Off To (Not) See The Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and -- amazingly -- someone's trying to make some money out of it.

New DVD releases, probably new commemorative plates, and movie theaters showing pristine prints of the film on the big screen.

What could go wrong? Last night at the Cinemark 18 in Webster, the answer was "plenty," according to one attendee.

Mike Nixon and his wife paid ten bucks apiece to see the movie; his wife is a huge fan and had never seen it other than on TV.

How did it go?

The theater was mostly full, I'd guess 150 people or so, as the 7:00 pm start time came and went. There were no previews, just a Dish TV ad on the screen since we'd sat down. Several minutes later, it was replaced by the screen you see when operating your DVR or searching for a pay-per-view movie at home, with the menus being navigated by various boxes being checked and unchecked as if a 5-year old had gotten hold of the remote.

I kid you not, the same on-screen options like "Search", "Themes", "Keyword", "Movies", "Sports", etc., just like on your TV except in 20-foot tall high definition with a $6 tub of popcorn on your lap.

This went on for almost half an hour until whoever was poking the buttons got lucky and a few seconds from the early part of the movie appeared, then disappeared. More menus, more checkboxes, until finally they found the DVR recording in progress and proceeded to fast-forward, oops, rewind, fast-rewind, stop, fast-forward, oops, you get the idea.

People in the crowd were yelling out advice to the grandma in the booth who was trying to figure out how to program the DVD, so at least it became an audience-participation event.

They finally got the movie going, everything looked and sounded great, and then came the moment when the Wizard is giving out awards at the end.

Take it away, Mike:

"But what about Dorothy?" said the scarecrow...and the theater screen went black. The soundtrack was still playing, but the screen was dark. The audience, us included, groaned, got restless and sarcastic immediately, and as near as anyone could tell there was nobody in the projection booth, my best guess is whoever had managed to get the DVR going was out back smoking or something. We sat for a few minutes, listening to the wizard tell the crowd how he was going on a balloon trip, then got up with most everyone else to go get our money back.

The first employee to handle the grumbling crowd insisted on no refunds, Nixon says.

Then "some one-notch-higher assistant manager type came out with a stack of rain checks and started passing them out, best he could do he said, policy mumbo-jumbo ad nauseum," he reports.

One problem: The rain checks were for $7.50; Oz tickets were $10.

Nixon, naturally, ain't too happy: "Technical glitches (assuming they weren't due to plain incompetence, which I'd bet they were) are one thing, but a stonewall disregard for the satisfaction of a hundred plus customers paying extra on a night when the rest of the place was empty shouldn't just be overlooked," he says.

We've got a call in to Cinemark (headquartered in Plano!!) but haven't heard anything back. We'll update if they get in touch.

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