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Chapter 7
Alternate Arts and Culture

Now and Again

by ELMORE TERADONOVICH, Alternate Reality News Service Film Writer

Facing declining ticket sales and its worst box office in over a decade, Hollywood is considering drastic measures to get bums back in theatre seats.

The plan to clone Tom Cruise failed when it was discovered that his copies were skittish and prone to irrational outbursts on national television talk shows.

Plans to put force feedback units in the armrests of movie theatre seats were opposed by family groups that didn't want children to feel the tender caresses of onscreen lovers.

In the latest move, AMC theatres has announced that, starting next week, any customers who do not enjoy a movie they show will be given a free trip back in time to before they saw the film.

"Unfortunately, we can't erase the memory of a bad film," AMC spokeswoman Anushka Paradis stated, "but at least we can give you back the time you spent watching it."

The time travel is being supplied by a company called Flux Capacitor Enterprises. "Well, you know," said FCE President Martin McFly, "once you've gone back - more than once - and made sure your parents met, fell in love and got married, what else is there to do but start a time travel business?"

Noticing the blank stares from the journalists in the room, McFly quickly added: "But, seriously, we've all come out of movies complaining about not being able to get those two hours of our lives back. I think this is going to be an important public service."

FCE's time machine is called a "Delorean." It looks somewhat like a typical automobile, except the doors open up instead of out, and it has a silver appendage in the back - the flux capacitor that makes time travel possible.

Giving dissatisfied moviegoers their time back is not without perils, not the least of which is the Grandmother Paradox. Suppose you go back far enough in time to meet your grandmother before she met your grandfather and showed her a photograph of what he would look like on their 60th wedding anniversary. She might be so disgusted at what life has in store for her that she wouldn't marry him; but, if she doesn't marry him, your mother won't be born, meaning that you won't be born.

That's a heavy price to pay just for not liking Herbie: Fully Loaded.

"We're not taking them back that far," McFly pointed out. "The worst that could happen is that they would choose to get popcorn at the concession stand instead of nachos and save themselves from getting indigestion later."

Another potential problem is what might happen when two versions of the same person meet. Nobody knows what the results of such a meeting might be, although speculation runs the gamut from total annihilation of the universe to Tim Burton becoming American Ambassador to Ecuador.

"Patrons who take advantage of the time back offer are expected to be on their best behaviour," Paradis stated, "and not return to the same movie theatre. I mean, can you imagine how terrible it would be if somebody liked a movie so much that they kept going back in time until different versions of them filled the theatre?"

The light in her eyes suggested, however, that she wouldn't find such a situation all that terrible, she wouldn't find it terrible at all.

"Are you kidding?" asked trendspotter Douglas Coupland. "I would go back in time to see movies I hated just so that I could torment my past self with rude comments. 'Don't go back into that room - the killer is waiting for you!' Or: 'Stop pretending you hate each other, because you know you're going to get married in the final scene!' I think it'd be a hoot!"

Coupland's enthusiasm waned when it was pointed out that you could predict those kinds of plotlines without having seen the movie first. "Yeah, I suppose that's why people want their money back in the first place," he allowed. "Now, if I could go back far enough to say 'The shrink is dead!' or 'Luke, he is your father!', well, that could be amusing."

Reaction to the announcement of the time back offer has been mixed. "I don't like the idea of time travel," said moviegoer Frank Mitzenfagel. "I like the idea of time travel," said moviegoer Mitzi Frankengarber.

"We'll see how the public reacts," Paradis said. "After all, if they don't take to it, we can always go back in time and make sure the whole time back offer is never made..."

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