Kevin: For the first time in quite a while, activist/“performance artist”/frequently handcuffed Shia LaBeouf actually made news for his film work this week, although probably not for reasons he would like. Variety reported that his war thriller “Man Down” premiered in the U.K. last weekend and sold only one ticket at the theater in which it was playing. No pun intended, but Tough Guy Digest hates to kick a man when they’re down (also some cop will probably be doing that for us at his next Trump protest), so instead we’re going to focus on that one individual who found themselves all alone but making history at Shia’s movie.
I’ve found myself in that situation on two different occasions, the first being with “Idiocracy.” As a big Mike Judge fan I had been eagerly anticipating his next live-action release after “Office Space,” but was disappointed when I heard that Fox was dumping it into a handful of theaters, none of which were in New York. But when I arrived into Houston to attend a friend’s wedding, I saw that “Idiocracy” was actually playing at one crappy theater in the city, but the 6:30 p.m. showing that Thursday night would be its very last.
So after I landed I headed straight to the theater, bought a ticket, and even though I was five minutes late I found the auditorium empty and nothing playing. It wasn’t until I sat down that the lights turned off and they started showing the previews. I really think they were waiting to see if anyone showed up, and if no one did they probably would have just packed up the film and tossed it into the dumpster. Although a couple did come into the theater about 45 minutes into the movie, watched for about 10 minutes, at which point the man said, “God this is awful,” and they walked out. I bet now he brags he saw “Idiocracy” before anyone else.
The other instance involved the pointless Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe version of “Robin Hood.” I was walking back home in the Upper East Side after probably having a beer or nine with some of the TGD crew, and saw that one of those giant one-screen theaters was showing the film at like 10:30 p.m. Not knowing when I’d have a chance to see it later, I walked up to the ticket booth a few minutes after showtime, and I swear I think the kid in there was getting ready to turn off the lights if I hadn’t shown up. Already feeling weird, I felt even more self-conscious when I took two escalators down into the giant below-ground auditorium, which was completely deserted (keep in mind this wasn’t months into its release, it had literally just come out a week before). As the movie unspooled and I sat there alone in the dark late at night I started to feel like I was about to be the victim of some grisly but cinematic murder in a Dario Argento film.
The fact that the movie sucked didn’t help, but I felt like I had to sit through it because I felt guilty about possibly forcing the staff to stick around when they probably were about to call it an early night. I couldn’t decide what was more ridiculous, doing a Robin Hood prequel starring an actor in his late 40’s, an armor-clad Cate Blanchett riding into battle against the French army and not getting immediately slaughtered, or the French king seeing his troops suffer an early setback and then immediately ordering his like 40-ship armada to turn around and row right back to France.
CJ: I’ve never been the only person in a theater. These are the closest I remember:
1) Seeing a showing of “Cobra” at the Alamo Drafthouse. They put it in the largest theater they had and only about 11 people showed up. When the host walked out and said “Welcome to Cobra,” I – and only I – applauded. This resulted in the host saying, almost in defeat, “Great, that’s what I always wanted to hear in my career. One guy clapping.”
2) “Shrek 2.” I feared going to a kids movie alone, lest I look like some pedophile. I showed up, and in the theater were a couple of high school students, me, some other guy, and a couple clearly on a date. Before the movie starts I hit the bathroom and one of the high school kids walks in and is on his cell. I only hear his end of the conversation, but here’s how it went:
“Yeah, I’m seeing “Shrek.” Nah, it’s pretty empty, just me, Joe, two people on a date, and a couple of fags.”
About 10 minutes later a theater’s worth of kids from camp showed up, and I didn’t attend a movie alone for another 5 years.
Mike: There was two times where a friend and I were the only two people in a theater; those movies were:
- “Batman Returns.” It was 1992, I was 11 years old, and my friend Shawn and I were dropped off at the Smithhaven Mall completely alone for the entire day and probably most of the evening. That is a situation today that would have your parents in handcuffs, but back then it was relatively common for your parents to drop you off and pick you up eight hours later after some vague instructions on where to meet. No cell phones, no pagers, just a simple, “Be in front of J.C. Penney’s at 6:30.” Anyway, we went to see “Batman Returns” and it was almost a full house, and afterwards we thought it was so awesome that we left the theater and walked right back in again. I don’t know why, maybe it had something to do with the next show not being a matinee price or whatever, but it was completely empty inside and it was great. At one point I threw an entire cup of ice at the screen just because I could.
- “Cop and a Half.” Similar situation, only instead of the mall I was dropped off in town with my buddy Pat. There was a tiny second-run movie theater there that sold tickets for $2.00 a piece, and for that price you got to see it about two weeks before it would be available at Blockbuster Video. Pat and I went in there, saw “Cop and a Half,” hated it, and roamed around town shoplifting and setting things on fire behind the Waldbaum’s.
Anthony: I wish I could say that when I saw “Masters of the Universe” staring the one and only Dolph Lundgren that I was the only one there, but that fucker was packed. People actually wanted to see what a real life He-Man looked like! Or maybe we all just wanted to see how bad Orko would look and were subsequently disappointed when we got Gwildor (played by Billy Barty).
Anyway, I think the closest to an empty theater I got was when we saw “Police Academy 5” for our Easter family outing (at this point we had made it our yearly duty to keep tabs on Mahoney and the gang as a family). It was my family and like maybe 10 other people. I blame the sanctity of the holiday and not the utter shittiness of the franchise for the poor attendance at that point.