Movies are great. They have the power take us to other times and places, telling stories we could never have dreamt of on our own. Sometimes, they relate tales that feel very familiar and true to life, and we are emboldened by the messages and insights they have to offer. Though some films are bad and some are good, cinema itself is a magical medium, one that can offer escape, catharsis, or knowledge, often all at the same time. I love movies so much I have devoted my life to the study of them, and I am sure many of you feel the same way.
You know the one thing I don’t like about movies, though? Having to watch them with other people.
Yes. Depending on how lucky you are on any given night, the audience can make or break the film-going experience. When you get a good audience – one that loves and understands film and is willing to be simultaneously energetic and respectful – there’s nothing else like it. But you often have to go to a film festival these days to find anything close to that level of viewer competency.
For the most part, it seems like general audiences exist to annoy each other, either by texting in the front row or talking loudly during quiet scenes. The logical part of my mind tells me most people are probably perfectly respectful during most movies, but the emotional side forces me to remember the countless, insufferable loudmouths who sit down next to me and decide to narrate the actions of the film at the top of their lungs. And all I want to do is go bang my head against the wall and raise enough money to buy my own theatre, where I will be the only person allowed.
But for the time being, I shall have to vent my frustration through more healthy avenues. Thus, today we examine the very worst, most flagrantly disrespectful behaviors modern moviegoers exhibit; the sort of ridiculously rude actions that make you want to hole up in your house and never venture out in public again.
I am sure many of you share in my frustration, so join me on this voyage of misanthropy as we explore The Ten Worst Behaviors Of Modern Moviegoers.
Begin reading on the next page…Next
10. Making Stupid 3D Jokes
3D films. Sigh.
I don’t like them. You probably don’t like them. We would all be much happier to just pay five dollars less and see the film projected flat and at its proper brightness. But the fact of the matter is that 3D is here, and for the time being, it’s here to stay.
So can we please stop acting like it’s some revelatory novelty every single time a 3D movie begins?
Let me put it this way: You know how before 3D movies a graphic usually appears telling you to put on your 3D glasses, and once you do so, the picture of the 3D glasses pops out at you? And you know how half the people in the theatre will inevitably say “Oooooh…” in their most sarcastic voices? And all the children will reach out and try to touch the fake, pop-out image of 3D glasses? And some college kid jackass in the row behind you will say “Oh my gawd, it’s totally like, coming right at me!!!” And then, when a 3D movie preview begins and the MPAA approval message will raise itself off the green background, everybody makes the exact same jokes?
Yeah. Stop that. For the love of God, please stop making lame, recycled jokes about 3D and pretending you are clever. You are not. You are stupid.
This is far from the most pressing issue modern moviegoers present, but it is oddly one of the most ubiquitous and obnoxious ones, making me dread 3D screenings even more than I already do.
9. Complaining about free movie screenings
This is not a problem many will identify with, as it comes from the many press screenings I attend to write film reviews, but it’s still one that vexes me to no end. As many of you may know, most movies are screened publicly a few days, or even a week or two, before their commercial release, both so critics can see the film early to write their reviews, and so audiences can disseminate hopefully positive word-of-mouth. These screenings are free – tickets are usually given away online these days – meaning you get to see a new movie early and without paying a dime. For 3D or IMAX films, that could mean a full twenty-dollar value.
So why on earth do so many people complain when attending one of these screenings? I’m serious. It happens all the time. The most prevalent problem is people moaning about bad seats, or being at the end of the line. When I used to attend these screenings without press credentials, there would always be a group of teenagers or grumpy old people moaning about how ‘they handed out too many tickets.’ It’s true. Studios do hand out more tickets than theatres can hold to ensure max capacity. How do I know this? It says so on every single ticket, along with a friendly reminder to arrive thirty minutes to an hour early to ensure good seats. To my mind, you have no right to complain about something when you were previously warned, in writing. At that point, it’s your own damn fault.
Viewers have an odd sense of entitlement across the board at free screenings. No matter how many press screenings I attend, I will always get five or six dirty looks from people who hate the idea of reserved seats (a small number are taped off for the press), and sometimes, viewers simply take taped-off seats without asking, causing more work for studio representatives and theatre employees. Often, you see people refusing to surrender or turn off their cell phones, and chewing out hired security for simply doing their jobs. And invariably, people refuse to quiet down when someone walks to the front of the theatre to deliver a message about keeping phones off during the screening.
