Saturday night at the movies

It had been 10 years since we had been inside a movie theater. It’s not that we don’t like films; in fact, just the opposite. In the last house we owned in the US we converted part of the basement to a home cinema with a 10-foot wide screen that we enjoyed at least every weekend. In those days DVDs arrived weekly in the mail plus there were kiosks a short drive away that frequently offered a free rental just to get you to try (or retry) their service so we always had an ample supply to watch. To see something that had not yet been released to the home market, however, meant that we had to go to our local multiplex and our last few experiences there convinced us that we’d be happier waiting until it was available to see on our own screen. At times it felt as if more people in the audience were watching their cell phones than the big screen and talking to their seatmates about the latest news flash on social media. A couple of weeks ago we decided to see how going to the movies in France might compare. 

Photo by Ayca Turan

If there is any kind of cultural event in Carcassonne, our neighbor will be there. She has season tickets anywhere they are offered and scans the newspaper to discover art openings, concerts, stage events, and exhibitions that might not be covered by her various passes. She invited us to go with her to an opera from Paris that was being broadcast on movie screens throughout the country including one here in town. We declined, explaining how we didn’t like all of the distractions mentioned above and her reaction was disbelief plus an encouragement to see for ourselves how different it would be in France.

We’re not fans of dubbing since the spoken words never seem to match the actors’ mouths so with Avatar 2 Bill started looking for the “VO” (version originale) meaning that the dialogue would be in English while the subtitles would be in French. He found it in a suburb of Toulouse with the added bonus of it being at an IMAX and in 3D. Within a few minutes we had tickets to the film, a reservation for a hotel and a restaurant near the theater, and roundtrip train tickets that would get us within a 5-minute walk of where we’d be staying.

Photo by Pixabay

The movie start time was listed as 5:30 PM at which time the lights dimmed slightly and the screen lit up with 15 minutes of previews and advertisements. All around us was a sea of cellphone screens with lots of chatter and then the magic happened. The lights dimmed even further, the cell phone screens went blank and the talking stopped. Total silence in uninterrupted darkness for the next 3 hours. It was just as our culturally-active neighbor had described.

Now that we see how easy and enjoyable this overnight visit was, we won’t be so reluctant to spend another Saturday night at the movies! And speaking of spending, here’s what it cost:

  • IMAX theater tickets including 3D glasses: 22€ per person
  • Popcorn (which we didn’t buy): 7€ to 13€ for very small to large
  • Apartment style hotel: 61€ for the night
  • Restaurant 3-course menu: 35€ per person or we could cooked in our apartment hotel room
  • Roundtrip train tickets: 2€ per person

Photo note: Across the top and in the first paragraph, from the city’s website, is Carcassonne’s recently restored theater originally built in 1914.

9 thoughts on “Saturday night at the movies

    1. It was playing in Carcassonne but with the French dubbed at every showing so we looked for the nearest VO (version original) and it happened to also be on a grand IMAX screen. So you are correct for the pricing of €200 and we did have a fun time but won’t be looking to see the next releases in the series.

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  1. We used to love movies on the big screen when we lived in a city with two repertory movie theaters that showed great old films. We’d go to at least one old movie a week. That was in the dark ages, before cell phones, so there were no distractions.

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  2. I should have hooked you up with my friend Chris. He lives in Carcassonne and is a big movie fan. He probably would have driven everyone to Toulouse–then again, it sounds like you had a nice short break and probably enjoyed yourself more.

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    1. Thanks, Anthony. Yes, this was an experiment to see if using the train to get to and from Toulouse would work and we did have a nice overnight break. Had the movie started earlier we could have even made it just as a day trip.

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  3. The Colisée in Carcassonne shows almost every foreign film in VO — and it’s a lovely cinema as you can see! Cheap too. We saw The Banshees of Inisherin there recently. It’s the only cinema in the Aude that reliably shows VO, and it has a great cineclub too.

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    1. Sounds like you’re a real fan of the Colisée as is our neighbor mentioned above. Now that we know that cell phone screens won’t be competing with the big screen, we’ll have to check it out!


  4. Ed and I haven’t been to a movie since the before the pandemic due to the reasons you listed. I will say I do miss the movie cinema experience. There’s just something about the lights going down, the hushed atmosphere and the big screen that is somewhat magical.

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