In Contention

No refunds

Posted by · 6:08 pm · June 23rd, 2011

Passed along via Twitter by Christopher Misch (originally posted by a guy named Joe Meyers) snapped at the Avon Theatre in Stamford, CT:

→ 53 Comments Tags: | Filed in: Daily

53 responses so far

  • 1 6-23-2011 at 6:16 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Love it.

  • 2 6-23-2011 at 6:20 pm

    JJ1 said...


  • 3 6-23-2011 at 6:21 pm

    James D. said...

    Good for them.

    I don’t like the idea of refunds for any artistic work, but I can almost understand it if the film is inept or does not meet reasonable expectations (without having seen The Green Lantern, most say it does not live up to other superhero movies, and in that case maybe a refund is warranted). Malick’s film is a lot of things, but inept is not one of them. People being drawn in by Brad Pitt and being angry at being forced to think deserve no refund.

  • 4 6-23-2011 at 6:22 pm

    tony rock said...

    Good. There are too many dumb people that walk into movies completely ignorant.

  • 5 6-23-2011 at 6:23 pm

    Fitz said...

    I’m firmly of the belief that if you pick a movie and you don’t like it than you just lost that admission.

  • 6 6-23-2011 at 6:24 pm

    James D. said...

    Also, I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but Orlando’s little one-screen independent theater has been consistently selling out its showings. Why should the theater lose money because some philistine kept the seat from a true fan of art cinema?

  • 7 6-23-2011 at 6:48 pm

    Glenn said...

    People probably thinking “The Tree of Life” is some Brad Pitt adventure movie?

  • 8 6-23-2011 at 7:05 pm

    Tom said...

    I have never understood how people walk into a movie without knowing anything about it. I know a lot of people do it that way, but it takes less than 5 minutes to watch a trailer or skim a review of the movie.

  • 9 6-23-2011 at 7:11 pm

    tony rock said...


    It is sort of unfathomable, really. You go to the movies because you want to see a particular movie. Not the other way around.

  • 10 6-23-2011 at 7:15 pm

    Andrej said...


    But I can’t help feeling sad for the other movie in exhibition, Midnight in Paris.

    “No one’s complaining about you. You’re not unique enough.” :(

  • 11 6-23-2011 at 7:55 pm

    scastagnoli said...

    It’s really small minded of people to fuss about a film and ask for a refund. I saw it last week and witnessed a couple of elderly ladies walk out about an hour into the film. Following the conclusion, a man two seats over from me started bellowing about how he was glad it was finally over. The overall reaction after the film was what I can only describe as a buzz sound mixed with some grumbling.

    Clearly, those expecting a film with a traditional narrative structure were in for quite a surprise. However, it would be very difficult for anyone to protest not getting entertained for the cost of their ticket. Just the spectacular visuals alone are worth the price of admission.

    Although I’ve read posts where viewers have been moved by the film, somehow it never quite came together for me. So much has been written about the minute details, images and symbolism contained in The Tree of Life that I feel the commentary might be veering toward over- analysis. I admit there is much to absorb within the film, but perhaps it’s best to let it “wash over” you instead. The director is exploring and presenting through this art form both the mysteries of our universe’s creation and our connectedness to all other living things and forms. He envisions what may come after this life. But most of all, where he unquestionably succeeds is displaying for us the beauty inherent in our world and existence.

  • 12 6-23-2011 at 8:28 pm

    JDextemper said...

    The Avon only shows arthouse or independent films. I saw Tree of Life there earlier this week (I was worried some of my fellow theatergoes would walk out, but nobody did). Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re going to what is traditionally an arthouse theater (that even *prides* itself on only showing that kind of film), then you should expect a certain type of work.

    As luck would have it, I know one of the people who work there; according to her, the general reaction to the film has been a collective “I don’t know what I just saw, exactly…but it was good.” Let’s be honest, when you read about the film (my two trusted review sources, aside from incontention, being the NYT and EW, mentioned how the film depicts the creation of the universe), it’s tough to tell just what you’re getting yourself into. I also have to admit that this was the first Terrence Malick film I’ve ever seen; I went into this almost cold.

