According to this article from AV Club, a Connecticut theatre put up a sign all but warning patrons about Terrence Malick’s recent film-snob catnip, Tree of Life. Specifically, it warns that the film will not be a typical, straightforward narrative, and may involve dinosaurs. Their management stated that there were a few “nasty and belligerent” people who asked for refunds after the film was finished, presumably because it didn’t end in Tokyo with Vin Diesel challenging Brad Pitt to a street race.
If you know me, you know my stances on customer service are very cut-and-dry. If a customer is truly wronged, certainly the situation should be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. This would include things like projector issues, sound issues, rude staff, a teenager having a baby in the back row, and so forth. Free ticket? Sure. But when it simply comes down to, “I didn’t like this movie! It made me think, and I don’t like movies that aren’t in order,” I follow a simple business plan entitled “Take a Hike, Bucko.”
Some people seem to have trouble realizing that the fact a film is weird or artsy has nothing to do with the management at AMC. Some people want to be absolved of all risk, even in the realm of their entertainment. If they deem something terrible, why should they have had to pay for it? They just wasted two hours of their time.
Some people are idiots.
Look, I’ve seen some shit in my time; stuff I wouldn’t even bring to Yakmala! (And yes, everyone, I still rope Eyes Wide Shut into that circle. Deal.) But:
- I decided to see the movie in the first place.
- I decided to buy the ticket. (Or I was with a girl who insisted I see the movie and buy the tickets. I’m no longer with these girls.)
- I decided to sit through the movie, even when evidence quickly built that the film was going to suck hard. (Evidence like Natalie Portman whining for the umpteenth time that she just wants to be a perfect ballerina.)
Some people want to equate artistic works with products like duct tape. If it doesn’t work for me, I deserve a refund. The problem is that duct tape not working is an objective, provable event. It doesn’t stick, there you go. But a film not working (much like a concert, or a play) isn’t provable in the same way. I hated Black Swan. HATED. But many others liked it, and despite my dumbfoundedness at that concept, that very inconsistency is why I couldn’t go to the box office afterward and get my money back. (Also why I couldn’t get my money back: it was a studio screening and I saw it for free. Silver linings!)
Besides, even the worst films can be enjoyable experiences on their own. The Room is obvious, but I’ve actually seen Hulk, Swimfan, and Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever in the theater (all with friend of the Show, Blake), and I had a ball at all three. See also: Twilight: Eclipse, wherein about ten of us were on the razor’s edge of getting thrown out because we were laughing so much. And if someone requested a refund because of us, I would probably understand that.
But through all the crap that I’ve seen, I’ve never been arrogant enough to approach a ticket person and demand my money back. This includes a “Black Flag reunion show” a few years ago that could be charitably described as a “clusterfuck.” That is the dice roll you agree to whenever you see any creative work. If people were honestly entitled to a refund just because something about a film or concert rubbed them the wrong way, no one would ever make any money.
To me, demanding a refund after finishing a movie is the height of arrogance. “You didn’t satisfy ME, so I want my ticket money back. Oh, and some free popcorn.” Because Malick is waiting by the phone, hoping you’ll call and tell him his movie was great. And if not, he turns the shower on full blast and has a good cry in it.
So, if you’re one of those upset that a movie about the ’50s has dinosaurs in it, just let it go. Chalk it up as a misfire, go home, turn on “Two and a Half Men,” and try it all again with another movie. Leave the staff alone. They just work there.