September 25, 2007
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...