As a prematurely old codger who still believes that a darkened theater is the best place to see movies, I’ve noticed more and more, especially since moving to New York City, that people these days just don’t have the same respect for the cinema as they used to. This might be because they weren’t educated from a young age on proper theater-going etiquette by a cinemaphile mother, as I was, or it might just be because they are idiots who lack common sense. Whatever the reasoning, more and more people these days seem to treat going to the movies like throwing something on in the background while you chat in your buddy’s living room. For the young, the stupid, and the initiated who are hate-reading this and are then going to post it on their loudmouth bad audience member friends, a list of ways to maximize your neighbors’ movie-going experience
1. DON’T TALK
Just don’t do it. I would qualify this and say that an occasional whisper to somebody right next to you is fine, but judging by the flicks I’ve sat through lately, nobody really knows how loud their voice carries in an open room where NOBODY ELSE IS TALKING. So just shut up, seriously. It’s not only annoying, rude, and disrespectful to other members of the audience, but it makes me hate you for possessing the childlike trait of verbal diarrhea. Laughing during a comedy is fine. Shrieking during a horror movie is fine. Vocalizing anything for the rest of the audience just makes you look like an insecure fuckwit who can’t go two hours without being the center of attention. Bonus hatred points if you repeat the last few lines of a funny joke after the laughter has died down. Also, if somebody actually has the balls to shush your ignorant ass, take your lumps like a grownup and shut up, instead of acting like the person telling you to stop ruining everyone’s experience is an asshole.
2. Turn your cell phone OFF
Not on vibrate, not on silent, but OFF. We all know you can’t be trusted with an object that placates your ego (yes, I get the warm fuzzies when I see the “notifications” icon too) that lights up in a dark place. A buzzing and/or lit up phone during a movie is just as irritating as a a ringing phone or some jerk talking on a phone. If you’re a heart surgeon on call or if your mom is in the hospital and you just had to get away for a minute, thanks/my condolences, but take it out into the hall, or if you absolutely can’t stand to be unreachable for two hours, maybe you shouldn’t be at the movies in the first place.
3. Get there on time
Look, I don’t know how many times I need to tell you that the theater isn’t your house, but even when I’m watching movies at my house I don’t walk in front of people and take them out of the experience. This is slight compared to the last two, but it’s still really annoying and can be highly distracting. The optimal viewing experience means nothing in front of me should have my attention except what’s happening up on the screen. When I went to see LIFE OF PI this evening, some usher kept walking down the center aisle with a flashlight and checking something on some clipboard. I have no idea what he was doing, and I’ve seen it happen twice now in this theater. I’m at a loss as to what this clipboard is and why it needs to be stored at THE VERY FRONT OF A MOVIE THEATER WHERE EVERYBODY CAN SEE YOUR FLASHLIGHT. Whoops, sorry, went on a bit of a side-tangent there. Be on time, try to get there before the trailers end.
4. Airplane Rules
As far as your actual seating goes, follow the same etiquette as you would on a brief plane ride. Don’t hog the armrest, don’t kick the seat in front of your or carelessly and abruptly smash the back of your seat into some poor sap’s legs (that’s for you, fellow giants). Get up and move around as little as possible, ESPECIALLY if you have to walk by people to do it. Most importantly, keep in mind that we’re all trapped in this space and have to share it.
5. Bring your kids at a reasonable hour
I miss my beloved Alamo Drafthouse for many reasons, but chief among them was their delightfully discriminatory attitude towards children: no unaccompanied minors, no minors PERIOD after 9pm (though I think they might have scaled this back), and no babies except for designated screenings on certain days. This one makes you a bad person for two reasons: you’re once again behaving like a selfish prick because you’ve tuned out your kid’s screaming and whining, but you’re also a bad parent because you’re taking your infant or toddler to a scary/noisy movie. Explosions in 5.1 dolby surround can’t be good for a developing body’s ears. To all you parents out their crying about having no social life, allow me to lay out your options once and for all: 1)stay home and rent something 2)get a friend, family member, or a sitter to watch your kids while you go to the movies 3)stop watching movies until your kids are old enough not to cry through them.
Just to recap: don’t talk, turn off your phone, be on time, and don’t be an asshole. Easy enough, right?