Here’s a personal favorite of mine: At this week’s press screening of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, the film began four or five minutes late, which is a common occurrence when so many people are being funneled into the theatre. It was apparently a big issue for some audience members, who began clapping rhythmically to get the film started. Talk about disrespect.
I could totally understand being vexed by late start times, seizure of cell phones, or overbooked theatres at a normal screening where one pays for a ticket. But when the movie is being shown not only for free, but early, viewers need to cut those in charge a little slack. Be grateful. Be respectful. It isn’t difficult.
Continue reading on the next page…Previous Next
8. Sitting too close in near-empty auditoriums
Everyone has experienced this one. We arrive at the theatre during a slow time of the day, buy our ticket, and walk into an almost empty auditorium. With only two or three other people in the theatre, we find a nice, secluded seat, taking advantage of the low number of patrons by finding a spot where we will not be bothered. It’s a nice feeling. Luxurious, even.
And then someone marches in and sits directly in front of you, or directly behind, or two spots down in either direction. And your calm, content demeanor is shattered as you start considering whether you should find a different spot or slug the oblivious aggravator in the back of the head.
This probably bothers some people far less than others, but I think we can all agree that respecting someone’s distance is the proper thing to do. It is perfectly okay to try finding the best seat possible, but the truth is that in any mid- to large-sized auditorium, there are plenty of excellent spots, and plopping yourself down in front of or next to one of the few people in the theatre is simply rude.
It is a simple rule to follow: When a theatre is packed, crowd in and get to know your neighbor. When it’s near empty, though? Spread out and respect everyone else’s space. Don’t be an idiot.
7. Bringing small children to adult-oriented movies
You may be surprised to learn just how many times I have seen parents bring their kids – and I’m talking five years or younger here – to a variety of what can fairly clearly be described as ‘inappropriate’ movies. I do not say this to be puritanical. I’m never going to get up in arms if I see a four-year-old in an Amazing Spider-Man screening, for instance, even if I wonder if they are old enough to actually understand the movie.
No, I am talking about films like House at the End of the Street, or Prometheus, or Ted, or That’s My Boy, or The Dictator, all films I have seen in the last few months where multiple sets of parents brought their youngsters along for what could be extremely scarring rides. No matter what their quality, these particular films are made and intended entirely for adults, and contain nothing in them that is intended for children, let alone appropriate for extremely young ages. Should a child see Elizabeth Shaw give herself a bloody C-section? Should a child watch a naughty teddy bear shout obscenities for two hours? Shouldn’t subjecting one’s kid to the horrors of That’s My Boy, one of the very worst movies made in recent years, simply count as abuse?
Okay, probably not on that last one, though I know I would hate my parents forever if they made me watch That’s My Boy.
My point is that I do not understand what children will gain from any of these films. God knows I don’t think they’ll gain much from modern animated garbage like Ice Age 4 or Madagascar 3 either, but those films, at least, don’t run the risk of upsetting them. At Prometheus in particular, I heard multiple children burst into tears, with their parents unwilling to address the problem until audience members started getting vocally annoyed.
I don’t want to get too judgmental here, but it simply seems like lazy parenting. Refusing to hire a babysitter may pay off in the short term, after all, but won’t it take more effort in the long run when your kid starts quoting General Aladeen in school? I am no fan of the MPAA, but at least glance at the rating before taking your five-year-old to an R-rated movie. Chances are, there’s something better for them to see, and that will only make you, as a parent – not to mention the audience around you – happier in the long run.
Continue reading on the next page…Previous Next
6. Eating concessions loudly in quiet, dramatic moments
Perhaps it’s just the OCD in me, but I do not generally purchase concessions at the movie. Even if they were not too expensive to reasonably consider, I would rather focus on the film than on food, especially given how much noise popcorn and candy can make.
That’s a consideration most people fail to take into account. Popcorn remains as prevalent as ever, and in the now-standard horse trough portions, your fellow viewers may be munching loudly up until the end of the movie. I would not necessarily stop people from eating popcorn altogether, especially during silly summer movies, but most films contain quiet or dialogue-heavy scenes that can easily be obscured by viewers who crunch right on over the characters.
