Have you ever wondered what it’s like to go to the movie theatre in another country? It’s not something I’ve ever given much thought to. But I hope you’re at least curious to read on. While I avoid finishing up my blog posts on Amsterdam and London, let me tell you about our first experience at a movie theatre in France.
It took us a little over two years, but we finally made it to the movie theatre. What movie convinced us to go? The newest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Don’t worry; no spoilers ahead.
As a fun fact, the writer of the movie is my age and graduated from the University of Georgia at the same time I did. I must have known him somehow in college as we are Facebook friends. But then again, Facebook was new and cool in 2006, so everyone friended everyone in the dining hall freshman year. Anyway, it’s my claim to fame even though I can’t quite remember how or why I know him.
I’m not a huge movie-watcher, as I have trouble sitting still and concentrating. But during the pandemic’s peak, there wasn’t much else to do but watch anything and everything across our streaming services. Jordan built a list of all Marvel movies in sequential order for me to watch. He’s been a fan for years, but I am late to the game. One by one, we marked each movie off the list. I’m basically what you would consider a Marvel superfan now, right? At least Jordan is happy not to pause and explain the movie every 5 minutes!
After our initial burst of movie-watching, I was burnt out and needed a break. Life returned to somewhat normal, and we replaced watching movies with spending time outside of the apartment. Unfortunately for me, Marvel puts out TV shows and movies like clockwork. Once proudly up to speed with all the movies, I now lagged behind.
The new Spiderman movie came out, but I couldn’t watch it until we got through the other shows and movies first. Being a Marvel fan takes commitment. We designated one weekend in April as a “do-nothing weekend” to catch up on the latest Marvel releases (and finally watched Spiderman).
We were caught up again and ready to celebrate by going to the movie theatre.
The movie theatre is located conveniently around the block from our apartment. I checked showtimes, and there were constant showings of Doctor Strange throughout the day. The key for us, however, is finding a showing that’s in English. Our French may be improving, but neither of us is prepared to understand the movie in French!
France has five different acronyms for how they classify films and shows. It was vital for us to choose the correct version for our showing.
1. VO (Original Version): the film is screened in its original language
2. VF (French Version): the film is dubbed in French. I find this version often when watching tv.
3. VOST (Original Subtitled Version): the film is screened and has subtitled in the original language. We can change our Netflix settings to enjoy this!
4. VOSTF (Original Version with French Subtitles): the film is screened in the original language with French subtitles. Many movies use this as the best of both worlds
5. VM (Multilingual Version): the film is screened in multiple languages. Maybe at the same time? I’m honestly not familiar with this one.
The most common options I saw when selecting a movie time were between VO and VOSTF. Naturally, we chose the original version in English with French subtitles for our showing of Doctor Strange.
One of my weaknesses is always using subtitles for anything I watch in English. For some reason, I feel like I can’t hear a show unless I am also reading what the actors say. Is anyone else like this? I can read French pretty well, but I would need to focus hard on what they were actually saying in the movie!
We planned on going to a 7:10 pm showing of the movie after work. Jordan returned home around 6:30 pm, and we immediately left the house. In the US, I feel like you have to get to the movie theatre early to get the best spot. In France, I forgot that punctuality isn’t one of their inherent traits. We were the first ones in the theatre with 20 minutes until showtime.
Ticket prices were comparable to what we would expect in the US. We had coupons for half-off tickets, but we didn’t realize they expired the day before. We paid about 28 euros for two tickets, so about 14 each.
The line for concessions was virtually empty, and we went up to get snacks for the movie. Our only options were boxed candy, chocolate, or popcorn. We ordered a couple of popcorns, and the attendant said, “sucrée or salé” (sweet or salty). What I wish was said was, “how much butter would you like?” We chose the salty option. Unlike the US, with the generous pumps of golden melted butter, this movie theatre seasoned popcorn simply with salt.
After looking around to see if there may be a butter pump hiding, I reluctantly took my bag of fresh (and much healthier) popcorn. The total cost of our concessions was 12 euros, which seems like a bargain compared to the US.
As I mentioned, we were the first ones in the theatre. Others started rolling in a few minutes before showtime. And some people even brought outside food in, like McDonald’s! We will have to investigate if we can bring food in next time.
Before the movie started, there were typical previews for movies to come. Jurassic Park. Top Gun. Avatar. Are we going back in time, or are we sure we are in 2022 with these titles?
After the previews ended, generic French commercials like what you would see on TV played for another few minutes. I couldn’t tell you what they were advertising. In the US, one of the many iconic videos is the simulated rollercoaster. We dash and dart around giant popcorn bags and floating candy before the main movie starts. We were curious to see what France’s answer to this clip would be. And the answer is, well, nothing. There was no build-up to the movie’s premiere. The lights just dimmed, and we knew it was showtime!
While there are minimal threats in France, I can’t say I wasn’t on high alert while in the movie theatre. It’s an unfortunate side effect of being American. Or maybe just a side effect of someone with anxiety. It could even be a lingering fear from living about 20 minutes from the large theatre shooting in Colorado when it happened.
Nevertheless, I surveyed the room to find the one entry and one exit point. Mid-movie, an older man slowly walked through the entrance with a backpack. I turned my focus from the screen to watch this man’s every move. He slowly walked down the stairs and sat in the front row. After a few minutes, he stood back up and left the theatre. A weird interaction, but I kept telling myself there was no reason to be afraid and turned my attention back to the silver screen.
As I was trying to pay attention to what the actors were saying, I still found myself reading the French subtitles—pleasantly surprised, as I felt like I could understand most of it.
I did find it interesting as there were some critical differences in what the subtitles said vs. what the actors said. I knew from watching shows on TV in French that the subtitles had the power to change the meaning from the intent completely. In particular, in Doctor Strange, a very English saying was said a couple of times. Usually, I wouldn’t think twice about it. But the French subtitles translated to something utterly different from the phrase! Not even to the French equivalent of the phrase. Oh well, close enough?
I also found there was a slight delay from when we would laugh to when other audience members would laugh. Our laugh started about a second before the majority. Maybe it’s because we could interpret the joke as said in its native language. Many had to read the French subtitles and figure it out that way.
Overall, it cost us around 40 euros to go to a movie and grab snacks. Not bad for a mid-week date night! Who knew that even after two years, we would still be experiencing new things as expats abroad. Going to the movies in France is not so different than in the US, minus the buttery popcorn. Next time, we will use our coupons before they expire!
Stay tuned, as I promise I will share the beautiful photos Jordan took in Amsterdam and London soon.