June 30, 2007

The Movie Theater at Fresh Pond Continues to Suck

I make a habit of staying away from the sad, sucky theater tucked behind the Fresh Pond Mall in Cambridge. When I pass within sight of it, I curse three times and gag on the bad memories of the House Where Dreams Go To Die, the Cursed Lantern, the noisy playpen where the parents of Cambridge send their unsupervised rugrats, the multiplex with "screens" so cruelly small Bono and Chris Martin have held benefit concerts to have the place torn down. That movie "1408" was based on one of the screening rooms. Iran evacuated their embassy and airlifted their ambassador off the roof. Get the idea? Only children, fools, masochists, and adults with depressingly low expectations pay $10 to spend 90 minutes inside.

I experienced the horror of Fresh Pond all too often in the mid 1990s. In the mid 1990s, there was no Boston Common or Fenway cinemas. If you lived in Somerville, your choices were a rat-infested hellhole (Assembly Square) or a hellhole without the rats, I chose the rat-free option. I stayed away from 1995 until 2003, when I saw View From The Top on a dare from my wife. The movie was terrible, I had a coupon, so the whole experience fit together. No one wants to see a terrible movie in a majestic movie house!

Now it's been 12 years since I last frequented the not-so-Fresh Pond. We went to see Ratatouille (what turned out to be the best movie of 2007) at Fresh Pond, only because it was ridiculously convenient. (My wife's parents and sister were in town, staying at the Hotel Tria, located in the same shopping plaza.) I admit Fresh Pond is a great location for a theater. North of Boston and inside of Route 128, your choices for first-run, non-art house fare are Fresh Pond, Revere, and that's it. They finally closed Assembly Square, ten years after I last set foot in that rat-infested hellhole.

So how was this moviegoing experience? It was like watching a movie on a TV in an E.R. waiting room...and by the way, you're horribly injured. I don't recall the last time I had to focus so hard on the action onscreen. It took all my will to screen out all the distractions. We had a row of chatty teenagers behind us. I suspect they are aware that "there's no talking allowed in a theater", but they didn't care. The kid directly behind me silently belched his dinner on my neck twice. A group of children across the aisle, who are too young to know better, talked through the whole movie, asking their mother questions. Mom, of course, just shushes them, in a voice even louder than her kids. The picture quality was good but the sound was only OK. The entrance to the theater includes a shiny plaque SONY DIGITAL DYNAMIC SOUND but I don't believe it. I know what you're thinking: it's a kids' movie, and you went to a 7:35 show, what did you expect? That's a good point, but I have been to plenty of movies with teenagers and children, but nobody ever belched on the back of my head before. Twice.