When we first entered the (Cinebox Hoa Binh) theater, there were signs posted in Vietnamese listing the theater rules
1. No talking during the movie
2. No talking on cell phones
3. No cameras or filming equipment allowed
4. No outside food or drink allowed
These are some pretty standard rules for theaters in The Statesâ€¦and I was happy to see that the same type of conduct was expected in Saigon. I was a bit worried about movie etiquette in Vietnam because this country has such a â€œme firstâ€ attitude. You see it in the trafficâ€¦where everyone basically drives without any regard for anyone elseâ€™s safety. You see it in lines at the supermarkets, food stalls, etc. where most people just shove their way to the front to cut in line. You see it in the ubiquitous littering everywhere. I had hopes that the movie theater experience might actually be different because of the rules posted in the front. They also had pre-movie videos reiterating the same rules posted on the board.
My worse fears however were soon proven to be correct.
People were talking to each other, talking on their cell phones, eating their own food, etc. before the movie started, during the movie trailers and throughout the movie itself. I donâ€™t believe there was one moment during the whole excruciating ordeal when I could just focus on the movie. The movie itself was in Chinese with Vietnamese subtitlesâ€¦so I couldnâ€™t understand anything anywaysâ€¦but I knew the basic plot from the Disney version and would have liked to have been able to focus on the film without the constant blabbering.
Yes there are people that behave like that in The States tooâ€¦.but usually they are in the minorityâ€¦and even then they usually only talk in spurts. Here, everyone acted if the theater was their own personal space. People not only answered their phonesâ€¦.but would initiate calls. If it was just a few people you can turn to them and tell them to â€œshut the f$%k up!â€â€¦but what do you do when the entire freaking theater is acting that way?
As we leftâ€¦I told my Aunt that this was probably the first and last time I would ever watch a movie in a Vietnam cinema. When I relayed what happened to my cousin and her husband, they told me that the type of people that frequent the Cinebox Hoa Binh were mostly younger kids that use the theater as a place to hang out/make out and not for serious movie goers. They said that the nicer theaters in Saigon did not permit this type of behavior.
The Megastar Cineplex is a much nicer looking theater than the Hoa Binh Cinebox. According to Phuong, the theater had just opened in the past year. The theater we were in was small in comparison to most theaters in the U.Sâ€¦..but it had stadium riser seatingâ€¦.which the Cinebox did notâ€¦.and the sound system and picture quality was excellent. However, all these qualities could not end up saving the whole movie going experience for me.
In spite of my my cousin and Phuongâ€™s assurances people in the â€œnicer theatersâ€ in Saigon behaved differently than the people at Hoa Binhâ€¦.it was exactly the same. People here cannot ever keep their mouths shut. I tried to block them out but it was impossible for me to fully enjoy the movie.