really wanted to leave, movies I felt like I was enduring rather than watching. But it never became an option in my head to get my coat on and head for the exit.

And I don’t think I’m alone. Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve spent good money to go the cinema and don’t want to waste it, even in the weakest of films there’s sometimes something in there. I remember watching Night School, a pretty forgettable comedy with Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart, and thinking this isn’t working at all. Then, what do you know, one of the most sensitive visualisations of a learning difficulty pops in where I least expect. I wonder if those of us who hang around come what may are waiting for a moment like that.

Or is it just that the cinema remains special? That it deserves a level of attention that comes with a huge screen, a quality sound system and ideally a chair that doesn’t squeak? Particularly coming after a year and a bit of assorted lockdowns when cinema was an option withheld from so many of us, it now seems simply a no-no to go along and then not stick it out. But even before the times of pandemic and lockdowns, I’d suggest that the majority of film fans felt the same way.

But I’m curious, and I’m handing this over to you. In the comments below, tell us about the time you walked out of a cinema early, and why? Are you the kind of person who’s paid your money and you’re not leaving, or do you have a point where you simply feel forget this, and move on?

The film I walked out of, incidentally, was Tangerine. I wasn’t feeling well, and I made a point of catching up with it at a later date. It remains the one mark on my otherwise unblemished record…

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