Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Random Memories #17

The first movie I ever saw in a theater in my life was "Snow White and the Three Stooges". Lest anyone believe that I'm old enough for a first run of that movie, let me saw that it was pretty antiquated even when I was a child. I don't recall how old I was, only that my aunt took me to it and that I had not yet started first grade.

The first movie that I saw in Japan was Wall Street, which actually was new to Japan and is a reflection of how old I am. The movie was released in the U.S. in 1987, but I saw it in 1988 because back in those days, it wasn't unusual for movies to take quite some time to make their way across the water. I'm pretty sure the delay in those days had to do with the speed with which things could be translated and subtitled, a process which I'm certain is greatly accelerated by modern technology as well as an incentive to synchronize release dates internationally so that the pirated versions aren't passed around from the earlier release in the U.S.

One of the things about tickets in Japan, at least advance ones, is that they have pictures on them. That makes them a cool souvenir and, in this case, these 1988 tickets remind me that movies used to be only 1200 yen ($14.65). Now, they retail for 1800 yen ($21.87), though back then and now, you can get 200-300 yen ($2.44-$3.66) off at some places by buying them at a discount ticket shop. 

I also found the advertising on the back, which includes an ad for an extremely expensive air conditioner (218,000 yen/2,660 dollars), rather interesting. It is described as a "powerful city air conditioner". I guess that one of those wimpy country ones would be more economical. It seems an odd thing to market on the back of a movie ticket as it seems few people who were spending their spare cash on a movie would be thinking about super expensive air conditioners. Then again, most movie theaters were very hot at that time and this was one of the reasons I rarely went to them while I was in Japan. Perhaps after cooking your way through Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas attempting to accumulate as much wealth as possible, you'd think investing in a "city air conditioner" was a pretty good idea.

Incidentally, Wall Street was the first movie I saw in Japan and the last was Mission Impossible 4. I saw it a few days before going into the hospital to have thyroid surgery as a way of getting out and doing something relatively "different" from the usual routine before someone took a knife to my throat. I recall that the experiences were quite different. During Wall Street, there were these seats in prime locations with white covers on them which were expensive reserve seats and the theater was overheated. The theater at which I saw Mission Impossible 4 had enormous comfortable chairs  that looked like they came out of a space shuttle and pretty much there were no bad seats (there may not even have been reserve ones) and we had boring tickets printed from a machine. It was also cool enough that I could keep my sweater on, but, then again, we were in the midst of setsuden (energy conservation) and they were probably reluctant to use the heat so much in winter.

I can't say that seeing a movie these days in Japan is an enormously different experience from that in the U.S., except for the part where people aren't as obnoxious. I can say that in the late 80's, it sure felt rather different than it did back home. It felt more formal with those special reserved seats and the colorful printed tickets. I don't remember the move Wall Street at all, but I do remember the atmosphere in that theater. 


  1. Cheese and crackers, the price of a movie in Japan is insane! Even at a discount. This morning I was browsing the cost of tickets to my local theater to treat my hubs to The Hobbit and was thinking that 11 bucks is kinda steep. Then again back when I was in high school we had a cheap theater in the mall that only charged 2 dollars. It was basically make-out paradise for high schoolers but on my meager savings it made going to the movies possible for me. Incidentally matinee charge 8.50 locally.

  2. I was about to say the same thing... I have trouble paying more than $8 for a movie ticket. Around my Midwestern city, you can go to a matinee for $6 or less most places, and there are many theaters that play second-run movies (not yet out on video) for $1 or $1.50.

  3. My first movie in Japan was either Disclosure (Michael Douglas and Demi Moore) or True Lies. I remember for Disclosure I went with one of my students and he bought the special pamphlet for the movie. I had never seen that before (and I knew no one else who bought them,) or since.
    I remeber going to the movies on my own and sitting in the middle of the theatre and my seat had a white slip cover on the top of the chair. I wonder why nobody was sitting there. I figured out my mistake a little too late and wound up with a rather bad seat.

  4. In 1980, when I first saw a movie in Japan, what struck me most was the unavailability of advance or numbered tickets: the only way to get a seat was to queue beforehand for a long time to buy your ticket, then go in twenty minutes early (thus ruining the ending) and finally fight your way in the dark, usually unsuccessfully, through the crowds forcing their way past you to get out when the previous showing ended. The number of people standing at the back and sitting on the steps all the way down to the screen must have created a serious fire risk.

  5. I used to love seeing movies in Japan, and while not drastically different from Canada, there were some major points. The giant space shuttle seats, for one; the purse and umbrella holders, and the ability to reserve your seat when you bought your ticket, the big selection of food, the PRICE of the food, the souvenir goods sold outside...all things I miss about Japan. The theatre we frequented in Kyoto was reserve-seats-only, which was something I liked.


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