Extreme Digital Cinema Will Make Your Eardrums Bleed

Walter Rhein


A few years back, I decided to take my family to the 'Incredibles 2 because they’re all big fans of the fantastic four and are disappointed that only the Incredibles manage to bring that heroic super hero team effectively to the big screen. We were staying with the in-laws in Peru, out in San Miguel, and the closest cinema was Cinemark Mall Plaza Bellavista.

The first irritating thing with seeing a movie in Peru, is that nobody has a convenient place where you can look up show times. You’ll go to a web page, but you have to sit through advertisements and previews rather than just a listing of times. This is equally bad when you actually go to the cinema because the times will be listed on a screen that toggles between a list of one or two showings. So, you have to stand there with your hands in your pockets for forty five minutes, only to find out that the film you wanted to see started 9 minutes ago.

Eventually, I found out that the film started at 1:20, so we hiked over there, arriving at around 1, only to find a big silver shield over the entry way to the cinema that looked like Mad Max was preparing to drive the whole auditorium into battle. Immediately I assumed that I must have looked at the wrong time, so I started asking people if the cinema was likely to open. I went up to the person who works at the shop right next door to the cinema. I figured that since she worked there every day, she probably would have some sort of idea what time the cinema opened.

“Nope,” she said, “I can’t help you.”

Okay…so we went to the next booth and asked there. The person responded with a shrug. Absolutely nobody had any idea what time the cinema opened. By now it was about 1:10, so I figured the place would be opening soon if they were going to make the 1:20 first showtime. About then a woman showed up with her family and they just looked like they were there for the cinema. So, my wife walked over to the woman and asked, “Excuse me, are you here to go to the movies?”

The woman’s face pursed up like she’d just taken a bite of a lime that had been injected with vodka and cow urine. She didn’t ever make direct eye contact, just held her phone up to her face and declared, “No, no, no!”

Okay, fine, whatever. We just wanted to make sure we had the correct movie time, it’s not like we were trying to get her to join a religious cult.

A few minutes later, the gate opened up, and the first person in line was the woman who declared she wasn’t there to go to the cinema. That gave me something fun to do as I spent the whole time in line babbling loudly about what a miracle it was that this person had decided to go to the movies. She tried to pretend that she was ignoring me, but I could tell she heard. Hahaha!

So, we got our tickets and went into the film only to be assaulted by the sound. The volume was high, too high, like really unpleasantly high. I mean there was literally blood pouring out of my ears. My kids were all jacked to see the movie, so they sat down and immediately covered their ears with both hands and stared fixatedly at the screen.

“It’s too loud!” I said to my wife.

“What?” she said.

“Too loud, too loud, TOO LOUD!” I literally screamed as loud as I could, loud enough to make my throat bleed. I was now bleeding out of my throat and my ears, only my nose and eyes were bloodless.

“Too LOUD!”

So I went out of the theater still screaming, “TURN THE VOLUME DOWN!”

I went up to the ticket taker guy and said, “It’s way too loud, turn the volume down.” He just nodded at me like he was going to get right on that, but obviously wasn’t. I’ve been in this country long enough to know when I’m getting brushed off. So I went over to another guy who had a spiffier uniform on, “TOO LOUD!” I screamed. He nodded and saluted, and still probably wasn’t going to do anything. I decided to go and unleash the big guns, I went back and got my wife.

“Are they going to turn it down?” she asked (obviously every conversation was repeated six times with a bunch of ‘whats’ added in, but I’m not going to type it all out).


So she got up and went out and was gone a really long time.

I continued watching the previews with the kids, dreading the moment they were going to tell us about the fire alarm and play the fire alarm sound at ear splitting volume. I literally thought I might black out if that happened. Every time they placed a low bass note, I soiled myself. During the high notes, my nose began to bleed. Now, only my eyes were free of blood.

As we sat there, waiting for the volume to go down or for mom to return, it did seem to get a little better. Maybe our auditory nerve endings got burned off. Maybe we got used to it, maybe they turned it from 12 back down to 11. We started to settle in.

About then, my wife came back just furious. She said that this was the special Extreme Digital Cinema that’s painfully loud ON PURPOSE! People come from hundreds of miles to turn a pleasant cinematic experience into three hours of torture. She also said that they couldn’t turn down the volume, but they could refund the tickets. The process would take only three weeks, at which point the funds might appear again in our bank account, maybe.

“Screw it, let’s just watch it, it seems better now.”

So, we settled in and stared at the 50 foot high, blazing, extreme digital screen. By the end, I was blinking away blood. All of my senses were cracked and bleeding profusely, fortunately they offered a free IV afterward and a cane so I could stumble home. They were all out of guide dogs, the woman who claimed she wasn’t there to watch the movies took their whole stock.

The worst thing was, this was somebody’s brilliant marketing strategy, make a film so loud it’s physically impossible to watch it.

“Well, everybody’s deaf from walking around with headphones,” my wife said. “My brothers would be happy with the volume at that level.”

Once again, another example of how clean living has left me with the body of a 20 year old even at my advanced age. Either that or I’m just turning into a grumpy old cuss who can’t handle the modern cinema. Whatever the case, I’ll be a avoiding, SUPER EXTREME PAINFUL BLEEDING SENSORY OVERLOAD SPECIAL CINEMA in the future.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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