    By the way, Andrej, I’ve noticed bigger audiences for Midnight in Paris, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for it (then again, Woody Allen’s a somewhat more conventional filmmaker). The audience I saw it with loved it, as did I.

  • 13 6-23-2011 at 8:47 pm

    Lenny said...

    Lol oh my god I actually saw The Tree of Life at this particular Avon Theatre…I’d love to know when this photo was taken because I was sitting directly behind a couple who walked out at the beginning of the universe sequence and I’m wondering if they were the ones who attempted to ask for a refund lol.

    Oh, and I agree with everything stated in the letter. Apparently people are only seeing that Brad Pitt and Sean Penn have top billing in the film and aren’t doing their homework on what kind of film they should expect.

  • 14 6-23-2011 at 9:23 pm

    Andrej said...

    JDextemper: I’m aware of Midnight in Paris’s neat reception, but I can’t help feeling like The Tree of Life is stealing its thunder at this small, two-movie cinema with such a controversial confrontation xD

    Oh well, just as long as it keeps making a killing at the box office, it’ll be fine…

  • 15 6-23-2011 at 9:51 pm

    Chris138 said...

    The first time I saw The Tree of Life, the audience reception was alright, even if a little baffled. The second time, however, was good for the most part… until the last minute or so. This one woman decided to give her commentary out loud, as if no one else were in the theater, and say these things:

    “Oh God, I hope it’s over.. it’s definitely gotta be over.”
    “God, that was so contrived.”
    “It’s beautiful to look at and I’m sure it’ll be taught in film class, but it’s just so contrived.”
    “You know what this basically is? A remake of The Great Santini.”

    I found it immensely annoying. Everyone else was silent except for this one lady and her friend that she was sitting with. People who talk during movies, especially making snarky comments out loud, is a pet peeve of mine. It’s very rude.

  • 16 6-23-2011 at 10:23 pm

    cineJAB said...

    I knew exactly what I was getting myself into with this movie and was still pretty tremendously disappointed with the product as a whole.

  • 17 6-24-2011 at 1:59 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    This is probably for the good, but doesn’t it make the film sound less accessible than it actually is? Yes, it’s not conventional narrative cinema — but neither is it some underground experimental work that belongs in a gallery. I just hope the sign doesn’t deter some viewers who might otherwise get something out of it.

  • 18 6-24-2011 at 2:06 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    without having seen The Green Lantern, most say it does not live up to other superhero movies, and in that case maybe a refund is warranted

    Sorry, but no. A cinema is a facility. You use it, you pay for it — even if you didn’t personally enjoy yourself. (After all, if one could claim a refund for not liking the film, there’d be nothing to prevent those that did like it from lying and doing the same.) The only time there should ever be a refund is if the screening is somehow disrupted, halted or takes place in substandard conditions. The film itself can’t be held accountable.

  • 19 6-24-2011 at 2:30 am

    Moviehobbyist said...

    I’ve seen unprecedented numbers of walkouts during the “Origins of the Universe” sequence. They should’ve put some warnings up on the posters reading: “Intelligence Required” or something. I mean it, there’s too many people that go see this as “just another Brad Pitt movie”.

  • 20 6-24-2011 at 5:31 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    When Bruno was released patrons were allowed to request a refund if they left during the first 15 minutes.

  • 21 6-24-2011 at 6:39 am

    Joey said...

    I remember when I managed a theater people would ask for refunds because they didn’t understand the movie or because they didn’t like the movie. I would always get into yelling matches because I refused to give them their money back. They don’t pay to like the movie, they pay to see the movie.

  • 22 6-24-2011 at 6:59 am

    The Z said...


    Great point. Add on that they rent the seat and they’ve pretty much lost any leverage.

  • 23 6-24-2011 at 7:58 am

    Ben M. said...

