Germany vs USA; Movie Theater Showdown

If you didn’t already know, I’m a Marvel super-fan. I wouldn’t say  I’m an expert on the comics by any means, but when it comes to the giant Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie franchise, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more knowledgeable or (to be completely honest) obsessed than me.

Since I’ve moved to Germany, Marvel has released a handful of movies which I of course had to see on opening day. Over my many trips, I’ve noticed some differences between the movie theater experience in Germany vs the USA which I thought would be fun to share with you.

Punctuality & Previews

For a country that is so stereotypically on time, the movie theater is a huge exception. In the USA, there are a handful of previews before a film but for the most part you can pretty well calculate when you will get out of a movie by looking at the run time. Basically a good rule of thumb is that the previews will be about as long as the credits which no one stays for (a big mistake for Marvel movies) and so your total time in the theater will be about the same as the run time.

This is super not true for Germany. The start time for a film in Germany is when they will start showing previews and not at all related to when the actual film will start. I’ve sat waiting for a movie for over a half hour before watching ads and previews. This inability to know exactly how long the movie will take has even left me stranded in the middle of the city because the public transportation closed before my movie got out.

As a rule of thumb for Germany, the start time of a movie is when you need to arrive to the theater which will leave you with plenty of time to wait in lines for tickets and popcorn without missing the movie.

Holy Waiting

Speaking of lines, I have yet to go to a major movie event without having to wait in ridiculous lines. Here in Frankfurt I just purchase my tickets online which cuts one line out of the picture but even the line to scan the tickets before getting snacks can be a challenge. For the Thor Ragnarok premier, I waited in line for 45 minutes to get popcorn  and they had at least 8 lines open. It’s not like there were so many people, the lines just move that slowly.

Portion Sizes

Everyone likes to say that Americans are fat because of our portion sizes. From my experiences this is not true and the movie theater is a great example of this. Have you ever gotten a large soda from Taco Bell and instantly regretted it because you didn’t realize just how big their large soda was? Well that is the regular sized soda in a German movie theater and a regular popcorn in the theaters I visit is like a size large in the USA.

So if you get what the theater bundles as a single popcorn (meaning it’s a single serving meant for one person) then you walk away with a full liter of pop and a giant bucket of popcorn. To be fair, all that food is way, way cheeper in Germany, but still. I always have to pee by the end of the movie because I have so much pop to drink. This almost had disastrous consequences during the Spiderman Homecoming post credit scene which rewarded me with “patience.”

They Serve What?

Probably the biggest culture shock for Americans in a German theater is that they sell beer at the concessions stand to enjoy during your movie. To me, it’s not so strange but I think that’s just a by product of me having lived in Germany for over a year now.

They also have an intermission right before the movie starts for people to go and get ice cream for the movie. That one is definitely strange to me and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone actually get up from their seat after the previews to take advantage of that offer. One theater in Berlin actually brought the ice cream up the aisle like a guy selling hotdogs in a baseball stadium which seemed to draw a few customers, but otherwise I really don’t see the point in this practice.

The Audience

The final observation I have about German theaters is Marvel specific. In the USA, on opening night of a Marvel film, it’s pretty much exclusively super fans who cheer at the opening credits, are making comments during the upcoming Marvel previews (or booing DC previews) and literally everyone stays for the post credit scenes. It’s sort of a surreal experience that everyone else is as invested as you are and everyone walks out of the theater having that movie as a common bond.

In Germany, even on opening night, it seems like the audience is just a bunch of regular people. The movie makes an inside joke and no one laughs but me; they hint at some huge new character or plot line and no one else is freaking out. It’s a bit isolating being the only superfine in a theater and it really has affected how I enjoy the movies.

I went to see Spiderman a second time in the theater and ended up sharing an almost empty theater with a group of super fans. One of the actors from the MCU was in a preview for another, completely unrelated movie, and I made a quiet little “yay” under my breathe which the other group heard. They shared my excitement and we shared a quick, knowing smile for a moment.

Maybe it sounds weird but for me, experiences like these were expected in America and it’s only happened once, by chance here in Germany. I know it sounds silly but it’s hard to have an out of body experience with a movie (like I did with Captain America: Civil War) if you’re the only one in the theater on that level.

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Overall, are any of these things serious complaints? Not at all, but they are definitely distinguishable differences between my experiences in the US and Germany that I though you all might find interesting or comical so I thought I would share. Have you noticed any big cultural differences between the movie theater experience at home and abroad? Let me know in the comments below!


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