Now, thanks to globalization (and the fact that China is the most money-obsessed communist country around), giant multiplexes have sprung up all over the country. If you want to see the latest Iron Man sequel, you can check out some 3D glasses and enjoy the whole IMAX experience with hundreds of other screaming movie fans. It’s a lot like American theaters, except people don’t laugh at the same jokes.
IMAX is awesome, of course, but there’s something extra special about the mom-and-pop theaters that spring up in rural areas. You see, because of lax bootlegging laws, small towns in China will probably have at least one independent cinema. Here’s how they work:
1) There are no set times, so you can just go in whenever you want.
2) At the snack bar, you can get flavored popcorn (mostly strawberry-flavored, never with butter), sodas, and teas.
3) There’s a big book of bootleg DVDs at the front counter. Usually, the movies are at least three months old. You pick something that looks interesting.
4) The clerk ushers you into a small side room where a computer projects the movie on the wall. Sometimes the chairs are plastic. Sometimes, they are equipped with “5D technology,” which means they shake.
5) You leave the theater and promise to come back again.
It might sound low-rent, but watching movies in an independent Chinese theater is a blast. Take, for example, my experience watching My Bloody Valentine 3D. Now, this movie is a gory, fast-paced 3D extravaganza. Body parts fly at the screen at regular intervals. And aside from a nonsensical climax, the whole thing is wildly entertaining.
In three glorious dimensions!
And when the movie finally ends, you have no idea what just happened. It felt like that creepy boat ride scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, and you ate popcorn that tasted like strawberries.
I'm still woozy from that scene.
I’ll always remember the times I spent in a dark room, surrounded by laughing strangers, watching blurry jawbones fly at my head as my chair spun in circles.