3 movies for the price of sleepYoung women who still live at home have to have good excuses at the ready if they want to stay out past their curfews. The most common explanation used to be that you had to burn the midnight oil in the library. But times have changed, and parents have wised up. Now the stock excuse is that you're going to the all-night movies.
Many theaters are staying open through the wee hours these days with red-eye film packages. The deals are usually offered on weekends and give you three films, with the last one ending when the subway trains are starting, at around 5:30 a.m. The price is 14,000 won ($12); much cheaper than what three regular-priced tickets, at 7,000 won each, would cost.
And cinephiles have taken to the idea. A measure of the midnight movie craze is the online club "I Love All-Night Cinema," where 1,545 members exchange information or just log on to chit-chat. The club is led by Jeong Jin-hee, a local woman in her 20s. Ms. Jeong makes a habit of going to the all-night picture show every other Saturday night.
Around midnight on a recent Saturday in Sinchon, western Seoul, the box office at a multiplex theater was packed with a motley group of people waiting in line for the celluloid feast to start. Young women were coyly resisting the idea of staying out all night with their boyfriends, but weren't going anywhere. Office workers in suits, some having missed the last train of the night after rowdy get-togethers, bought movie tickets to sleep cheaply. Then there were the movie buffs, who were eagerly looking forward to the dead-of-night screening.
The movie package at the Cineplex Noksaek consisted of "Insomnia," "Unfaithful" and "About a Boy." It felt like a great bargain to get to see all three movies in one night, rather than wait in line three times for seats to see each film.
Before I could take my all-night seat, though, I had to call my mom to beg for permission. After swearing by all that is holy that I was safe and sound in a movie theater, and after promising to bring back the ticket stub, I was free to enjoy the movie trio.
The Noksaek theater has six screens and is usually quite crowded, but this midnight it was as quiet as a church on a Thursday afternoon. I took a prime seat smack in the middle, which is hardly ever possible for a Saturday screening.
To my right, a man and his date were already leaning against each other like sleepy strap-hangers on an early morning subway train. To my left was an office worker who had had one too many; he was almost recumbent in his seat. In fact, with his legs up on the chair in front of him and his eyes already slits, he looked conspicuously uninterested in the movies. All the movie buffs were a few rows in front of me, kitted out with extra-buttered popcorn and giant sodas, counting the seconds before the first movie started.
Around 12:10, the lights went down for "Insomnia," a fitting title for the initial film of a midnight-movie banquet. We sleep-deprived viewers proceeded to enjoy sharing sleeplessness with the lead actor, Al Pacino.
During the first intermission, however, we discovered that we had a problem. The snack bars inside the theater were closed and the vending machines were out of order. Hungry, we decided to make a break for it and get to a store outside. But the elderly janitor on duty was about to close the shutters of the building. My friend and I managed to score some chips and drinks from a convenience store, after asking the janitor to wait a couple of minutes. But the janitor got too impatient to wait for another couple of people who made the run with us -- but took longer -- and closed up before they returned. A couple of minutes later they were back, banging on the shutters and begging to be let in. Grudgingly, the janitor let them back in, but gave them a good scolding in the process.
Around 2:20, the deadly romance movie "Unfaithful" got started. According to our Ms. Jeong, the all-night cinema expert, the second movie is usually the hardest to stay awake through. Another expert, Kim Kun-su, who schedules the all-night movies for a downtown multiplex, the Star Six Jeongdong, said one of the principles he follows is to put an action, war or horror film in the middle to help people keep their eyelids up. But here tonight we were challenged by a romance with only a tinge of thrill. The intoxicated office worker started to snore like a walrus. For a good 30 minutes he was an obnoxious distraction; but then, miraculously, he got up and left. After the second screening, I went out to the lobby and spotted him lying on a couch, fast asleep.
Before going back to my seat for round three, I went to the rest room, and encountered many of the movie buffs brushing their teeth and gargling.
The third movie, Mr. Kim at the Star Six said, is usually the most sought-after film, to give the viewers a payoff for their staying power. "About a Boy" was true to the principle.
After the Hugh Grant hit, the one-night stand came to an end, and a whole new day dawned. It was 6:25, and I trudged out, seeing the janitor shaking the office worker out of a deep slumber on the way. Many of us wound up in the same subway car, which lulled us to sleep. It was a Sunday morning, and we shared the ride with early-bird, middle-aged men who were off to the mountains in their red hiking outfits. They stared at us in all our wretchedness -- we were gaunt, disheveled and had blurred makeup.
Too much fun on a Saturday night leads inexorably to a nightmarish Sunday. But by Sunday evening, sure enough, I found myself Web-surfing for next weekend's all-night movie schedule.
Dad won't get mad if you stay the night here
Jeong Jin-hee, the movie marathon expert, has a list of items to bring to red-eye movie nights: more than enough snacks, a toothbrush, a jacket to defend against the fiercest of air-conditioners, and stamina. Get yourself ready. Here is some information on theaters offering all-night packages:
Star Six Jeong-dong
This downtown Seoul theater started showing movies all night in 1998, and is now the most popular place for the experience. Become a member of the theater and you can get a tri-package for 8,000 won ($7). Nonmembers can get coupons at convenience stores, downtown cafes and banks that let you buy tickets for 10,000 won. Ms. Jeong praises the theater for its fine facilities and quality sound system. The red-eye deals run every night, starting at 11:50 p.m.
Location: Jeong-dong, Jung district, central Seoul. Take subway line No. 2, get off at City Hall and use exit 2 or 12; or take subway line 5, get off at Seodaemun Station and use exit 5.
The theater is now offering three all-night movie combinations:
-- "For the Glory of My Family" (comedy, Korean), "Lover's Sonata" (romance, Korean) and "Road to Perdition" (drama, English)
-- Lover's Sonata," "Road to Perdition" and "For the Glory of My Family"
-- "Reign of Fire" (action, English), "For the Glory of My Family" and "Lover's Sonata."
For more info, call 02-2004-8000 or visit the Web site www.starsix.co.kr.
This theater offers all-night packages on Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are 14,000 won.
Location: Sinchon, western Seoul, north of the river. Take subway line No. 2, get off at Sinchon Station and use exit 4.
Movies this weekend: "Resurrection of the Little Match Girl" (action, Korean), "For the Glory of My Family" and "Reign of Fire."
For more information, call 02-6356-0088.
This theater takes pride in its long history and its big screens. But beware of its old-fashioned facilities and narrow seats. Yeonghwa Nara was the first theater in Sinchon to offer all-night movie packages, which it does Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are 14,000 won. Discount coupons are available at movie Web sites, like www.maxmovie.com.
Location: Sinchon, near Ewha Womans University. Take line No. 2, get off at Ewha Womans University Station and use exit 5.
Movies this weekend: "Road to Perdition," "For the Glory of My Family" and "Family" (comedy, Korean).
For more information, call 02-715-4551.
by Chun Su-jin