Since late 2004, a friend and I have gone to the movies almost every week, and mostly at the Event Cinemas complex on George Street here in Sydney. We usually go on Tuesday nights when tickets are half-price.
During the past two years, Event Cinemas has introduced allocated seating. While this does have its advantages, like being (partly) able to choose where you’d like to sit, it also has its disadvantages – especially in the following situations:
- Patrons are mostly assigned seats close together in the one area, so you often find yourself sitting next to strangers (as to why Event Cinemas does this, perhaps it’s to make cleaning easier after each session, with most of the rubbish concentrated in one area and therefore quicker to scoop up)
- The movie you’re seeing is in one of the smaller and older cinemas with cramped seating, so (especially in packed sessions) you’re sitting right up against strangers
To alleviate this problem, my friend and I began buying tickets for three seats, with the third seat between us for extra space and somewhere to put our food and drink (and, also for my OCD self, my moist towelettes and rubbish bag).
The three-ticket solution turned out to be a success, and we use it whenever possible.
Earlier this week, however, I encountered a situation where, in some instances, my friend and I won’t be able to use the three-ticket solution.
And it’s not because of Event Cinemas.
It’s because of the law.
My friend lives about an hour away by train from George Street, whereas I’m only twenty minutes away by foot. Therefore, a few hours before our agreed session, I walk on down to Event Cinemas and purchase our tickets to guarantee our seats (especially for big movies) and avoid the late-evening queue (which sometimes stretches for a few hundred metres).
After I grab our tickets, I cross George Street to a restaurant-bar where from 6pm I meet my friend for dinner, and with our tickets already bought we can relax even more until the movie starts.
So, last Tuesday just after 5pm, I went into Event Cinemas to buy three tickets for the new science-fiction comedy Paul…
…but when I tried to do so, the courteous and polite young man who served me apologised and said that, by law, he couldn’t sell those three tickets to me.
This was new. Why?
He explained that for movies like Paul that are rated MA15+, one person cannot buy more than one ticket at a time.
What?!? (I exclaimed mentally – physically, I was polite)
The young man explained that it’s to prevent someone unscrupulously buying tickets on behalf of under-15s, who would be refused service if they tried to buy them themselves (either in person or online, which has in place ID checks of some sort).
I explained that the three tickets were for myself (who clearly isn’t under 15 years of age) and my friend (who isn’t either) – but although the young man sympathised, he explained that if my friend wanted to join me to see Paul, he would have to be present right now to buy his own ticket.
Oh, for crying out loud…
I tried one last attempt to overcome this inconvenience – what if I wanted to buy three tickets just for myself?
The young man sympathised again, but held firm. He couldn’t, and wasn’t, going to sell those three tickets to me.
For fuck’s sake!
I was dumbfounded. And getting very annoyed…
…but not at the young man, who was doing his job courteously and professionally. I told him that I understood his position and thanked him.
And so I left Event Cinemas without any tickets, and as I crossed George Street to Star Bar I stayed annoyed at the powers-that-be not allowing me to make my purchase.
And that annoyance compelled me to take action.
About an hour later when my friend arrived at Star Bar, I was at my laptop PC and I asked him how old he was.
My friend was okay with that, and in brief I explained why – and when he returned a few minutes later after placing his dinner order, I recounted my experience in full, which I had also done in the email I’d just sent to Classification asking for more information about the law that I’d butted my head against less than an hour before.
My friend was dumbfounded like I was, and we discussed the inanities of that law and agreed that it was a bad example of nanny-statism.
I’m not much of a political animal. I classify myself as left-of-centre; I have opinions that I sometimes discuss; and I vote because it’s compulsory – but that’s pretty much it for me and politics.
I even support the concept of a welfare state that works well for all of its citizens.
But sometimes when it comes to censorship and classification in Australia, the law goes too far – and not only in preventing me from buying more than one cinema ticket for a MA15+ film.
One reason why a lot of Australian free-to-air television is so banal is that it operates under the principle that (to use an example presented at a panel about censorship that I attended in the early 2000s) a child could wake up at 3am in the morning, wander into the lounge room where Mum or Dad or both may be watching late-night television, and potentially see something harmful – so as a result, local free-to-air TV has to be very careful at all times about what it screens.
And then there is the ridiculous situation regarding video games in this country. Since the 1990s, video games have been rated like movies but with one glaring exception – there is no R18+ category for adult gamers 18 years and over. Why? Because despite repeated evidence like the survey a few years ago that found the average age of the Australian video gamer is 29, video games are still perceived by many to be something only for children – and so, to protect Aussie kids from potentially more harmful material, games that are rated R18+ cannot be sold in this country…
…although this has led to ludicrous and half-arsed compromises like what happened to that old shocker Grand Theft Auto III. Before GTA3 could be sold here, it had to be edited to achieve an MA15+ rating. All the carnage that made GTA3 (in)famous was left in, however, and you could even still visit prostitutes – but if you did, you could no longer see the brief scene afterwards where your car bounces up and down from the unseen action happening inside.
That silliness about video games has long irked me, but although I still follow with interest the ongoing campaign to allow R18+ games to be sold here, I’ve never become actively involved.
But now something that affected me directly has got me motivated to do something.
According to Classification’s website, I should receive a reply to my query within 20 days.
After that, I’ll see what I can do to take this further.
If you’re interested in following this issue, I’ll post future updates about my progress.
Just before 9pm on Tuesday night, my friend and I crossed George Street to take our chances getting in to Paul.
To take the edge off of our earlier disappointment, though, we decided to nix the regular session of Paul that we had originally planned to see and instead go to a Gold Class session – which even on Tuesdays is still quite pricey, but every now and then it’s worth it for the big screen, the big comfortable chairs and (if you want) food and drink delivered straight to your chair.
And fortunately, our gamble paid off – Paul was crass, gross and hilarious.
Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