In defense of persistent shaking sensations | Bleader

In defense of persistent shaking sensations

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Deannie Ip and Andy Lau in A Simple Life
  • Deannie Ip and Andy Lau in A Simple Life
There's a sign at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema in Lakeview that reads:

Dear Patrons: Please be advised that due to its proximity to the LA Fitness Health Club, theatre #2 occasionally succumbs to a persistent shaking sensation. If you find this persistent shaking detrimental to your movie viewing experience, please visit the box office within 20 minutes of the film's scheduled start time for a full refund. We apologize for any inconvenience.

I appreciate the management's consideration here. I've experienced shaking sensations in other theaters, but I can't remember getting a heads-up anywhere else. In most multiplexes, a bit of shaking is simply par for the course—evidence of the latest, most intricate sound-system technology at work. This technology can be so powerful that it carries over into other theaters. When Ann Hui's A Simple Life played at the River East two springtimes ago, it screened in a little auditorium sandwiched between two larger ones that were both showing the same effects-heavy blockbuster. The walls of the theater showing Simple Life rumbled as cities got devastated in the adjacent rooms. It didn't feel entirely inappropriate, as Hui's film is plenty devastating in its own right, considering the slow death of a lonely old woman who'd spent most of her life in the service of others.

Even when a shaking sensation doesn't elaborate on a movie's subtext, I still don't mind it much. I must be used to the feeling, having attended so much storefront theater under and around CTA tracks. In that context, outside rumbling lends a certain credibility to the work of art in question. The motion of the train evokes the everyday bustle of a city at work, making the actors seem more industrious for doing their thing alongside it. And if the play is truly bad, guessing when the next train will pass can provide a useful distraction.

Coming from a fitness center, the rumbling one encounters at the Landmark Century conjures images of people working to better themselves. Regardless, it is indeed persistent, which distinguishes it from the sporadic sensations one gets from nearby trains or special effects. This practically ensures that you won't fall asleep during whatever movie you're watching (had I known that Philomena would be playing in the Century's "theatre #2" this week, I would have waited to see it there). For some viewers, the sensation might even evoke pleasant memories of Magic Fingers, the "relaxation service" device that used to be hooked up to motel beds. They cost 25 cents per 15-minute session. Watching a two-hour movie in the shaky auditorium, then, is like getting two bucks' worth of Magic Fingers for free. Who'd call that an inconvenience? I'll tell you: fat cats who can afford vibrating chairs for their homes.

Ben Sachs writes about moviegoing every Monday.

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