I have had a few cinema experiences in China, and they have been very much the same as cinema experiences elsewhere in the world.
A group of us went to see 'The Hobbit' in a shopping mall near our work and this time I was able to see the clear distinction that a cinema experience in China has.
Stage 1: buying tickets:
The price of buying a ticket on location at the cinema is around 100 yuan.
Buying online however, is only 30 yuan.
Can't navigate the web of sites for cinema tickets with our limited Chinese.
Get a friend to do it.
Can't buy anything online without downloading software for use with bank-issued USB stick.
Public computer, so 不可以 (No can do).
Give money to said friend to buy them for us.
Website doesn't allow purchase without membership.
Friend registers and buys the tickets.
Friend gets texts messages with a number for each ticket.
Friend forwards her text messages to us.
Numbers can be used for any film, any day within a set time limit.
Go to the cinema and queue up for tickets.
At the front of the queue, get told to go to a different queue.
Go to different queue.
Don't know how to pronounce 'the hobbit' in Chinese.
Lead an employee around to point a poster.
Numbers are taken down and tickets issued.
Buy popcorn and drinks.
Queue for ticket check at entrance of screen.
At front of queue, get told to go to original queue.
Go to original queue, get told the showing at desired time is full, must choose a different time/day.
Next time is 2 hours later. Talk a long time.
Decide to stay and wait. Get given more tickets with seat numbers on them.
Stage 2: Watching the film:
2 hours later, no popcorn left, go into cinema.
Cinema employee asks if we want drinks. We do.
Cinema employee brings drinks to our chairs (!).
3D glasses need cleaning. With Dettol.
Film starts as soon as lights are dimmed (no trailers).
Film is in English with Chinese subtitles.
Phone rings next to me.
Bloke next to me answers the phone. Conversation lasts at least 3 scenes.
Film changes to middle-earth languages with Chinese subtitles.
Feel we may have missed something significant.
Phone rings behind us.
Bloke behind us answers the phone. Conversation lasts at least 2 scenes.
Phone goes off next to me again. And again. Total count: 5 times.
Film coming to a climactic scene.
Scene interrupted by the guy next to me hucking-up.
I assume no spitting allowed in the cinema.
Assumption proved incorrect.
Film ends. Full lights turned on before the first credit appears.
Everyone leaves before the second credit appears.
When outside, laugh about it with friends.