September 25, 2007

How To Go To The Movies

If you visit theaters with any frequency you know the general recommendations regarding talking, cell phones, littering, muzzling children, etc. Unfortunately, these guidelines are a.) rarely followed, and b.) not nearly enough to prevent your movie-going experience from being ruined. Here are the rules that would be upheld at a theater under my ownership. Admission will require careful memorization and recitation of the following:

1.) Be silent. This cannot be overemphasized - no talking, whispering, clapping, singing, noisy seat shifting, phone fumbling, loud smacking, soda slurping, coughing, throat clearing, wrapper crinkling, screaming, gasping, guffawing, cackling, cheering or any other disturbance of any kind. Thinking and quiet breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth) are allowed. Maybe practice this before entering the theater.

2.) Never repeat a line just spoken by a character in the movie, no matter the circumstance. If I had trouble hearing, you would see me with an assisted listening device (they're "available at the box office"). I don't have one. If I missed something it's because you were repeating the line right before the last one, and now I've missed both of them. Review rule #1.

3.) Never read aloud anything written on the screen, no matter the circumstance. If I had trouble reading, I would have had some difficulty getting to my seat, since finding the showtime, buying the ticket and entering the correct theater all require basic literacy. Chances are, most people in the theater are looking at the screen, and they're probably watching the same movie as you. Would you read the subtitles aloud? Didn't think so. Review rule #1.

4.) Allow me my personal space. Most theaters are large enough to accommodate you, your tub of popcorn, barrel of soda and annoying voice-overs. This rule is an off-shoot of the men's urinal rule: always one in between. In this case, at least 2 rows behind or in front of me, and at least 8 seats to the left or right.

5.) Crack witty remarks after bad trailers. I can't think quickly enough to actually do this, but when they're well-timed, these can be both memorable and hilarious. The risk is high, so make sure you've got something really good before you step up. After the last trailer, rule #1 is it.

6.) Avoid all reviews before seeing a movie, even the trailer, if you can help it. When you go the movies enough, and see the same trailers over and over and over, it's a little hard to play dumb during the actual movie when a character has a gun pointed at them but you know you haven't yet seen the other memorable scene from the trailer where they're jumping off a cliff or screaming "Nooooo!" or something like that. Most movies are completely ruined by the trailers, but especially by the reviews. You should know what to see simply on your knowledge of the writer, director, and actors involved. Sometime you get burned really, really badly (Lady In The Water, Freedomland, The Invasion), but generally you can avoid the garbage by simply refining your taste. The exceptions are movies for which you are completely ignorant of all cast and crew. This may be a film shown at a festival and may well be worth it, but just know to temper your expectations. After seeing a movie, reading reviews and message boards and getting into lengthy discussions is allowed and strongly encouraged. Especially on this blog.

7.) Get your mind right after the trailers are done. For example, I don't care how happy-silly you feel when you walk in, realize that laughter is completely inappropriate during any point of a movie such as United 93, The Passion of the Christ, The Pianist, Black Hawk Down, or Elephant, to name a few. I thought there was a laugh track piped in when I saw these in the theater. And really, one person laughing one time will do it. Go watch Daddy Day Camp if you're feeling silly, otherwise check your mood at the door. For further reference, see the Seinfeld making-out-during-Schindler's List episode.

8.) Don't be a sheep. In all circumstances of life, but especially not at the theater. Think for yourself and go against the flow. Don't wait in line to buy a ticket when the window immediately to the right or left is wide open. Better yet, buy your ticket at the little credit card kiosk, where there is no line because people trust a smirking 16 year old more than a benevolent computer. Don't buy popcorn. Consuming food will almost always violate rules #1 & #9. Unless you want DOTS - those are worth waiting for and go best with a cherry ICEE and a summer action comedy. Don't hesitate to go to a movie alone. I know it's extremely damaging to your reputation to be seen in public alone, but get over yourself. It's the same thing as reading a book in the park. Do you need to do that with a big group of friends?

9.) Never pay more at the concession stand than you did at the box office. How much is Combo #4? Yes, the "Best Value!" with one large popcorn and two large sodas? You don't know because they don't show the price next to the picture. It's probably $18.75. In addition to being more overpriced than an airport newspaper stand, the quantities are visually disturbing. Granted, the theater makes 100% of its revenue on concessions and 0% on ticket sales, but that doesn't mean you need to buy enough food for everyone in your row. Besides, what are you doing next to me? Review rule #4.