It’s not just the chewing, either. The rustles of bags, slurps of straws, and strangely cacophonous sound of fingers searching through a thick bucket of popcorn can all disrupt the movie. It is not a difficult problem to address; just wait until the film gets loud again before eating more snacks, or at least try to do so quietly when characters are saying something important.
Who knows? Maybe someday movie theatre popcorn will become so expensive only the richest Americans can afford it, and the rest of us will finally be able to enjoy our movies in peace. One can only hope.
5. Laughing at inappropriate times
This may not sound like a big deal. “So, a couple people started laughing,” you may think. “What’s the problem with that?”
An example, then. Consider Rian Johnson’s recent sci-fi sensation Looper. It is a great movie. A serious movie. It has some intentionally funny bits, but they are relatively low key, and for the most part, the film plays things straight. But at the screening I attended, people burst out laughing, loudly and raucously, every single time somebody got shot or injured. I kid you not. When Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character would take out one of his future targets, people laughed. Throughout Bruce Willis’ entire violent rampage on the Looper station, viewers were howling with hysterics. I’m pretty sure somebody even chuckled when Willis shot one of the children. Because toddler slaughter, as we all know, is the height of physical comedy.
If Looper were not such an excellent film, the laughter would have ruined the experience for me. It is extremely difficult to concentrate on serious or dramatic moments when morons in the back are chortling with glee. And this has not happened to me just the one time, either. People laugh inappropriately all the damn time, often at violence (which means these idiots share something in common with the sociopathic Joker), but also at small, intimate character beats.
When Kinji Fukasaku’s landmark classic Battle Royale was screened for the first time in the US earlier this year, a row of people in the back howled at the entire movie, finding each youth-on-youth murder or dramatic speech hilarious. I really do not understand what compels people to do this, and it bothers me every time it happens.
It is okay, of course, to laugh at bad movies, though even then, you should probably be sure the film is universally reviled (a la The Room) before guffawing. Be respectful, to the movie and your fellow viewers. It is as simple as that.
Continue reading on the next page…Previous Next
4. Entering the theatre after the film starts
I am surprised at how much this continues to happen, given just how many trailers and commercials theatre chains show before movies. Yet even with that fifteen to twenty minute buffer, some people still arrive shockingly late, and for reasons I will never understand, theatres still sell these people tickets and allow them to enter while other customers are trying to watch their movie in peace.
It would not be so much of a problem if latecomers knew how to enter a theatre and find their seat quietly. But when people fail to arrive on time, they inevitably enter making the biggest racket imaginable, chatting and laughing with their friends, stumbling around the theatre using cell phones as flashlights, and proceeding to loudly speculate about what they missed for the next five to ten minutes. For the viewers who cared enough to arrive on time, it disrupts the atmosphere and experience, especially considering that the first few minutes of a film are often integral to understanding the characters or narrative.
The level of stupidity behind this problem is staggering. First, I do not understand why theatres continue selling tickets after the advertised start time. It is an unfair, unethical practice to other paying customers, especially in an era when the next showtime is typically right around the corner. Second, I cannot fathom the level of disrespect one must have for their fellow human beings to arrive late – making, in essence, a personal mistake – and torment everyone else by making a racket. It’s rude, inconsiderate, and asinine on every possible level.
But you know what annoys me even more?
3. Leaving the theatre a few minutes before the film ends
I have no idea if this is a common problem for filmgoers, but it has happened a ton to me lately, and I find it unbelievably aggravating. Oftentimes, when I watch a film with an audience, people shall stand up and begin leaving, loudly and en masse, when they think the movie is on the verge of ending.
In Looper, for instance, people started fleeing to the aisles as soon as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character makes his final decision; in Frankenweenie, viewers stood up and started crawling over each other once it seemed the main conflict had been resolved. In both cases, there were another five or so minutes left, to provide literal and emotional closure. Most films – nay, most stories – do this. There is more to fiction than simple conflict resolution, and if you are not willing to stay for the entire story, then you should not come to the theatre in the first place.
It is simply rude to those who actually want to see how the film ends, because moving bodies can obstruct the screen, and the noise people make when exiting is highly distracting. It was extremely difficult for me to concentrate on the final minutes of Looper when a couple sitting to my right decided to crawl over me while the film continued rolling. Their disregard for other viewers left a really bad taste in my mouth, even though I had just seen an excellent film; when such rudeness occurs at the end of a movie, it’s much harder to ignore than at the beginning, because it colors how one remembers the rest of the night.
