An Analysis – The “Do”s and “Don’t”s of Theater Etiquette
Like most people, I tend to see movies more in the summertime. Not only because that’s when the majority of the most anticipated movies are released by the studios, but also because that’s when I have more time for extracurricular outings in general. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case with everyone else, too. And the thing about everyone else is…well, they suck. Nowadays it’s a roll of the dice as to what kind of an audience you are going to have with you in a theater. Sometimes you end up with a disaster of texters, talkers and—worst of all—children. Other times, you can have a nice quiet screening with only a handful of old people and maybe some bored teenagers who know how to behave. I used to know how to predict these crowds and know what times of the day to avoid, but more and more this is becoming harder to calculate.
Just last year, I went to a midnight showing of Midnight in Paris at a dollar theater. As was predicted for a low budget Woody Allen comedy, late in its theater run and very late at night, there were not too many people watching with me. But what the crowd lacked in abundant attendance it made up for in audience mischievousness. There was me and three twenty-something bro-dudes who must have had no idea what kind of movie they were at. Perhaps because the film starred Owen Wilson they thought it would be something like the crass and bawdy styles of Wedding Crashers or Hall Pass. One of them had his flip phone open the entire time, while the other two were laughing at something that was definitely not happening on screen.
In an equally puzzling turn of events, last year I attended the midnight release of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1—not as a fan, per se, as I had never even seen any of the other movies, but rather to scientifically observe the social phenomena of Twilight fandom and the crazed screaming teenage pandemonium that it entails. “Bring on the Twihards!” I said. I wanted to see it all for what it was. What I got instead was what must have been the most tepid and docile Twilight premiere ever experienced on the planet of Earth. These tweens didn’t even cheer when the house lights dimmed and the opening credits started to roll. Could my auditorium have been full of Twi-curious Jane Goodall types like myself?
So yes, with this article I am going to add my strained voice to the glut of noise made by those who can’t take it anymore. This is yet another list of “what not to do” at the theater. Call this venting if you wish.
This is the timeless classic of theater misbehavior. It never gets old, it never goes out of style, and it seems to only grow in popularity with every new generation. Some might ask how much talking is too much talking. How is it appropriate to respond to a movie when sharing the experience at the cineplex?
Last year around Christmas, I watched David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with some friends. Behind us sat a talker, and the worst kind of talker. She was a “responder.” She seemed to be having a personal conversation with the movie as it was going. There were the usual “oh my God”s and “don’t do that”s, as well as interjecting her predictions of the plot as it unfolded. “The cat’s gonna die,” she said, just before Daniel Craig’s character opened the screen door to reveal the horror that has now been stifled due of the unnecessary play-by-play commentary track behind us. Though we had shushed her throughout, at this point we all turned and shushed in unison, at which point she had the audacity to exclaim “What? That time it was relevant!” No, it wasn’t, and talking never is.
Here is a good code to live by when it comes to talking during a projected movie with strangers: if you are making words, you are talking too much. You are allowed to gasp or squee if something is scary; you are allowed to laugh if something is funny; and I can even make an exception for exclamations of joy during the big actiony bits, as long as it’s during a louder scene. But unless you are at a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, nobody wants to hear you talk. Don’t talk to your friends, don’t talk to the movie, and most of all do not talk on your phone. Which brings to mind…