    I’m not surprised, even at the arthouse theater I went to on opening weekend there were a couple of walk-outs, and I can only imagine it would be a lot worse in a general multiplex.

    On Tuesday when I went to the LOTR: Two Towers re-release I heard the oddest conversation with three women going to buy tickets to the film. They were going just because Brad Pitt was in it, but while they also knew Sean Penn was in it they had no idea what the movie was about, one heard that it was set in the 1950’s but then got it completely wrong when she said it was about the CIA blowing the cover on one of their agents (I can only guess she got is confused with Penn’s other recent movie Fair Game) and should be “pretty suspenseful.” I have to admit, given the circumstances, I thought about telling them that they would probably hate the movie and should go to something else.

  • 24 6-24-2011 at 8:16 am

    Rashad said...

    There’s nothing “intelligent” about the creation sequence.

  • 25 6-24-2011 at 8:28 am

    Will said...

    I agree, Guy. This makes it seem a lot less accessible than it actually is. I don’t think it’s all that oblique.

    When I worked at a theater, we had a sign like this for The Stoning of Soraya M. I guess people were unaware of what it was about.

  • 26 6-24-2011 at 8:40 am

    Maxim said...

    “tony rock said…


    It is sort of unfathomable, really. You go to the movies because you want to see a particular movie. Not the other way around.”

    Stop trowing around big words like “unfathomable” just because something doesn’t fit your rigid worldview. Not everyone has time to keep up with every movie that’s out there. I know, a shocker.
    And a movie like “Tree of Life” without a multi-million dollar campaign behind it does not necessary appear on everyone’s radar.

    Just like not everyone wants to see a trailer that may contain spoilers.

    Most importantly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeing something on a whim. What’s wrong with a little adventurism?

    Another thing: I’m sure there’s plenty of people who got a kick out of that theater announcement but there is a lot that’s wrong with it.

    It is one thing to enforce the “no refunds” policy. It’s quite another to blow one’s own horn and say look how “art house” we are all while marginazing those who may have known what movie is going to be like it AND STILL DISLIKED IT. It’s basically a theater saying to its patrons “this is art” and if you don’t accept it then you are “closeminded”.

    I kind of think the viewers should be allowed to make their own minds about what they saw and if they didn’t like it then so be it.

  • 27 6-24-2011 at 9:37 am

    jon said...

    When you pay for a ticket to a museum, if you don’t like what’s hanging on the walls do you get a refund?

    Even if you hated ToL, I’m baffled that people can’t just sit back and enjoy the visuals and music for what they are. People frequently kill time in far worse ways.

  • 28 6-24-2011 at 11:18 am

    Joe7827 said...

    I’m of two minds on this one. On one hand, why would you walk into a movie knowing nothing about it, and then expect a refund just because you didn’t like it? And why does one need to be reminded that the film is non-linear? It’s not like we were promised that; in fact, given the director, you could probably expect a non-linear narrative. There can certainly be some annoyingly clueless theater patrons out there; no doubt about that.

    On the other hand… devolving to an “you didn’t like it because you aren’t intelligent, or a true film fan” argument is silly. An argument could be made that “The Tree of Life” doesn’t even make you think. After all, it’s one man’s stream of consciousness; Malick’s consciousness. If you don’t groove to that, or give him the benefit of the doubt, it’s not necessarily your fault. Credit Kris and others for “getting” this movie. But not everyone is on the same wavelength, and it has nothing to do with intelligence or film knowledge.

  • 29 6-24-2011 at 11:50 am

    Dominik said...

    Totally reminds me on the opening words introducing “L´annee derniere á Marienbad” by Resnais. In comparison, “The Tree of Life” is light fare. I saw the film in a german cinema with a conventional crowd of people on “cinema day” (lower prizes). I expected many people to walk out or to sigh or laugh, but no, pretty much everyone was pretty quiet during the show.
    But at the end of the day, I really liked other Malick-films much better than this one. Maybe I´m not esoteric enough?

  • 30 6-24-2011 at 12:54 pm

    Cinesnatch said...