10.) Think about what you're watching. Far too many people enter and exit a theater without having gained any new insights. As far as I'm concerned, everything you do should be purposeful, especially when you're spending a lot of time and money to do it. Think about the last movie you saw. What did you learn about a new place, time period, culture, lifestyle, etc.? You may not realize it, but your perspective on the world is heavily influenced by every frame of film, whether it's Schindler's List or Dude, Where's My Car? (I admit, a stretch). Truthfully, a tiny fraction of what we know about the world is from first-hand experience. The majority is from what we have seen or read. When you think of ancient Rome, does Gladiator not provide a visual in your mind? Can you think of the Titanic without thinking of Titanic? What do you know about the mafia? The Godfather, Goodfellas, etc. Have you been to New York City? "It's just like in the movies!" I rest my case. Your worldview is signicantly influenced by screen images in your memory. Of course everything on the screen isn't necessarily true. Maybe it's entirely make-believe. For the most part, however, what you're seeing is showing you a place or a time or a common person's experience that you are otherwise completely unaware of. The ones that you can completely relate to are just as meaningful. That's the power of film. Respect it.

I'll stop here. Most of these are common knowledge and well documented online, but it never hurts to brush up. What did I miss? Please add to the list...


  1. Getafilm... okay... after Katie explained it to me I get it ;)

    So this list makes you officially a movie-nazi. And secretly I know if you had $100 to spend on each outing that you'd rent out your own movie suite every time and share it with nobody. :)

    I like the list overall. There's a scene in Californication (which I don't recommend unless you like pornography with a real storyline) where David Duchovny beats up someone in a movie theater for answering his cell phone (twice).

  2. OMG! GETAfilm! LOL!

    Damn, Dave beat me to the movie-nazi comment. Man, I will never sit next to you in a movie again. You might hit me or something. I can probably think of some witty comments for those crappy trailers, though. And before the movie starts I can tell you all about how they change the light bulbs way at the ceiling of the theatre. FYI, it involves a suction cup.

    Have fun with your blog! I'll add it to me RSS feed and then probably forget to check it.

  3. Yeah, the name is gimmicky, but hopefully easy to remember - you guys know about that.

    Do know that I'm not really that serious about these rules. Lots of movies don't need such a strict environment, and I usually go with friends anyway. I haven't done the suite yet with you, but I would, especially for some of the fluffier summer stuff. Comedies are always more fun with a group of friends.

    In fact, Katie, I think we should go to more movies together so you can tell me the theater operates. That way, I can actually open one and enforce the rules that I just listed.

  4. Question: The hubby is the worst talker in movies! At home it only makes me murderously nuts. In theatres, which we go to infrequently, I literally feel like I need to put a muzzle on him. What can I do, Movie Nazi?

  5. Ah, Marilyn. I'm glad you asked, even though you've just elevated my heart rate by about 30 bpm. I had to fight my own "murderous" instincts on Saturday night as two women insisted on audibly guessing what was going to happen during the most climactic moment of Slumdog Millionaire.

    Aside from someone I love being hurt, there are literally no other moments in life where I see myself fly into as big a fit of rage than when someone is talking during a movie. It actually transforms me into another person, like The Incredible Hulk. You can cut me off in traffic, spill coffee on my new shirt, or call me names. Yawn. Talk during a movie (the best part of a perfect movie, no less), and I will explode. Last year I actually climbed over the seat during "Catch a Fire" and then somewhat passively confronted the trio behind me. That's another story.

    So I say all of this to empathize with you, even if I haven't offered any solutions.

    Well you're already married, so it's not like you can just avoid this person - or harm them.

    You might try distracting him when you get inside the theater while you tell another person in the audience to either call theater management or wildly "SSH" him as soon as he talks. That way it won't be you actually "turning him in", and the other person won't feel "guilty". If he gets kicked out of enough theaters, maybe he'll learn his lesson.

    You could eat some garlic before the movie, so whenever he talks to you he gets a breathful right back in his face.

    You could tell him that he's being really disrespectful to both you and others, and that it really takes away from your ability to get into the movie when he interrupts your communication with the screen.

    At home, I have no idea, really. All bets are off from my experience. I guess that's why I see everything in the theater!


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