COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU: MERCHANDISE HELL

I do rail against unbridled merchandising at the drop of a dollar bill. After all, I’m still suffering claustrophobic flashbacks from the time I shut myself away for a little private time in a public privy and ended up a temporary hostage to screaming billboards plastered all over the stall walls.

I have to admit, though, that when I first heard about the Brenden Theatres selling movie soundtrack CDs at concession stands, my first thought was, “Duh, what took them so long?”

After all, theater industry experts have predicted for the last three years that the glut of multiplexes would ultimately prove to be money-losing propositions. As gullible as we audiences have become in paying the price of an Alaskan cruise for admission and popcorn, once theaters start charging double digits for Sno-Caps, we’re going to catch on.

Therefore, I’m stunned that the marketers have been asleep at the projector all this time. Come on, Broadway has been swamped in crass commercialism for years and it’s supposed to be hawking high art. Go to any “Vagina Monologues” across the U.S. of A. and they’ll be selling chocolate female genitalia on a stick no, this isn’t a joke, and yes, they could make good holiday stocking-stuffers.

Now I’m not saying that, say, the zipper scene from “There’s Something About Mary” should be a confectionery offering. Still, children are choking down cheeseburgers by the baker’s dozen for “collectible” toys, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that people would pay a little extra for a rubberized hot dog and Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise battling robots?

Multiplexes already have video games in their lobbies, so why reserve the “Star Wars” simulators only for Disneyland? How about a “Rush Hour 2” simulator, in which players enter feet first through an impossibly tiny window and then get pummeled by high heels? Better yet, let the game be controlled by voice command but no matter what you say, Chris Tucker shrieks “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” (You can easily exchange the high heels for pies and swap Tucker for Alyson Hannigan droning “Last year, at band camp ” for “American Pie 2.”)

This might turn out to be a catharsis for audiences steamed over a bad movie. After storming out of “Battlefield Earth,” they could have bought a 7-foot-tall John Travolta piata. Didn’t like “John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars”? Here’s some red dust you can buy to blow into the carpeting. Disappointed in “Planet of the Apes”? You can buy a hair off Tim Burton’s head until he’s bald, then move on to Charlton Heston.

Speaking of hairs, this past summer the San Francisco-based DNA Copyright Institute announced its personal DNA copyright service. They predicted that celebrities would want the security of patenting their DNA to guard against cloning. So far, no takers which means Brad Pitt’s spittle is up for grabs. Just imagine the creature you could make from Julia Robert’s tooth.

The future of films is supposed to be an all-inclusive, immersive entertainment experience. You slide your credit card, stick an IV in your vein and never want to leave. These visionaries should close all the Planet Hollywoods (well, the ones that are left), bring the gavel down on Butterfield auctions and schlep everything to a one-stop shop. As for all that quiet and empty space left behind well, I guess we can plant trees or something.

Events editor Vera H-C Chan still awaits her string-up-yourself “Matrix” kit to come in the mail. She can be reached at vchan@cctimes.com or 925-977-8428.

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