My movie-going experience goes way back to the late eighties when I entered a film theater in Egypt for the first time to watch some Warner Brothers cartoons in one of the Downtown cinemas on Christmas day.
I believe I almost recall every single time I went to see a film in here with accurate details about the setting, conditions of that day and behavior of my fellow moviegoers. These memories represent to me a long journey marked by joy, ecstasy, bitterness and costly anger management classes I had to undertake as a result.
The pivotal year in cinema-going boom in Egypt took place in 1998 with the release of what would turn out to be the biggest film of all time. Titanic, the undefeated foreign box-office champion in Egypt, attracted a new group of viewers, mostly teenagers, who replaced families as the major constitution of film audiences throughout the 90s.
And these teenagers were boisterous and did not seem to care how they spoiled other moviegoers’ experiences. The primary weapon they employed was the laser pointers used by teachers and instructors, which soon became a huge fad and the cool toy every frat boy in town flaunted.
For the following four years, it was rare to enter a film without witnessing one of those cool dudes pointing their hot gadget towards an actress covered breasts or, in the private parts of one Ahmed Elsakka in Short, Shirt and a Cap.
Screaming children can also be another major spoiler for that film you have anticipated all summer. The loud weeping of a baby or the noise they seem to be obliged to produce didn t distress me significantly; it s their never-ending inquiries, their constant need for illustration and their supernatural yearn for food and the bathroom.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was completely ruined for a helpless friend of mine, who s never read the book, by a group of whiz youngsters lead by their queen bee who gave out each twist the film contained right before they unraveled on screen.
Beside me, a caring mother was explaining the film to her young son who kept asking her about what a cave is and why she hasn t brought enough popcorn supply.
Chronicles of Narnia allowed me to see a live demonstration of the damaging effect inflicted upon our future men and women through the years of watching Boogie & Tamtam and Captain Majed.
A child of about seven couldn t understand any of the detailed film analysis his mother provided him – and everyone around her.
After five trips to the washroom, near the end of the film he asked his mother what Narnia really is and how could he get there.
The way Egyptians react to horror movies should become a serious topic for psychologists. While watching films like The Others, The Ring, or The Blair Witch Project young women, after a real scary sequence, would blurt out a scream followed immediately by a laugh that would continue for a while before the next scream.
Scorsese films never fared well with a majority of the Egyptian public. Gangs of New York , for example, was supposed to herald the director’s comeback but for many of the young filmgoers, it was a chance to see Leonardo DiCaprio film.
Doesn t this man look like Adel Imam? one young man pointed at one of the actors in a starting endeavor to draw the biggest laughs from the handful of people attending the film.
Another man later retorted: This is a film about American politics; why should that concern us?
The same kind of demeanor was dominant through other great films like The Aviator where people were making fun of DiCaprio s Howard Hughes, the emotionally charged Cold Mountain where a group of adolescents commenced a filthy barrage of laughter and mockery that brought back gruesome slaughtering images from Brett Ellis Anderson s American Psycho in my head or even Yacoubian Building when I was unfortunate, as usual, to find myself stuck in a theater with only a group of tourists cheering for Khaled Elsawy s gay character and any scene containing sexual references.
In my second viewing of Million Dollar Baby, a company of older women were sitting behind me.
Ya salam, look at her perseverance and courage one of them said in admiration of the Hillary Swank character. As soon as the mild boxing scenes kicked off though, I started hearing them plea for the intensity of the fight to stop.
Ya lahwy, the first one said; Ya kharashy, the second followed her lead; Mesh momken the third of the trio finally ended the most unusual routine I ve ever heard.
Nevertheless, and despite all these traumatizing incidents that have always haunted me, I still went to the movies and took the risk. Now of course I ve learnt what movie theaters to avoid and the best screening times where there are as little people as possible.
But there is hope. When I went to see The Lake House two young teenage brothers were lamenting having bought tickets for what they were sure was a boring film and wished the film could be more like “The Matrix .
I was trying to keep myself calm; trying to remember the instructions I ve been given in anger management: why couldn’t they have checked up on the genre of the film before booking a ticket.
All of a sudden, a man stood up and demanded they shut their mouths. He wasn t shaken when they crudely responded back. He called the security of the theater, talked to them until they ultimately took the boys out. Some people quietly applauded while others tapped him in the back after the end of the film. I wanted to hug him, to thank him for restoring my faith in heroes again.
I eventually went and had a little chat with him, tried to get any confirmation that he would be there for hapless movie-goers like me combating the enemies of cinema who are on an avowed mission to destroy the experience.
Move over Spider-Man, there s a new superhero in town and his name is . Abdel Fattah.