Lessons from a German Movie Theater

January 19, 2006 by

This past Christmas my wife and I spent nearly two weeks in Germany, traveling the country visiting friends, seeing the sights, and getting up close and personal with events from history that have changed the world (Luther’s 95 Thesis, the Berlin Wall and Hitler, to name a few.).

Because the weather was chillier than a politician without a personality, we tried to temper our touring with alternative indoor amusement.

Say hello to the German movie theater.

We should have known up front that the decently priced tickets (about $6 U.S., each) included some sort of catch. After all, how could this newly built theater, located in a super prime location in downtown Berlin, and with assigned seating, afford to show first-run movies for so cheap? We soon learned that 30 minutes of beer commercials, plus another 15 minutes of movie previews helped to offset the ticket price. In addition–and here’s the real kicker–half way through the movie, when you’re already lost in the plot and enjoying the adventure, the screen goes blank and up pops a message that it’s time for intermission. For the next 15-20 minutes, as people departed to smoke breaks, popcorn refills, and bathroom runs, theater employees came marching in like a sporting event selling ice cream and candy to those too lazy to get up (or in my case recovering from the shock of this interruption).

My lesson: get out of your routine a bit. Put yourself into another culture. Experience life from the other side. Show up to church some Sunday like a visitor and see what happens. Go to another church across town, perhaps of another denomination, race, or dare I say religion? It’s amazing how doing things different can make a difference.

Even though I would still rather pay more for a movie than sit through an hour of commercials, previews, and intermission, the experience was worth it and the conversations I was able to start from it were priceless.

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Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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