What on earth compels people to do this? Do they really need to get out to their cars that bad? Do they think a three-minute head start on traffic will somehow solve all their worldly problems? Did they hate the film and decide to vent their frustration by ruining it for everyone? No matter the answer, they are all prats, and I hope to God every single person who does such a thing trips and falls down the stairs on the way out.
Continue reading on the next page…Previous Next
2. Using cell phones during the movie
This is, oddly enough, not quite as overbearing an issue as it was a few years ago, when every teenager on the planet thought the best venue for sending text messages was the first few rows of a dark movie theatre. I do believe some people – though certainly not all – have finally gotten the message that using one’s bright smartphone screen in a darkened auditorium is, in fact, distracting and rude to other paying customers. Though that could just be because I typically attend press screenings where Hollywood studios have become so fed up with people using cell phones, for piracy or other reasons, that security teams are hired to confiscate electronic devices or kick those using phones out of the theatre. Sort of like a frustrated parent taking their child’s toy away when he or she makes too much noise with it, since the child apparently does not know any better.
In any case, audiences using phones during a movie is still a rampant issue, and one of the most maddening, obnoxious ones at that. When we sit down to watch a movie, we automatically suspend our disbelief, to at least a certain degree, so that we may accept the events portrayed on screen. Even for the most staunchly ‘realistic’ movies, the presence of simple cinematic traits like editing requires a certain acceptance from the audience. It is a unique stance we are accustomed to adopt whenever a film begins. And when someone in front of you whips out his or her cell phone, that stance is broken.
The phone’s glow doesn’t just break the carefully calculated lighting conditions of the theatre, but also forces us to remember that we are, in fact, sitting in the real world, observing staged events rather than being enveloped in real ones. For a moment, at least, the film is ruined, because the stance required to enjoy or analyze it is swept out from under our feet.
Make no mistake: Using your cell phone can ruin the experience for those around you, and it is absolutely not fair to screw over other paying customers simply because you want to send a measly text message.
Finish reading on the next page…Previous Next
So simple, yet so deadly. Nothing can disrupt a movie as fast or as ruthlessly as audience chatter. Even though we are all seemingly aware of this, it is something we can never escape, as some viewers will inevitably find a movie theatre the perfect place to host a loud and disruptive conversation.
Unlike other issues on this list, there is no defense against talking. We can seize people’s phones or force them to turn them off, but theatres do not, unfortunately, have the power to glue people’s mouths shut on the way in. Even theatres that commit to kicking out chatterboxes cannot preemptively strike, so we may have to endure several minutes of teenagers fighting with the auditorium’s sound system for vocal supremacy before the problem is solved. Talking is inescapable, and no matter what, it’s always the most obnoxious thing people can do during a movie.
It all goes back to what I explained on the previous page: We must adopt a stance of disbelief in order to watch and enjoy movies, and when that stance is disrupted – which non-diegetic players, like audience members, can easily do by talking – the stance is broken, and the film is momentarily ruined.
No matter how much we talk or complain about this, some people simply never get the message. Again referencing a recent Frankenweenie screening, the loudmouth group of teenage boys sitting next to me were talking – in their normal, full volume, ‘outside’ voices – for the first five minutes of the film. They did not even discuss the movie. I gave them several accusatory glances, but they refused to be quiet until I turned and forcefully told them to “Shut up.” Which they did. Because I am bigger than they are, and cowardice won out.
Some forms of ‘movie talking’ I find completely baffling, like middle-aged people who choose to narrate the entire movie out loud. Several years ago, when I went to see Pixar’s Up, the couple behind me vocally repeated every single action the characters took, chortling to themselves while they did so. Or how about the idiots who try offering characters advice as the film plays, shouting out suggestions as though they might telepathically affect the celluloid?
Modern movie viewers are rude on countless levels. Seeing a film with an audience can unfortunately be an endlessly frustrating experience these days, but I can at least see ways theatres can combat or stamp out some of these behaviors. Talking, though? Talking during the movie is an enemy we can fight, but never truly kill, for it is, it seems, in some people’s basic nature to be rude. Movies shall live on, but I mourn for the devolution of humanity.
What audience behaviors do you despise the most? Would you rather watch every movie on your own at this point? Do you think I took this all too far? Sound off in the comments!Previous