Saturday, January 19, when we were out shopping, I decided to buy tickets to see the new ling-ling-qi (007) movie on Monday—the day it was finally going to open here in Shanghai. Monday, after all, was John’s birthday, and he was fired up to see James Bond in a theater.
John sat down with our heavy shopping bags and I plunged ahead. When I turned the corner and saw the long ticket lines, my heart sank.
Nonetheless, like all good lemings, I trotted over to the end of the one next to the wall and waited a while. It didn’t move. I studied the neon sign up ahead as I waited. Bad as my Chinese is, I could read the characters for “in Chinese” after every movie listed and began to worry, as I also overheated, that perhaps Skyfall tickets weren’t even on sale yet.
“Can I buy tickets today for this movie?” I asked a woman who was studying the 007 poster next to both of us. “I know I can’t see it today, but can I buy tickets today?”
“Oh, no. They’re not on sale,” she replied, shaking her head with certainty.
Well, what did she know, I consoled myself. Just another customer like myself. Still…
After another few sweltering minutes in the crowd with no forward movement, I reluctantly decided to drop out. I felt bad, Monday being John’s birthday and all, since I knew from past experience that I would never be able to figure out any information from home about showtimes, etc. We’d probably skip it.
But on the other side of the hall, another sign caught my eye over a table with a very short line.
Those tiny red letters say “VIP.” (Sorry for the blurry photo.)
In China, I’ve learned always to assume I’m a VIP, or at least to fake it. (Anyone who has read Geiling Yan’s The Banquet Bug, or Yu Hua’s China in Ten Words knows what I am talking about.) So I walked over and watched the man in front of me purchase a ticket and head into the theater. Thus encouraged, I stepped up and said “Monday’s movie, 007, two tickets, please.”
The young woman behind the desk simply asked me “What time?” and turned her monitor to show me times and seats available.
I purchased tickets for 120 RMB each ($US 19.29!!). Maybe that was why nobody else was using the VIP line? No, she answered my question. They cost the same on Monday.
I never did figure out why people were standing in a long, slow-to-the-point-of-standstill line if they could avoid the wait by walking across the room. I didn’t learn who, exactly, is supposed to be served by the VIP lady, or why I qualified. Nor do I understand why so many people will pay that much for a movie ticket! The high price, along with very high prices for so much else here (like food and housing), reminded me that I don’t get why there’s so much political talk in the US about how the Chinese keep their currency artificially low.
We got to the movie a little early on Monday. Ok, an usher had to unlock the door for us.
But the theater filled up quickly. And when the Skyfall scene shifted from Turkey to Shanghai, the camera zooming around the night sky of the Bund and Lujiazui, the crowd started buzzing with excitement. Here are a couple of my own photos, in case you don’t know where I mean:
Lujiazui at night 2007
Waitan Zhongxin at night -- office is on 36th floor
People all around us flipped on their mobile phones and sent text messages. I wonder what they were writing!