Sunday, October 24, 2021

the experience of seeing "Dune" (not a review)

I just came back from watching "Dune" in a real, honest-to-God movie theater, and I'm still processing the experience. This is my first time seeing a movie in a cinema since the pandemic started, so I guess it's been close to two years. As I used to do pre-pandemic, I took a cab to Lotte World Mall to take advantage of the mall's huge multiplex. I had no idea what to expect regarding how the pandemic might have affected ticket-buying. I was about to find out.

Up to the fifth floor I went, hoping I'd see the usual staffers at the box office, ready to give me a ticket for "Dune" at the time of my choosing, but no—the first thing I discovered is that, if you want to buy tickets on site, you're still going to have to use a computer. They had some sort of SmartTicket setup that I had to learn quickly how to use. It wasn't too difficult, but it was inconvenient. There are touch-screen options that allow you to call up your already-ordered ticket via your order number; I realized that that wasn't what I wanted: I hadn't gotten a ticket online, and I wanted to buy a ticket sur place. I found the option for that, and the program led me through the procedure, step by step. 

Seat selection was a bit confusing, though, because the graphic didn't show the seats the way they're actually arranged in the theater. I made my best guess as to the seat I wanted (I normally go for the end of an aisle so I can have easy access to the restroom if necessary), accounting for social-distancing measures (I'm still not clear on this, but at a guess, if you're not a couple, you have to have at least one seat between you, which really reduces the number of tickets that can be sold per screening). I noted that ticket prices had been jacked up to W14,000 to make up for all the lost seating potential (pre-pandemic, Lotte World Cinema tickets were around W11,000, but cheaper for matinees). 

The final step, after you've selected a movie, a screening time, and a seat number, is to receive your ticket via phone. This meant logging in via Naver, and as I found out, it had been so long since I'd last used Naver this way that I had to reactivate my account. One step forward, two steps back, as per usual with Korean tech. But in order to reactivate my account, I needed to be able to receive text messages, and I was in WiFi-only mode because I had used up my monthly quota of LTE data. I flipped data back on, allowing my phone bill to be charged extra, got through reactivation, then finally got my ticket.

But we're not done. The e-ticket arrives on your phone, and it contains a QR-code button, so I had to figure out how to be able to summon the QR code as well. I somehow managed that, and finally, I had my ticket and could get in line just as everyone started filing in for the movie.

Everything after that point felt like a more-or-less typical moviegoing experience except for the obligation to wear a mask, which I did resignedly. I've heard from two sources, now, that the Korean government is thinking of shifting to a living-with-COVID policy (the virus is endemic, after all) that drops a lot of restrictions and allows for more risk, but as JW reminded me, the government can take this breathing room away just as easily as it gives it. Anyway, receiving more leeway is something that'll happen later; we're not there yet: today, everyone had to be masked, so I kept my face-diaper in place.

Watched the movie, was properly wowed (review pending), and left the way I came, via cab.

So maybe I'll go back to seeing movies in theaters again, especially now that I know the new (or maybe not-so-new) procedure for doing so. But it is a pain in the ass, and I'm not sure how much I like sitting in a theater with a fucking mask on my face. Then again, a spectacle like "Dune" has been billed as something that must be seen in a theater to be appreciated (director Denis Villeneuve was famously pissed off when the news came out that "Dune" might be released exclusively on home video), and now that I've seen the movie, I'd have to agree. See "Dune" on a big screen if you can, and when you see it at home, have a big-screen TV handy.

1 comment:

John Mac said...

The ticket buying procedure would be an even bigger nightmare for a techno-peasant like me. What legitimate anti-Covid purpose does this process provide? Methinks it is more about doing away with expensive employees who used to dispense tickets.