    I am confounded
    that Green Lantern got green-lit
    where is my refund?

  • 31 6-24-2011 at 1:15 pm

    cineJAB said...

    Guy, this film was pretty damn inaccessible. I felt like it was never going to end.

  • 32 6-24-2011 at 1:22 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Feeling like it will never end does not equal “inaccessible.” It’s a straight forward narrative with a slightly esoteric framing device.

  • 33 6-24-2011 at 2:44 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Audiences suck.

    I remember watching ‘Never Let Me Go’ last Fall in my local art house.

    There may have been 20-25 people in the small room. The movie didn’t “move” me one way or another. I thought it was a good-looking, well-acted, but empty film.

    That said, several audience members were sniffling towards the end. And then, once the credits started rolling, 2 women (I’d guess to be in their 40s/50s) started talking quite vocally about how awful that was, and “I am sooooo sorry, next time you pick the film, obviously I jinxed us by picking this nightmare. That was so bad. What was it ABOUT? Ugh, please forgive me. We’ll do something better next time” etc.

    And they continued to carry on – figuring that everyone else would be in agreement. And I REALLY don’t think anyone else was. I felt like saying, “you complete imbeciles. This is an art house. You KNOW the films that are played here. And you’re acting like this movie was going to be popcorn-munching multiplex fare”.

    They came across as vapid and utter fools.

  • 34 6-24-2011 at 2:52 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    JJ1: Sad to say, some critics at press screenings are no better.

  • 35 6-24-2011 at 3:33 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Hm. That is sad, indeed.

  • 36 6-24-2011 at 11:53 pm

    AdamL said...


    I usually try and find out nothing about films before I watch them – they’re more suprising and (for me) enjoyable that way. Trailers suck; comedies give away the best jokes, many non comedies give away spoilers. Best avoided.

  • 37 6-25-2011 at 4:47 am

    sosgemini said...

    They had signs up like this for Dancer In The Dark but also added how the camera work caused some to be noxious. Sure enough, my aunt ended up running to the restroom to barf. Good times! Good times!

  • 38 6-25-2011 at 5:37 am

    James D. said...

    Trailers are a mess. I watch so few of them. On a side note, though, critics writing general reviews which are supposed to be spoiler-free do the same thing. Every critic, including the writers of this website, revealed the central death in the film, which was not indicated in the trailer or other promotional material.

  • 39 6-25-2011 at 6:28 am

    Gioconda said...

    Guy Lodge : Sorry, but no. A cinema is a facility. You use it, you pay for it — even if you didn’t personally enjoy yourself. (After all, if one could claim a refund for not liking the film, there’d be nothing to prevent those that did like it from lying and doing the same.) The only time there should ever be a refund is if the screening is somehow disrupted, halted or takes place in substandard conditions. The film itself can’t be held accountable.

    Completely agree. I never heard of people asking for a refund where I live, and it doesn’t make sense anyway.
    Films are not the same as a faulty electric appliance you buy wich has a supplier guarantee….

  • 40 6-25-2011 at 7:29 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    James D: Which “central death” are you referring to? One is revealed in the film’s opening reel, and is therefore fair game for inclusion in reviews. I did mention the pool-set death later in the film in my review, but it’s not exactly an event upon which the narrative reveals key knowledge previously concealed to viewers — I’d go so far as to say that the revelation of any individual incidents in “The Tree of Life” don’t really amount to spoilers, since the narrative is more than the sum of its parts. (And in a film explicitly concerned with mortality, such an event is relevant to thematic discussion.)

    I’m sorry if we spoiled the experience of the film for you in any way, but the job of a good critic is often to analyse, not just offer value judgements. That sometimes necessitates revealing plot details beyond the mere premise, but I’d never do so with narrative turns where in-the-moment discovery actively enhances the viewing process.

  • 41 6-25-2011 at 3:13 pm

    Jeremy said...

