I think it's safe to say that in 2014 we have lost most regards to etiquette. We're all guilty of Wall-E like offenses where we ride around in our motor vehicles with our fancy little phones forgetting that we're meant to coexist. Beyond just our politeness to one another, the movie theater is a breeding ground for selfish and annoying beasts. Have you been to a theater recently? How much of the movie was spent with you thinking to yourself "I wish they would be quiet!" "Who would bring a baby to this movie?" "Why would anyone think Nerds in box is the best movie snack?" "Should Adam Sandler still be making movies?"
This past Sunday I went to see one of this summer's best blockbusters, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and despite my glowing review, I probably missed some of the movie's magic because of a bajillion distractions. Since when did we get so comfortable with showing such a lack of respect for others? Movie ticket prices have only gotten more expensive, and yet people as a whole treat the motion picture event like their living room. Things got bad enough this past Sunday with a toddler repeating every line loudly, followed by making vroom sounds with his Hot Wheels car, that the group sitting in front of me started having their own conversation. They were so taken out of the movie experience that it literally became a casual hang out time, despite the fact that we were sitting in a room with a giant screen, RPX features, and probably a hundred other people.
Earlier this year, at a screening of Lone Survivor in Florida, a man was shot to death because he was texting. Now, I'm not saying a murder was a good thing, but I can understand the other patron being so upset at that little glowing light that things escalated. The victim's excuse was that he was texting his daughter. It doesn't matter who you're texting. Step off to the side or out of the theater for a moment. You're not watching anyways. As a teacher this was the same as when a student would get caught with a cell phone and offer the excuse "I was texting my mom." It still doesn't change the fact that you're breaking the rules. I'm getting heated just thinking about all of this!
If you think I'm going overboard, just think about how, the next time you fork over $12.00 to see a movie, that $12.00 is not even 4 gallons of gas. $12.00 is a decent chunk that adds up pretty quickly. And, with movie prices continuously rising every year, $12.00 will soon be a number of the past. Just think how horrible it will be when you're saying, "Remember when movie tickets were only $12.00?"
As a friendly reminder, let's all review the follows DOs and DON'Ts of theater etiquette and maybe we'll all be a little happier. I mean, no one can really enjoy forking over $12 or $15 to not get to enjoy the full experience, right? You'd be surprised...
- Make a SMART movie choice. Want to know why Adam Sandler continues to offend our intelligence? Because people continually fork over money to see his subpar films. Want to know why we end up in a glut of superhero, zombie, vampire movies? Because people do not weigh quality. There are more movies released yearly than ever before. Back in the golden age of Hollywood, it was an event to go see a newly released film. We have so many choices now. Make a smart choice! Spend your $12.00 wisely. You're smart. You're intelligent. You deserve good, quality entertainment. The more we invest in good quality entertainment, the less we'll be disappointed because the studios are only willing to invest in what's going to make them money in the long run.
- Arrive at the theater on time (or even a little early). It's bad enough to think that people are okay with skipping the previews, but I'll give a reprieve here. My family was always big on getting the whole experience. Even now, if my brother and I are going to see a movie, we'd rather wait until a later showing than miss the trailers. But, if missing that part is okay with you, at least show up before the actual picture begins. Nothing's worse than when the story is setting up and hoards of people come walking in, trying to find a seat in the dark, shuffling past you right as the first edge-of-your-seat moment occurs. This also usually elicits a lot of whispering and talking and candy opening.
- Enjoy a simple snack. Movie concessions are ridiculously expensive. Do you really need nachos and a corn dog and a large buttered popcorn? You'd need a second mortgage on your home just to afford it! Beyond the crazy amounts of actual food people buy, others decide to go the sneaky route and bring rogue Taco Bell or homemade delights. I'm not shaming you for wanting to enjoy a meal while you watch a movie, but isn't that more appropriate at home? Get a simple snack. Maybe just popcorn. Or a simple candy. Think about your wrapper and box options before you go in. (Movie theaters should ban all sales of loud candies.) Open everything before the movie starts. If it comes down to it, bring a Ziploc bag with you to store M&Ms or Skittles or Nerds. The less sound from your lap, the more you'll enjoy the movie experience. A lot of hard work goes into the sounds you hear.
- Pick a good seat. If you're walking in to a theater with a decent amount of seats available, but the good middle seats are taken, be cordial enough to sit a row apart from those already seated. Sometimes it's unavoidable and you end up having to sit right next to a stranger. But, you know that annoying feeling when someone is constantly hitting your seat? Well, it's your own fault if you decide to sit right in front of someone when you have other options. The best seats are either the very last row way up in the back, or the last row of the front section; there's no one directly behind you and you usually have the middle seat option in each row. Also, set your priorities.
- Put your cell phone up. This should be a given, but it's actually gotten pretty bad lately. I can't tell you how many times I'll be so sucked in to a movie and then, snap, I'm taken right back to reality because my neighbor in the next row in front of me decides to check what time it is or look at who's texting them. You paid $12.00 to come see this movie. It's a good movie. Put your phone away. If you're afraid the babysitter is texting or your friend needs to know which Britney Spears song was in Spring Breakers, step out of the theater before you open it. Even if you think "It's just a quick check" the light is bright and distracting enough to be a damper on everyone else's experience. Actors on Broadway have started calling out audience members who take their phones out because of how rude and distracting it is. Fortunately, you don't have to worry about Tom Cruise shouting at you, but you do have 100 other people thinking bad thoughts about you. (Also, turn off things like the "flash" setting people put on their iPhones. Even if you decide not to check your phone, the flash is distracting.)
