I’m convinced, and this is not an exaggeration, that for just about everything Hong Kong and America have in common, Hong Kong does it better. Seriously. I’ll probably make a post by the end of my experience here about all the things Hong Kong is just better at than America, but one that gets an article of its own is the movie-going experience.
A couple weeks ago, I decided I wanted to see The Post (Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep), since it happens to be a movie about journalism and is getting critical acclaim, like recent Oscar nominations. I loved Spotlight a couple years ago, and I hoped The Post could deliver the same sort of drama and non-fictional suspense. I just had to find the right day to go see it.
The first convenience is that In Hong Kong, we have a smartphone app called HKMovie. It aggregates all of the movie theaters in Hong Kong and the films they are currently showing. You can search by theater, by date and showtime, or by film. As it turns out, Hong Kong has quite the movie scene because it gets locally produced films, Western ones, and some from nearby countries like Korea and Japan.
The second convenience is that theaters here sell their seats like concerts or other live performances: you choose the ones you want. In the app, each showtime slot is colored based on the number of available seats: green means there are lots of seats, red means it’s selling out, etc. You tap the showtime you want and get a diagram of the seating arrangement that shows which seats are still available. You can either use the app to pre-purchase tickets, or you can wait and buy them at the theater. Sam says the latter option lets you avoid processing fees, so I opted to buy my tickets in-person. HKMovie displayed plenty of open seats at a Saturday afternoon showing in Festival Walk and headed over.
When I got there, the woman at the sales counter showed me a screen with available seats and had me choose the one I wanted. I paid a pricey ~$12 USD (since I forgot to mention that I’m a student for a discount) and headed down the hallway. I can’t overstate just how nice it is to be able to purchase tickets by the seat. On several occasions in Ohio, my friends and I have sat in the front row, painfully craning our necks to see the movie because those were the only seats that remained in the packed theater. We once pre-ordered about a dozen tickets to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but while we were guaranteed seats somewhere in the theater, they were not assigned. We obviously couldn’t find that many seats together when we arrived, so we had to split up, entirely defeating the purpose of ordering and going as a group. The Hong Kong system solves that issue.
From the lobby, I noticed the theater was one of the fancier ones I’ve been to. The carpeting, wall design, lighting and decor reminded me of an upscale hotel lobby, and I was equally surprised when I walked in the theater room. The leather seats were thick, well-padded and very comfortable. They didn’t fold up like the cheap American seats; the aisles were wide enough that they didn’t need to. The room was impeccably clean. The movie itself was crisp, both in the audio and visuals. When it finished and everyone filed out, I noticed a cleaning crew waiting to pick up any trash before the next showing. Public spaces tend to be clean, and it’s clear that restaurants, theaters and the like make it a priority.
The movie itself was fantastic. It told how The Washington Post obtained and decided to publish the Pentagon Papers, despite threats from the White House that the staff could be punished harshly for leaking documents it defined as “treasonous.” The movie explains the importance of freedom of the press, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time. I’m not going to get overly political here, but in a time where the White House consistently yells “Fake News!” at publications it doesn’t like…well, let it suffice to say it draws a lot of parallels to the Nixon Administration. We all know how that ended.
Journalism is important in American society. Good journalism is not and cannot be defined by any governmental body, as it is often necessary for the press the publish in opposition to the government. Our country’s founders wrote freedom of the press into early documents precisely so that it could act as a “Fourth Estate,” keeping the government in line and ensuring that the public would have access to the truth. The press is not perfect, but at the end of the day, the role it serves is integral to keeping our country free.
I mean, I’m currently living a short train ride away from a country notorious for lacking free press. I don’t subscribe to the belief that democracy is automatically good and socialism and communism are automatically bad, so I don’t think China is inherently bad. But I do think one of its greatest faults is its restriction of the press. China halts the flow of information to keep its people in the dark about things it doesn’t want them to know. That’s dangerous. I could go into detail about that and why the role of the press is so integral, but I doubt you’d be interested in reading it. (If you are, let me know.)
Anyhow, the moral of the story is that The Post is an important movie, journalism is necessary to a free society, and Hong Kong has aced going to the movies. From the convenience of the HKMovie app to the ability to choose the exact location of your comfy, leather seat, the whole experience is just miles ahead of the U.S. Hats off to Hong Kong for knowing how to provide quality experiences every step of the way. Definitely worth the $12.