Theater Etiquette


Sorry to interrupt the regular “Can’t Wait” column, but this is a frustrating topic that needs to be addressed.  

My face when people suck in the theater.

Last night, I drove to an art house in Columbia, Missouri, to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.  I go to school in Kirksville, so it’s a three-hour round trip.  To see a movie I’d eagerly anticipated for years, by my favorite working director this side of Martin Scorsese.  The film did not disappoint.  It is wholly different from any movie I’ve seen; it’s a difficult, meandering story about fathers and sons both biological and surrogate, how control ebbs in flows in relational systems, and the desire to have one’s cake and eat it, too.  But no matter how good the movie is, my viewing experience was marred by a bad audience.

I have never understood paying money to see a movie and then not paying attention to a second of it.  That is what half the theater did during the Master showing.  Two elderly women in particular spent the first two-thirds of the (two and a half hourlong) film talking at near-normal volume about anything that came to mind: The people in their lives, their need to get up (which they did multiple times each), and even laundry at one point.  They also decided to play Mystery Science Theatre 3000 during multiple points in the film, and laughed in a self-satisfied way at moments that were not at all meant to be humorous; seriously, ladies, a mentally disturbed man lashing out in violence is a powerful moment of terror, not a knee slapper.  So, not only did they refuse to attempt to connect with the movie, they willfully made it difficult for the rest of the filmgoers.  After everyone grew more and more tense, finally a much nicer guy behind me asked them in as calm a voice as he could muster to, “Please stop talking” (Emphasis added to show the gritted teeth).

But these two prematurely aged 13-year-olds were not the only people being bothersome.  The theater had a humorous, The Good The Bad And The Ugly-inspired “turn off your phones” video before the movie, and a shitload of good that did for the girl ahead of me.  Her stupid iPhone “Marimba” tone sounded during a pivotal scene.  She, and seemingly everyone else in the theater, felt the need to get out of their seat and run to the bathroom at least once during the runtime.

I guess what I want to say is, knock it off.  Despite the protests of those breaking the rules, courtesy is not a difficult thing.  Especially in a movie theater, all you have to do is sit there with your mouth shut and pay attention for a couple hours.  Doing so may actually help you understand what’s happening onscreen instead of providing you reason to complain about being “so confused,” like the genius ahead of me who made two or three trips to the bathroom.

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