Monday, April 8, 2013

Facebook, a SoCal revival-theatre employee, and me.

Apologizing in advance for any complaints about perceived "bad manners" of mine.

Saturday night, I attended part of a Montgomery Clift double bill of THE MISFITS/WILD RIVER (have seen both before) at the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.

The young male Cinematheque employee (who will go unnamed here) gave an introduction to the films which began with out-loud musings about how the audience was bigger than expected (from my estimate, about 40% full, surprising for an evening of its Clift mini-fest).  It didn't improve from there, with the employee discussing the upcoming slate of movies in what seemed to me to be an "I-don't-care" fashion.  And, when in the lobby, I happened to notice the employee was sporadically playing chess behind the snack-and-soda counter with another young male employee.

So, I made the impulsive decision to complain about this on Facebook--specifically on the Aero Theatre page.

And I received this response from the introduction-giving employee, which mixed a reasonable reply with a passage (highlighted by me) I took offense to:
I'm sorry you were unhappy with my intro. I've been working at the Aero for five years and I finally decided to try giving the intro - it looks like you mistook my stage fright for apathy.
We are always happy to hear from our customers at the counter and if you feel like you need to speak to a manager you can address complaints directly to [name deleted by me], the theater manager, or [name deleted], the director of the American Cinematheque.
By making your complaint public, you not only embarrass me personally (which I can get over), but you also make the whole institution look bad (which is harder to rectify).
If you think that we should only have employees who are already comfortable on stage give the introductions I encourage you to suggest that to one of our managers, but I would like to ask you personally if you would consider sending your message privately and take down the public comment.

I hope that other than my less-than-stellar introduction, your time at the Aero was enjoyable.

I wrote back to the young man as follows:

I will not take the comment down. If you do further intros, take a moment to get focused and have some knowledge about the films you're promoting. And remember that it makes the institution look bad when you're talking openly to the audience about how many audience members are in attendance.

Since the Aero Theatre Facebook page isn't intended as the comments section of, I knew that my public incorrectness would be removed by him or someone else involved with the page.  And it was.

My final words to the young man were these:
"....if you had only stayed with your clarification and not hectored me about taking down the comments, I would very likely have done so voluntarily. So, in the end, we both have to take responsibility for this matter leaving a bitter aftertaste."

In closing, I like the American Cinematheque overall.  I've attended since the 90s across various venues including the DGA Theatres on Sunset Boulevard and the Melrose Studios screening room, plus the permanent sites of the Egyptian and Aero.  And I'm hoping that examining this molehill (which isn't really one, since it's part of the quality of revival-house presentation) of an incident here won't preclude me (plus my wife and mutual friends of ours) from attending future film programs.

I just hope that the employees--regardless of stage-fright--will express some genuine enthusiasm about the theatre's film choices to audiences, regardless of whether the number of patrons are twenty or 200. 


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