Do you like comedy but aren't interested in seeing either You Don't Mess with the Zohan or Kung Fu Panda this week? Fortunately, if you live in Massachussetts or Connecticut, you have another option at your local multiplex: live stand-up comedy. Since mid-May, National Amusements has been featuring "Boston's best comics" on Thursday nights as part of a new alternative entertainment offering called "Stand Up Showcase." Locations for the weekly events include three Showcase Cinemas in Mass. (Randolph, Woburn and Blackstone Valley) and one in Conn. (Buckland Hills). The shows cost $14, and you must be 21 to be admitted.

Obviously this news fits with my weekly column, The Exhibitionist, but I've already written recently on National Amusement's decision to branch out into live entertainment. Stand-up is just another addition to the live music, satellite-broadcast Red Sox games and other alternatives meant to counter decreased movie attendance. According to N.A. spokesperson Wanda Whitson (quoted on Boston.com): "This is part of [chief executive officer] Shari E. Redstone's goal of turning our 122 locations worldwide into community entertainment centers." Kinda sad for a company that has been a real force in movie exhibition for more than half a century (never mind the company's majority holdings in Viacom).

While I'm shocked at the ticket price of N.A.'s comedy shows, especially since the acts aren't names I've heard of, I think they're one of the theater chain's better ideas. Yet I think it would be more appealing if stand-up comics were brought in to warm up the audience for movies like Zohan and Panda. Certainly the tickets for these special events would still be more than a regular movie ticket (though not more than $20). And it would seem more appropriate for the setting. After all, anyone can go to a cheap or free comedy show just about anywhere else.