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Cultural Capital


"Clifford" broke the BAM Film website, which is exactly what he would have wanted.

(Hell Gate / Orion Pictures)

"Clifford'' is a movie for freaks and by freaks. It's a "Bad Seed"-inspired, heavily improvised comedy starring Martin Short as an evil, preternaturally mature 10-year-old boy who has a monomaniacal obsession with a theme park called "Dinosaur World," and late comedic genius Charles Grodin as the beleaguered, short-tempered uncle forced to care for his troublemaking nephew. If you can believe it, this movie flopped colossally upon its initial release for being too fucking weird—my Hell Gate compatriots Max and Chris said it "was not my cuppa" and "made me homicidal," respectively. Still, it has picked up a significant cult following since its 1994 release, and I am a member of that rabid fandom. (Even if you don't already know and love "Clifford," I suggest reading this extremely charming oral history from Vulture, featuring reminiscences from Martin Short and Richard Kind, as well other cast and crew members, plus my fellow "Clifford" enthusiasts like Nancy Meyers, Taran Killam, and David Letterman.) 

So on Tuesday, when Brooklyn Academy of Music announced a special, 30-year anniversary screening of the film on March 30—complete with a Q&A with Short and actor Richard Kind, who plays Clifford's dad, driven to the brink of insanity by his demonic spawn—I was elated. I sent my friends disturbingly enthusiastic text messages. I set an alarm on my phone for 11:40 a.m., because tickets were slated to go on sale at noon.

"I know I'm being crazy about this, and it's probably not going to be a big deal," I told my friends, "But if I don't see this movie, I will die." 

At 11:55 a.m. today, I logged onto BAM's website and began to refresh, watching the second hand on my laptop clock jump closer and closer to noon on the dot. Tickets were listed at $16 for nonmembers and $8 for members—a steal! But when the time to score a ticket finally came, I couldn't make my way to the landing page. "the website to buy tickets for clifford is not loading and im lowkey freaking the fuck out," I texted a friend at 12:01. "I'm trying too," she instantly responded. "Please tell me why this BAM tickets portal isn't loading for me," a second friend—who actually introduced me to "Clifford"—texted me, within the same minute. At 12:02 p.m., I called BAM. 

What followed was a short conversation with a very nice BAM ticketing office employee, who briefly placed me on hold. While I waited, I clicked over to the post about the event on BAM Film's Instagram page. "link isn't working!" someone posted. "When I tried at 12, the 6 pm & 9 pm showtimes were listed on the event page. Now they're gone. Either BAM's site couldn't handle it or I missed out," another commenter responded. I felt an icy finger of panic scratch at the nape of my neck. Then, the BAM employee pulled me off of hold, saying something to the effect of, "The website isn't working for me either, but you should keep trying, it should work eventually—my manager said there have already been some sales." ALREADY BEEN SOME SALES? I envisioned the quest for a "Clifford" ticket derailing the rest of my workday—real heads know, an extremely "Clifford" situation—as I asked, "Sorry, I know I'm being crazy, but what if I just come to the theater? Can I just come to the theater?" The BAM employee told me that I could, but that the box office wouldn't be open until 3:00p.m. "Do you… do you think it's going to sell out?" I asked. "In my personal experience, it's possible that it could happen. We have some really popular screenings," he said. I thanked him and hung up. Then, I Slacked my coworkers to tell them that I would probably have to miss part of an important afternoon meeting to get tickets for a movie, which is older than I am, that I have already seen multiple times—for "Clifford," I'm a journalist and small business owner second and a cinephile first.

Thirteen minutes later, my friend let me know that she'd made it into the "virtual queue" for a ticket. I refreshed the page, entered the "queue," and was able to put tickets into my cart—God is real!—only to find that the price per ticket had jumped to $35. Did I still pay $35 per ticket after entering the password to my BAM account, getting bounced, and getting back in the queue? Totally. Will I have a $35 experience? Almost sans doubt. 

But do I feel OK about participating in what could potentially be movie ticket surge pricing by BAM? As someone who spends a lot of time seeing strange old movies in New York City—home the best repertory cinema scene in the world!—I do not. I have reached out to BAM for comment on what was up with the "Clifford" pricing situation, and to ask how many people were able to purchase theirs at the initial $16/$8 rate. 

In the meantime, as of this writing, tickets are still available for the "Clifford" screening and Q&A—if you're enough of a fan.

UPDATE: A representative from BAM Film responded to Hell Gate's request for comment, explaining that the initial language/pricing on BAM's website is the theater's standard screening rate, and that $35/$30 is the standard special event pricing. "When we updated the standard cinema template for the Clifford event, the HTML code had not yet populated our website, among other technical glitches," the representative said, and noted that all tickets sold were at the $35/$30 rate. Whew! Movies >>>>>>>>>>>

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