I assumed that going to watch a movie in a cinema is pretty much the same experience everywhere in the world, wouldn’t you? Like most assumptions, I was proven wrong with a trip to the Filmstaden, located between Ullevi outdoor arena and Scandinavium indoor arena in the city center of Gothenburg.
Well, the general procedure;- buy a ticket, collect your popcorn or any other movie snack and drink you fancy, wait for your hall to be seated, go in and eat about half your popcorn during the pre-movie advertisements, then finally settle in and watch the movie; remained the same. It’s the way it was done that was absolutely strange! For instance, there was no ticket counter.
It took my mother and I a few moments to figure this one out. In a swarming hall of people, and almost no cinema staff in sight, we finally found an unfamiliar row of ticket machines, which were all mostly in Swedish, (even the English translation option was mostly 80% Swedish, particularly when it came to the payment part). I’ve booked movie tickets online before, but this is definitely the first cinema I bought a ticket from a machine, with a credit card! Perhaps this is a normal thing in Europe, but it was a new experience for me. As confusing as it first was, I must admit, it sure did beat queuing at a ticket counter!
Ticket in hand, I was anticipating another impressive contraption that would dispense gourmet popcorn and add just the right amount of fizz in my soda, all in superhuman speed. Instead I found myself in a familiar single file queue that lead to the snack counter. Total anti-climax! I guess it’s a different matter when it comes to food, people prefer it to be handled by human hands, not machines! Still, the vast range of snack options was impressive. The area near the snack counter felt like a mini mart, with stocked shelves, you could pack and push a shopping cart through!
After the unavoidable pre-movie adverts, the strangest thing happened. One of the staff, an old heavyset man in a custodian’s uniform, walked down and stood in front of the screen, dead center. The audience hushed as he gave a short 2-minute speech in Swedish. At this point my mother and I were looking at each other, totally confused. Just as we were about to ask someone seated next to us what was going on, he gracefully fell into a perfect split! The audience roared in applause, and he got up, grinning, took a bow and walked off.
Shocked, and extremely amused, it took us a while to subside our giggling even after the movie had begun! I’m still not quite sure what happened, but I’d like to think it’s a bit of a Swedish tradition, where one of the cinema staff personally welcomes people to the cinema and shares a hidden talent before every movie!
Just as I thought the day was done with its surprises, in the last scene of the movie, where the “hero” shares that classic Hollywood kiss with the “fair maiden”, huge serif font flashed across the screen spelling out “SLUT”.
My mother and I burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter, that even awkward side-glances shot at us couldn’t stop. It was like a dirty joke, the inappropriate kind that you can’t help yourself but laugh at. Although I could easily guess that “Slut” meant “The End”, or “Fin”, the connotations of this word, especially in the scene it appeared in was hilarious!
P.S. New travel tip; If you’ve got a free evening in a new city, go watch a movie! Experience the differences in cinema culture; it may end up being an adventure of its own!