— Peter Bogdanovich, “Old Dreams,” in Silent Screens
Most of our patrons were grownups who didn’t care anymore about Bugs or Daffy Duck; they got their news from television. Our mid-seventies audience had come at the appointed time to see Taxi Driver or Carrie or Don’t Open the Window — whatever it was we’d advertised on the movie page that week. They sometimes got a little surly if too many “short subjects” intervened.
Dean’s nickname for one particular patron was “Time Clock,” but box office staffers had another name for him, a middle aged man (accountant?) fixated on the actual start time of any film we ran.
“It’s three minutes past eight o’clock,” he’d state emphatically, pointing at his wrist.
“Yes,” I said, “...and your problem?”
“The film is scheduled to start at eight; it said so in the papers, on your sign board, and in that infernal message I hear when I call the theater.” (We were proud of our answering machine, one of the first of its kind).
“Eight o’clock is eight o’clock! — it’s now five minutes past eight,” he said, checking his watch.
Over his shoulder and through the glass partition that separated the auditorium from the lobby, I could see the trailer package grinding away, nearly 11 minutes of COMING ATTRACTIONS, for films we mostly couldn’t afford.
“I think,” I said, “it’ll start in six, maybe seven minutes...”
And we were off.
“That is preposterous!” he ejaculated. “I paid good money for an eight o’clock movie! Truth in advertising! I want my money back.”
Dean appeared, shrugged and reached into his pocket for a dollar and two quarters, and placed the ticket price in the man’s small immaculate palm.
He stormed out the door.
“Who is this guy?” I wondered.
“Staff calls him Tic Toc, but I think of him as Time Clock,” Dean explained.
Tic Toc was not the only patron obsessed with time. A mother surrounded by three children of various ages stood outside the box office one Saturday afternoon and, after purchasing four tickets, inquired when the main feature would start.
“It started only about five minutes ago,” Brenda responded.
Puzzled and disappointed, the mother asked, “Well, could you re-start it? Traffic was terrible...”
Brenda actually stopped chewing her perpetual gum and stared at the woman. “No way,” was all she could muster.
I was getting my hair cut yesterday, so asked my stylist — a friend of many years and one of the most savvy movie critics I know — if, when he was growing up, he’d been in the habit of arriving late to movies. “Absolutely not!” he replied, “My whole family...we were always on time; it was important to us.” So there you go, and Bogdanovich be damned...?
What do you think? Remember walking in late and staying over?