    I agree that a request for a refund is absurd, regardless of your level of awareness of a film heading into it or your ultimate opinion of it. That said, let’s take it easy on the “philistine” comments. That some people (including this viewer) didn’t care for “The Tree of Life” does not automatically make them unintelligent or incapable of appreciating art. It does not, however, entitle them to a refund.

  • 42 6-25-2011 at 4:10 pm

    Simone said...

    Only in America.

    I saw ToL last week here in Ann Arbor and I enjoyed it very much. I’m not going to lie and said I understood it completely… it’s not meant to be wholly understood, just appreciated for what the story it was telling, and how beautiful it was.

  • 43 6-25-2011 at 5:15 pm

    James D. said...

    Lodge, I am referring to the death at the opening. I don’t think its being at the opening means it is necessarily a giveaway, though.

    It is a problem more in trailers, though. That Descendants movie trailer reveals that his wife is cheating – how much more effective would it be if we were as shocked as Clooney’s character?

  • 44 6-25-2011 at 7:30 pm

    Marv said...

    The sign should have just said, “No refund.” That eliminates any grey area. To me anything writing beyond that is a moot point – because everyone will have a different opionion on the film.

  • 45 6-26-2011 at 1:35 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    James D: I’m not saying it’s a giveaway — I’m just saying that something that the film reveals that early on, is something critics are at liberty to mention. It’s the starting point of the whole film’s thematic throughline — it’s difficult to meaningfully discuss the film’s concerns without at least alluding to it. I do appreciate that some viewers are very sensitive about spoilers, even over first-act events, but I’m afraid substantial reviews can’t always be expected to cater to them.

    A for the trailer issue, I agree many trailers delve much too far into a film’s narrative — which is why I’ve stopped watching them, for film’s I’m looking forward to at least — though it’s difficult to say how misjudged the one for The Descendants is until we know how the film is structured. If the revelation comes early in the game, fine — some premise has to be established for most audiences.

  • 46 6-26-2011 at 11:36 am

    Ben M. said...

    My feeling is anything revealed in the first quarter or so of the movie is fair game to discuss as a non-spoiler. But I see some reviews not mentioning the death in Beginners (not a spoiler in my mind, it is revealed at the start of the film) and I know someone who got angry at me because he felt I spoiled Milk when I mentioned that Harvey Milk is killed (not only is that also revealed at the opening of the film, but I also thought it was fairly common historical knowledge here in the US).

  • 47 6-27-2011 at 1:05 am

    GH said...

    I agree there is a smugness to this sign that is off putting. I think if someone wants a refund, for this movie they should get it.

    The only reason they put Brad Pitt in it after all is to get people in the seats who want to see a Brad Pitt film.

    And it’s not like there’s any middle ground, nowadays it’s crap like Thor or nothing. Tree of Life is waaaay on the other side of the spectrum, and most audiences aren’t prepped for that. Our culture made its bed and better sleep in it now

  • 48 6-27-2011 at 10:34 am

    Mike_M said...

    Finally going to check the film out tonight, can’t wait!

  • 49 6-28-2011 at 5:51 pm

    Ben said...

    I lived in the rural south in 2004, and a friend who worked at a multiplex reported to me at the time that several dozens patrons asked for refunds for The Passion of the Christ because they literally couldn’t read the subtitles.

    I agree with Guy unless there’s a substandard presentation issue, no refunds.

  • 50 6-29-2011 at 8:41 pm

    Eunice said...

    I’m surprised that the Avon has to make such an announcement, but I guess people just saw “Brad Pitt” and decided to go in.

    On my side of the world, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that my country’s biggest chain of malls decided to give “The Tree of Life” a home in their theaters, given how they’ve always given priority to more “popular” movies.

  • 51 7-03-2011 at 5:46 am

    Bia said...

    Saw it last night and my theater’s cashier was very clear about the fact that they only give refunds within the first 30 minutes and they also directly ask you if you understand what you’re about to see.

    Nevertheless, there were ten walk-outs and I was stuck next to three people complaining loudly the whole way through. It genuinely seems like people are thinking, “Ooh, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn!”