Dalton Ross recounts the joys of scoring an empty movie theater. Plus: Why he's obsessed with Taylor Hicks, a list of James Spader's sleaziest characters, and more

By Dalton Ross
September 16, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Movie Theater: Getty Images

The joys of scoring an empty movie theater

Two weeks ago I vented about having to take one of my kids to The Movie Formerly Known as Ice Age 2, but one aspect of that incredible moviegoing experience that I did not get into involved a woman sitting directly to my left. At four different times during the film, her cell phone rang. Even better, she actually answered it all four times! I know for a fact that this was not allowed, because before the film started some fake documentary preview about a skier crashing because a cell phone went off told me. Now, as for this lady… I could maybe see keeping your phone on as an emergency if you were worried about getting a call about your children — but her children were sitting right next to her! As well as occasionally in her lap. And on my foot. Ditto for her husband (although he managed to stay off my foot). Who the hell could she be talking to? On one hand, I really didn’t care, because the movie was so sucky, the distraction was actually kind of nice. And part of me was a little impressed that someone could so readily defy multiplex decree. But after about call number three, I started to become obsessed with her blatant rudeness. And then that sent me into a never-ending spiral of what I like to call…Theater Rage. Of course, it wasn’t like I was gonna actually do anything about it. After all, I’m a major-league wimp, and her husband — or, even worse, one of her prepubescent kids — might kick my ass. But who does this kind of stuff? And if you’re gonna do it, why not at least put the phone on vibrate or something, as opposed to what sounded like some sort of Jan Hammer-inspired ringtone? And where does it all stop? Next time, is she gonna light up a big smelly cigar? The whole thing was bizarre.

Okay, now fast-forward a few weeks. I’m playing hooky from work (Ha! Suckers! They’ll never know!) and decide to take in a flick. I head out to some 918-screen multiplex to check out V for Vendetta, a movie about Natalie Portman slipping in and out of a fake English accent. The film is scheduled to start at 1:05, and I arrive right on the nose. But as I enter the theater, I am shocked to see that it is empty. Completely empty. What the hell? And it was a big theater, too — about a 300-seater. I find it difficult to believe that everyone could be in theater #472 watching The Benchwarmers, but I take a seat. And then it hits me: This is a private freakin’ screening! Do you know how much people pay for this sort of privilege? (In my case, $7.50.) And then something else occurs to me: What exactly is the cell-phone policy in a situation like this? I’m certainly not disturbing anyone (except maybe the projectionist, and in this era of digital projection, who knows what the heck he’s doing back there anyway?). At about this time, the fake skier documentary comes on. I give the guy the finger — again, private screening; what’s anyone gonna do? — and take out my cell phone. I call EW’s Dan Snierson to chat. Why? Because I can! Unfortunately, he’s not around, so I try my wife. She’s not around either, but this is probably for the best, as the conversation would most likely go a little something like this:

”Hey, honey. Guess where I am!”
”I’m in a movie theater. By myself! There’s no one else here! I’m calling you on my cell phone. Isn’t that crazy?”
”You’re an idiot. And aren’t you supposed to be at work??”
”Oops, Tom Cruise sequel preview coming up — gotta go!”

So that was about it. I put the phone away, realizing that having the freedom to call friends and family from a movie theater isn’t so exciting when you actually wanna, you know, watch the movie.



Those of you who read EW’s American Idol cover story know that I’m a Taylor Hicks guy. He always seems like he’s having a good time, and, as I pointed out the magazine, I love the fact that he often claps for himself after performances. What can I say — I just like the cut of his jib. But I have to admit that last week he provided what has to be one of the most unintentionally comical moments in American Idol history (yes, even more comical than Chris Daughtry’s excessive use of eyeliner). I’m speaking, of course, about his celebrity death match with the American Idol microphone stand. For the approximately 16 people in the country who do not watch AI, what happened was this: Hicks was rather unenthusiastically performing Queen’s ”Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” when all of a sudden he let loose, stepped back, and performed an obviously choreographed kick to the microphone stand to knock it down. Only one problem — the mic stand didn’t budge. So the obviously befuddled Taylor, not knowing how to react, went back and…kicked it again! This proved to be the knockout blow as the stand hit the floor. At this point, I was half expecting the gray-haired crooner to jump on the floor and begin pummeling the poor mic stand to a within an inch of its life, which, of course, it never had in the first place. But cooler heads prevailed. Although, on second thought, there was nothing ”cool” whatsoever about this entire episode. But it was pretty insanely humorous, and as a result, I’m more obsessed with the Silver Fox than ever.