- Allow yourself to be fully immersed. A lot of money and hard work went in to getting the movie you're seeing to the theater. Enjoy that. It's art. It's meant to be appreciated. The idea of movies and filmmaking has become such a low-bar form of entertainment for the casual moviegoer that people forget that things like the Oscars used to award movies that everyone sees. The reason the average moviegoer complains that they've never even heard of some of the films nominated is because audiences have dumbed down their abilities to enjoy a good piece of cinema. This doesn't mean it has to be all serious and dramatic or strangely abstract. It means it's okay to enjoy yourself and allow yourself to be fully emerged in a story. We're smart enough to be able to think and have fun at the same time!
- Skip out on a good movie for stupid reasons. People loved to bash Gravity after the first trailer was released. "It's just Sandra Bullock floating in space?" No. Why in the world would a studio back a lame premise like that? The trailer was good because it didn't give much away, as opposed to plenty of other popular films. Was Neighbors really that funny after literally all of the comedic moments were ruined in the trailer? While, yes, a lot of Gravity involved Sandra Bullock floating in space, it was really so much more. Give movies a chance. Unless, of course, they involve Adam Sandler trying to be funny. It just doesn't work anymore!
- Show up late. Not only are you wasting your money, but all of the other people in the theater are getting shafted out of a complete experience by the distraction of you walking in late. If the concessions line was long, then re-evaluate what you get at concessions or if you even really need a snack. If you had to go to the restroom, give yourself time for that by showing up to the theater a little earlier.
- Talk. This is never acceptable. Your friend doesn't need a play by play. He's watching the same movie as you. If you don't understand what's going on, keep watching. It'll be explained. You probably missed something by asking your friend what was going on, which means they missed it to.
- Bring your kid to a late showing/adult-friendly show. If you couldn't find a babysitter, then a movie should not be on the docket for the evening. Or, there is usually at least one kid-friendly show at every theater. PART ONE: A toddler shouldn't be in the audience for any PG-13 or R film. There's no way they'll be able to process and enjoy the entire thing. If they can handle it at home, it's because you're more lenient with their actions while watching. The theater isn't the place for their at-home actions. They aren't old enough to realize what type of manners are needed in a public setting like a theater. Hopefully you are smart enough to realize that, though. Put yourself in everyone else's shoes. PART TWO: If your baby starts crying, take them out. It's worse to try to appease them or quiet them down for ten minutes while everyone else pretends to not here. PART THREE: Even at a family show, if your kid starts getting antsy or acts up, do something about it. I know you spent a lot of money to see the movie and you don't want to miss it, but so did everyone else. Now we're all suffering. PART FOUR: Teach your kids proper movie theater etiquette from day one. My older brother did a great job of allowing my niece to fully enjoy films and understand what's proper and what's not. She became a 4 year old who could sit through an entire showing of King Kong without even a bathroom break! PART FIVE: Why is your 4 year old at a 10:30 movie at night? Your kid should be in bed! No wonder they aren't having fun. They're tired!
- Allow your kid, teenager, or yourself to be impolite. An unruly kid in the theater is a sure sign that the same kid will be just as disrespectful when he becomes a teenager, then he'll become a parent who brings their kid to the movies and the cycle will just continue. The reason R-rated movies are for 17 and older is because a 17 year old should be mature enough to handle the material in a mature manner. This means they can see sexual or violent material without needing to copy it or without needing to giggle loudly or cheer disrespectfully. A PG-13 movie means the same thing, but for all teenagers. Sadly, a PG-13 movie today means that teens can come watch a movie that will probably have some boobs and their parents don't have to be there, so they can giggle and talk as much as they want. Teenagers, everyone hates you when you do this! You don't look cool. You'll realize it one day when the tables have turned. Be wise about how you're spending your money (or the money you begged your mom for).
- Use the bathroom during the movie. Learn to hold it. This goes in line with the "showing up late" thing. When nature calls and you have to get up, think about all of those people who have to deal with your shuffling instead of getting to fully be engaged in the two hour experience they've paid for. Get to theater with enough time to relieve yourself before it starts. If you have a small bladder or IBS, sit in a seat near the exit. It sucks that you can't enjoy the theater from the middle seat, but think about everyone else! I know that may sound insensitive, but it's the truth.
- Take a phone call/check a text message. It's really hard to abide by this rule, I'll shamefully say. I've never taken a phone call, but I have checked a text. In my defense, though, my most recent break from this rule was during a Sunday morning showing of Saving Mr. Banks where I was literally the only person in the theater. Despite distracting myself, at least I wasn't offending anyone else in the theater. If the phone call seems important or you're just itching to check that text, leave the theater. I'd rather deal with your shadowy shuffling than the bright cell phone light.
- Leave your ringer on. This piggybacks on the last one. Turn your cell phone to silent! This should never be a problem anymore. We've all had cell phones long enough to never forget to put the phone on vibrate. Whether it's a movie theater, a wedding, a funeral, there's no excuse for it.
- Give up on the movie. Every movie deserves a chance, especially if you paid $12.00 for it. Try to enjoy it for what it is, or at least wait for the possible\y redeeming ending. Maybe there's a twist! In the worst case, it'll give you and your friends something to talk about as you walk out. In the best case, it'll exceed your expectations and you'll be happily surprised!
I guess I can end my rant now. The plus in 2014 is that we have the ability to watch movies at home. If you can't enjoy the theater for what it's meant to be, wait until the movie comes on Redbox and feel free to talk and text as much as you want from the comfort of your own home.
Let me know if I missed any important DOs and DON'Ts!