Movie Theater Etiquette
Common courtesy at the cinema is in decline to such an extent that some cinema chains have considered revising their policies to accommodate the offenders. Giving humanity the benefit of the doubt, here's a one-stop reference primer for the do's and don't's of cinema behavior.
- •SmartphonesOnce the lights go down, these devices should not be seen or heard. Period. If you require an explanation as to why, stay home. And not just from the movies. Start living like an agoraphobe -- which shouldn't be too challenging, since much of your communication is remote anyway. Your kind is not welcome among intelligent, reasonable adults.
- •SmartwatchesWhy do I need a blinding visual alert every time you scratch your head? It is not important for me to know that your brow itches, Insignificant Stranger. Learn how to disable 'Activate On Wrist Raise' or just pocket the fucker for the duration of the flick.
- •Pagers and beepersWelcome to the 21st century. Did you enjoy your coma?
- •TalkingDo you have something to say to your companion during the feature presentation? Lean over and whisper it into his or her ear. Do you have lots of things to say and maybe discuss throughout the movie? Shut the fuck up and save it for the car. The movie theater is no place for sustained conversations. I didn't pay $15 to listen to your banal exchange, you self-centered monster.
- •BabiesBabies are innocent and often adorable, but at a movie theater, a baby is nothing more than a Potential Trouble Source, to coin a brand new phrase. Incapable of processing the images on the screen, your baby has no idea what's going on. The baby is in a dark, scary place. It will likely cry. It will likely scream. Its role in this context is purely that of a noise-making machine. Do your baby and everyone else in the theater a favor and hire a sitter, you self-centered monster.
- •Your feetIs that an earthquake? Is this cinema rigged with Sensurround? Why, it's just your fucking feet, finding a precarious resting spot on one of the seats in my row. Here's a tip: all the seats in my row are connected. If your restless limbs are perched on one of 'em, I can feel it. If your jittery feet are repeatedly kicking one of those chairs, I can feel it. Particularly if that chair is mine. Unless there's no one in the row in front of you, keep your feet to yourself, you self-centered monster.
- •SnoringA movie theater is a dark, often comfortable and sometimes cozy place that may seem like an inviting venue for a nap. But while you're peacefully slumbering, anyone within earshot of your soul-penetrating chorus of grinding snores is wishing there were some pillows handy. Not to enhance your comfort, but to smother you into silence.
- •Plastic wrappersThose over the age of 70 may not be able to hear the racket that's being generated by that starlight mint they're struggling to unwrap. But moviegoers without a need for hearing aids are perfectly cognizant of how loudly difficult those Milk Duds are to free from their tough plastic sheath. The longer and more delicately you attempt it, the worse you're making it. Do everyone a favor and open your treat at the concession counter or in the lobby.
- •Plastic bagsPlastic bag people are usually beyond redemption. They arrive at the cinema with an arsenal of plastic bags that they proceed to rustle at regular and infuriating intervals. Oftentimes these bags contain illicitly smuggled-in foodstuffs (typically loose candy or seeds, I think), but other times, their purpose is more elusive and ostensibly merely that of a squeeze toy. Plastic bag people: please stay home. Your cats and your clutter need you.
- •Taking pictures of the screenThis is a problem chiefly at repertory houses and revival screenings. The offender is just so thrilled to have traveled back in time to experience BACK TO THE FUTURE the way audiences in 1985 did, that they can't resist preserving the moment with their smartphone, spoiling the illusion for everyone else. The dumbest of the dumb forget to disable flash.
- •ChewingIronic that popcorn should be the iconic movie theater treat, as every mouthful is a sonic intrusion. I can think of few foods noisier to consume than popcorn. Fortunately, humans are biologically equipped with a built-in muffler, and it's called chewing with your mouth closed.
- •SpoilersYou've just finished the 5pm showing of CITIZEN KANE. While standing beside your friend at the urinal, you remark "I never woulda thunk that Rosebud was a durned sled!" One urinal over is a guy with a ticket for the 7:45 show. He didn't know Rosebud was a sled. Thanks for spoiling it for him, asshole.
- •Ironic/derisive laughterThis one's tricky. We've all been guilty at some point. However, context is key. Are you watching PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE or are you watching I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE? If both sound equally like cheesy, old-fashioned objects of ridicule, your lack of cine-literacy makes me question why you showed up in the first place. I'm specifically addressing that pair of too-cool hipsters who sat behind me at a screening of I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and spoiled its moody elegance with their nonstop tittering.
- •Walking in lateI'd assert that it's not coincidental that latecomers are usually the most disruptive of audience members; if they don't care enough about the movie to arrive on time to see the entire thing, they're probably not conscientious enough to be considerate. Even if the latecomer is otherwise courteous -- which is rare -- the late arrival itself is obtrusive, as one fumbles in the dark to find a seat or their already seated companion shouts "Over here!" with a raised hand.
- •Sitting in front of me with your huge pumpkinhead (in a non-stadium auditorium)If it's a full house, I'll still hate you for sitting in front of me with your beehive 'do and obscuring my view of the subtitles. But at least I'll understand that your options were limited. However, if 90% of the house is open and you nonetheless choose to sit in front of me, you're kind of a prick, especially if you're exceptionally tall, have big hair, and don't slouch and/or remove your hat. Latecomers, of course, are the worst offenders -- and always offend after your guard is down.
- •Miscellaneous disruptive jewelry and adornmentsTo the lady wearing the wind chimes on her ears during my recent trip to the Arclight, your vanity comes at a price: the peace and comfort of everyone within a 10-seat radius of you.