Joel Stein on finally seeing ”Greek Wedding”
I might be the last person in America to see ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I don’t mean that figuratively. Last Thursday I went to one of the last showings of the movie in a first-run theater in this country, at the Hoyts Crossgates Mall 12 cinemas in Albany, N.Y. The movie, which, due to my Y chromosome, I had until now avoided, opened last April. It was shown on airplanes last summer. It came out on DVD in early February and has already been spun off into a hit sitcom. I wanted to find out who exactly was still paying full price to see it. Fans who wanted to catch it one last time? People who were really busy in the last 11 months but desperate for the big-screen Nia Vardalos experience? Basically, I wanted to track down these morons and make fun of them.
When I got to the theater, I quickly found my first moron. And it was me. I was the only customer at the 6:40 show, the only sucker to shell out $8.50. The 4:20 show had only one chump, too, the theater’s supervisor, but I’m figuring he didn’t pay. Worse yet, no one who worked at the theater would talk to a reporter without the permission of ”Boston,” which I assumed meant the corporate office and not the band.
Seeing a movie in your own personal 170-seat theater, it turns out, is pretty awesome. I yelled out answers to the pre-movie trivia questions, sat on top of my seat, made cell-phone calls, paced during the film’s boring stretches, and tried unsuccessfully to make shadow animals on the screen.
About 25 minutes into the film, an elderly couple sat down in the back of the theater. I jumped up and greeted them, but before I could reach them an usher swooped in and kicked them out. Apparently, they had bought tickets to ”Adaptation” and were just killing time. Management must have been afraid the lovebirds would start going at it.
I followed Arthur and Anna Morales into the hall, where I found out they’d already seen ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding” three times. We were having a very pleasant conversation when a manager walked up to us. The manager, a short man in his 20s with a ponytail and goatee, was not happy. ”Aren’t you supposed to be seeing ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’?” he asked. I admitted I was, but it was taking a while to get to the wedding part, I said, and I’d had enough Greek and fat for a while. ”Then why are you in the hall bothering these people?” The Moraleses insisted that I wasn’t a bother, but manager-boy wouldn’t back down. He ordered me back into the theater. I asked him why. ”You know why,” he said. I told him I really didn’t know what I was doing wrong. ”You know,” he repeated. He could be quite intimidating. He reiterated that I was forbidden to talk to anyone without Boston’s approval. I tried to explain to him that corporate policy prohibited employees, not patrons, to speak to the press.
”You know that’s not true,” el managerio said. I suddenly remembered that the Crossgates Mall has some weird problem with the First Amendment. Recently, a man was arrested for trespassing when he refused to remove a T-shirt that said ”Give Peace a Chance,” a shirt he had just bought in the mall. ”I’m going to ask you to stay in your show or leave,” the manager said. This is where a rush of adrenaline confused my brain into thinking, in some freaky Guinness World Records way, that I had to be in the theater if I wanted to earn my last-person-to-see-”My Big Fat Greek Wedding” prize. With a clearer mind, I’d have realized the benefits of getting tossed: not only would I have become an expelled-journalist cause celebre, but I’d have gotten my $8.50 back and been spared the film’s third use of the same lame gag — tricking John Corbett’s character into saying a dirty Greek phrase.
But I did feel in some weird way that as one of the few people aware of the film’s imminent closing, it was my responsibility to say goodbye to ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Movies open with the celebration of red carpets and parties and Byron Allen interviews, but this is how pieces of our popular culture die: ignored, alone, and begging for a final $8.50. It’s not pretty, but it does have its own beauty, as did the mess I left in the theater for the manager to clean up. I really hate that guy.