Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Going to the Movies in Switzerland

I went to the movies. Big deal. Well, it was. I hadn’t been to a Swiss movie theater for a few years, mainly because it’s such a pain to buy a ticket. Most Swiss plan to attend movies at least a week in advance and buy their tickets accordingly. So if you’re a lazy American and just want to show up before the show, good luck getting a ticket. Anyhow, going to the movies again reminded me just how different the experience is in Switzerland.

I went to see The King’s Speech on Saturday, which was luckily in E/d/f. The key letter being “E”, which meant the film was in English with German and French subtitles. Most movies in Switzerland are shown in their original language since most Swiss people are very particular (i.e. snobby) about seeing a movie in its original format. The sentiment in multi-lingual Switzerland is that people who watch dubbed movies are not sophisticated.

Swiss movie theaters have assigned seats. Your ticket has a seat number and you better sit in it, or you’ll disturb the order. Enter a Swiss movie theater that is only half-full, and you’ll find its entire audience clumped together in the back half of the theater, since it would be wrong to sit in an empty seat that you weren’t assigned to.

Then there are the snacks. My husband and I went to see the 5:30 p.m. show, so popcorn was our dinner. I snacked hungrily during the beginning of the movie, the popcorn tasted great, but each bag crinkle and chew made me feel self-conscious; no one else was making a sound; they had all put their treats away for the intermission, when the movie suddenly stops mid-sentence, and when it is finally socially acceptable to eat popcorn or an ice cream bar.

Today at the office, my Swiss friend was telling me how his partner went to a movie last week and he was glad he didn’t go with because the people sitting behind his partner were chomping on candy throughout the whole movie. Really? I said,…that’s…uh, terrible.


swisssidejewelleryetc said...

Hi Chantal,
This is hilarious! And I hate the intermission - I just want to get on with the film and have a drink before or afterwards. You didn't say how you found the film? Is it worth the big deal?

Mimi said...

My goodness, I went to see the same movie on the same night, possibly in the same theater! Nevertheless, I like the intermission they have half way through, only because I have an overactive bladder. It means I can go to the loo and not disturb anyone.

M'dame Jo said...

I've never seen assigned seats in my part of Switzerland. Those Alemanics are weird.

And yes, I'm also annoyed by people playing loudly with their food during the movies. It's so expensive, that having the dialogs covered up by eating noises annoys me. It feels like I'm wasting my 17 francs.

I guess I'm a snob too. I like my movie in their original language (the lips not moving in sync is disturbing and you lose a lot of the acting, plus when it's originally in english, I can read on the actors' lips, it's even worse), without intermission (a couple of theaters suppressed them in Lausanne. They actually didn't exist when I was a kid, they've been introduced over the year, because it'd be bad to waste such a good occasion to sell overpriced drinks and icecreams), and without eating noise and people commenting.

As a result, I practically never go to the movies.

M'dame Jo said...

And also, when I go to an English speaking D/F subtitled movie, I can't help comparing the translations and sometimes rolling my eyes at the poor translations.

Ela said...

I just watched The King's Speech in England (I'm Swiss) and your blog reminded me of the first time I went to a cinema here.. I kept wondering how looong the film could possibly be as the intermission just. didn't. come. Until the end of the film when I was told "Intermissions?!? We don't have intermissions!!!" accompanied by a VERY surprised look.
Also, I'm very glad we get the films in their original language (in Switzerland) even though I ALWAYS read the subtitles, even if they're in a language I don't actually know. Obsessive Compulsive Reading-Disorder I call it.. :)

Lindsey said...

No wonder I've never bothered going to a movie here! Uptight and no fun. That's sadly become my new view of Switzerland - and even sadder still, it's being heartily reinforced every single day! Oh my.

Lindsey said...

Sorry, Ela...for my comment above. And Chantal, did you enjoy The King's Speech? I saw in at home with my mom and sister and we wrestled to manage seats together and munched on popcorn and licorice through the whole thing and I cried and loved it so much and then at the end everyone in the packed theater clapped. It was a splendid movie experience all around! *Sigh* There's no place like home! Same goes for you, Ela! ;)

Chantal said...

The King's Speech was great. I recommend it.

You can actually buy Swiss movie tickets online, which is how we knew we'd get seats for The King's Speech without having to show up and be disappointed. We bought the tickets a couple of hours before the show and printed the receipt. Then you take the receipt to the cinema and automatic machines will scan its barcode and print your tickets.

In principle I don't mind the intermissions, it's just that they aren't planned for a good break in the movie. They are abrupt and often cut off an actor mid-sentence.

Yes, 17 Francs is a lot for a movie. Oh Switzerland. Why is everything here twice the price?

I also agree the subtitles can be distracting as I end up reading them as well, even though I don't need them. And often the sentence comes up long before the actor says it so it messes with the flow.

M'dame Jo said...

In principle I don't mind the intermissions, it's just that they aren't planned for a good break in the movie. They are abrupt and often cut off an actor mid-sentence.

I know... I don't know if it's just because the roll ends at that moment or if they have predefined cutting time, independently of the movie content, it's rarely appropriate. I've heard entire movie theaters booing when the cut was at a very bad time.

I'm not that old, but I remember single digits prices. The prices have been going up and up and up like crazy over the last 15 years. However, there are ways of going to the movies for cheap(er). I don't know if it's still the case, but here in Lausanne you could go to the movies for 10.- on Thursdays nights (not even a "bad" day) if you were a member of the shop FNAC, for example. I friend of mine watches a lot of movies, so she has an annual pass and she pays 35.- a month for unlimited viewing. Three movies a month and it's paid off.

I wouldn't say that subtitles are distracting. I've been watching subtitled movies since I was 10 - when my mother decided I was a good enough reader - so comparing the translations isn't even distracting, it's just something I do. Like most of the people who've always been watching subtitled movies, I guess.

Anonymous said...

When I was in Zagreb, Croatia in 1990 -- a year before the civil war in Yugoslavia began -- I had to buy a movie ticket to an assigned seat. It was weird, because the theater was about 1/2 empty.

What was funnier was that hubby and I were the only ones laughing at the Tom Hanks movie, which was in English. I can't remember if there were subtitles. Does American humor differ from Croatian humor?

Chantal said...

My husband and I definitely laughed at a few things in The King's Speech that no one else did. I think there's a subtlety that is missed when you watch a movie in another language. Or the humor can also be cultural. Americans definitely find things funny that others may not.

M'dame Jo- I think Monday's in Zurich the movies are 12 CHF instead of 17. What a deal. :-)

Kathy said...

The whole thing about seating people in a closely packed group in one part of an otherwise empty theater makes me nuts. I like to go to the afternoon showings when the theater is almost empty. I just wait until the usher bugs out, and then I sneak into another seat.

I really love intermission though, even though films don't actually have a break in them any more. It's just so much more civilized than the constant shuffle and movement you can get in US theaters.

Chantal said...

Early shows are definitely the time to go to the movies. But switching seats would probably make me feel nervous for the entire movie that someone was going to come and claim I was in their seat despite the 50 other free seats!

Anonymous said...

Hey this are great news for me! My options for movies here in Germany are so sad, all dubbed films, a living nightmare. I have enough from TV trying to watch Dr. House in german, he looks so ridicoulous. And so on. But in 30 min. I can now go to Basel and pay an expensive price to watch a movie in its original language!! Paradise! I am not an english native speaker but I come from Southamerica and movies are only dubbed for kids!!

Chantal said...

That's a good perspective for the expensive price. It probably is worth paying since I can see movies in English here!

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