The Telegraph UK has reported that several moviegoers asked for refunds after viewing the award-winning silent film, The Artist, once they realized it had no sound. Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group confirmed that “it has issued a small number of refunds to guests who were unaware that The Artist was a silent film.”
The movie, which has delighted fans and critics alike, has never marketed itself as anything besides a silent film. After winning three Golden Globes last weekend, the film has received tons of attention—leaving one to wonder what those cinemagoers were expecting when they bought their tickets.
The director, Michel Hazanavicius, said, “I have been told about it, and I think it’s hilarious, actually. If I could give advice to people, it would be that they should ask for their money back whenever they see a film they don’t expect. If it’s not written on the poster ‘this is a bad movie,’ and they think it’s a bad movie, ask for a refund!”
The first award-winning silent film in over 90 years can hardly be considered a bad movie. But after decades of ‘talkies,’ it makes sense that the film was initially hard to market. Hazanavicius said, “It’s funny because we don’t have the same word in French for ‘silent,’ we say ‘mute.’ And in the beginning people kept asking, ‘Is this a movie about mute and deaf people?’”
But English-speakers have less of an excuse. The background of silent films is still well-known in our culture—people are still familiar with Charlie Chaplin, even though the first ‘talkie,’ The Jazz Singer, was released in 1927. Audiences might be seeing more silent films in the future, thanks to the success of The Artist. Hazanavicius said, “We have gained some things with talkies—if we still had the silent era we would never have had Billy Wilder, never have had Woody Allen. But it’s true that we also lost something. Maybe the only thing I regret is that talkies totally killed silent movies. I think we could have both. That’s what is happening with The Artist—people really enjoy the format, and they’ve discovered that it is a new way to tell a story.”
If this is the case, theaters should make sure they’re prepared to hand out refunds to confused moviegoers expecting sound from a silent movie.