James Spader has won two Emmys for his portrayal of slimy attorney Alan Shore on Boston Legal, but this is merely the latest in a long line of skeezoid characters he’s portrayed over the past 25 years. The man simply makes sleazy look easy. Hence:

The Top Five Sparderish James Spader Characters
1. Steff in Pretty in Pink
That part where he busts out the white suit and dangling cigarette while advising pal Blane that ”the girl was, is, and will always be nada”? You just don’t get more Spader than that.
2. Rip in Less Than Zero
The slicked-back hair adds a nice Euro-trash touch to Spader’s So Cal pimping, drug-dealing tour de force of a role. His name is Rip, for crissakes!
3. Mr. Richards in Mannequin
Look at this — three entries, three straight Spader/Andrew McCarthy collaborations! Coincidence? I think not. Who knows — maybe if Spader had been in Fresh Horses it wouldn’t have sucked so bad.
4. Edward Grey in Secretary
Leave it to Spader to get the kinky assistant. Lucky bastard.
5. Roger Barnes in Wall Street
No way the ultimate tale of ’80s excess and greed gets made without the ultimate yuppie from hell. Who do you think taught Gordon Gekko everything he knows?



I’d say you’re not a true geek until you say how much you love Battlestar Galactica, give us some theories on next season, and then defend yourself by saying not just geeks watch this show, so it’s okay. — Julie
Julie, are you seriously calling my geek credentials into question? I’ll have you know I proudly sported my Battlestar Galactica hoodie just yesterday (proudly, because I love scoring free clothes). I honestly believe that Battlestar is probably the best show on TV. Take all the science-fiction elements away from it, and you still are left with fantastically complex characters. Can’t wait for things to pick back up in season 3. Feel better?

Two Questions:
1. Did Jeff Probst stop wearing hats and sunglasses together because of your hazing?
2. Is Josh Wolk dead? I miss his TV Watch commentary. Specifically,
The Real World. You two are the titans of reality TV commentary.
— Billy

1. Unfortunately, Probst is still rocking the hat, but he has definitely moved away from the baseball cap that made him look like a freakin’ NASCAR driver. The sunglasses thankfully seem to be a thing of the past. Whether my joking about the time he sported them in a rainstorm had any influence, who’s to say, but one thing is for certain — Probst is about as good a sport as they come.
2) I’m sure Josh would love to know you think he’s dead. You, my friend, have just been checking the wrong TV Watch. Josh now weighs in on The Amazing Race every week here at EW.com. And he’s still a titan. (Literally, the guy is like 8 feet tall.)

I got a kick out of the fact that you bothered to mention the Redskins as the Most Offensive Team Name in Football, after referring to a mental patient as ”cuckoo for Coco Puffs.” Mixed messages, anyone? — Bryan Petersen
Point taken, Bryan. I should have made it clearer in my takedown of ”Unan1mous” that the blame does not fall on a person for being mentally unstable, but rather the TV producer for exploiting him by putting him on national television in an emotionally taxing reality show. My bad.

In regards to your List of Top 5 Worst Movies Inspired by Saturday Night Live Skits, I suggest you go back and watch Coneheads again. It got a bad rap in its original run because it wasn’t the off-the-wall, laugh-a-minute comedy that some expected. — Russ Spears
Russ, I totally respect your opinion, but I would rather smother Josh Wolk with my Battlestar Galactica hoodie before sitting though Coneheads again. Although, believe it or not, another reader sent in the same sentiment. Maybe you guys can put orange traffic cones on your heads and go out on a date or something.

That’s it for this week. Send you comments, questions, and quibbles to theglutton@ew.com, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below.