Hello, fellow movie-theater patrons!
I’ve got something to say to you. Not all of you, of course — but it seems the number of you that need to hear this is increasing at a ridiculous rate. You ready?
Shut the hell up.
You see, I used to love going to the movie theater. Growing up, it was a bi-monthly event at the very least. The whole Kumparak family would load up into the Kumparak-mobile, cruise over to the local filmery, and gobble up the latest flick along with a few smuggled sodas and a bucket of popcorn bigger than my admittedly-huge-for-a-child head.
Then.. something happened. I don’t know exactly when, and I don’t have a clue what caused it, but people.. started talking. The cardinal rule of movie-going, “Silence is Golden” (or “If you talk, you’re a piece of crap.”), was being stomped all over.
It started off innocently enough; at midnight showings, people would crack jokes at trailers in hopes of getting a few kicks out of the already excited crowd. That’s understandable. People are on a high (some because they’re pumped about a flick they’ve waited months for, others because they’re actually, you know, high), the energy is palpable, and the timing is just right. Whatever, it’s the trailers.
Then it got worse. People started trying to crack jokes during the movie. (Oh, the joke floundered and no one laughed? Obviously they just need to be louder next time.) People started repeating lines from the movie immediately after they were said. Last week, a lady behind me was translating THE ENTIRE MOVIE for her husband. In every single showing, at least one wanker is texting away, failing to realize (or failing to care) that the otherwise-unnoticeable light from his phone’s display was blindingly bright in the pitch black theater.
Do you do any of this stuff? Then you’re a jerk.
Why do people continue to go to the movie theater, even as prices have climbed from “Wow, that’s expensive” to “HOLY CRAP ARE YOU SERIOUS”? Because it’s pure. It is the true movie-viewing experience, as it is meant to be enjoyed. 1080p home projectors and booming 5.1 systems be damned — nothing compares to a proper, full-blown theater. Nobody — and really, I mean nobody — goes in with the hopes that other theater patrons are going to spout their mouth.
I’ve tried going to different theaters. I’ve tried going at different times.
I’ve tried staring, I’ve tried “Shh”ing, I’ve tried asking nicely, and I’ve tried raging. Each blabbermouth (or group of blabbermouths) reacts differently — and when I’m paying $10.50 for an hour and a half of entertainment, I’m not going to burn that time working out how to counter some jerk’s lack of manners. As often as not, any patron-to-patron request results in a further-degraded experience for everyone, as the blabbermouths, now aware that everyone thinks they’re jerks, go into mega-jerk mode and either try to get into a shout-off or just increase their volume.
Since “Silence is Golden” is apparently too vague of an idea, I propose three new rules for movie-going:
- Shut up.
I don’t care if you’re on an ego high because of a few positive comments on your “comedy troupe”s YouTube videos — if a clever one liner hits your noggin during a movie, sit on it until the DVD comes out and have a screening at your house.
- Tell your friends to shut up.
Friends don’t let friends ruin things for everyone else in the theater.
- Complain to management if others won’t shut up. If they don’t do their job, complain to the Internet.
It’s telling of our day and age that this is, perhaps, the most important rule. It is not your duty as a customer to deal with other customers acting up. It’s the management’s. Complain. If they don’t do anything about it (I had a theater tell me “Yeah, people seem to like to talk here. We can’t do anything about it.”), demand your money back and head to Yelp.
I’m not one to complain to Yelp over trivialities; If a restaurant’s food sucks, I chalk it up to my personal tastes and just don’t go back. There are plenty of restaurants out there. With theaters, however, there are only a handful of options in any given area. With fewer options, the customer has less alternatives to turn to when things suck — but the business’s reputation is all the more important. Get a dozen or so reviews up there blasting the theater for refusing to deal with gumflappers, and that policy will change right quick.
Here’s a thought, theater-folk: start a program where one person can sit in on each screening for free in exchange for promising to weed out any baddies that spring up. It might cost you one ticket per show, but imagine what it’ll do for overall sales once word gets out.
Got a method for making squawkerboxes pipe down? Share it in the comments below.