Movie Theater Etiquette: Please Shut Up

Last night, I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes at the movie theater I’ve been going to since I was a kid. I can remember all the times I was swept away into fresh and exciting lands, from my first experience in Middle Earth to my various ventures through the corridors of Hogwarts. Audiences sat still, giving their full attention to the screen, mesmerized by the magic that Hollywood produced.

Those were the days when cinema was an experience that was shared with the whole crowds. But recently, I’ve begun to notice a trend in every theater that I’ve gone to: the lack of respect that audiences have for the film and those around them.

Now, this isn’t meant to sound like a stodgy old man crying about how disrespectful them damned youngins are. But from the perspective of a guy who just loves to be absorbed by films, movie theater audiences just plain suck these days. To go back to the Apes example, my friend and I sat behind a  couple who were also trying to enjoy the movie – with their infant child in tow.

We had to sit through an excellent movie that was broken up every few minutes by this kid crying and/or running up and down the aisles. I’m sure this was unavoidable for the family, but two questions arise:

1) Why would you bring your kid to a movie in the first place if you couldn’t find someone to watch them?

2) Why did you bring him to a 10:50 showing?

While all of this was happening, the three gentlemen behind us decided to let the whole theater know how they felt about the movie every couple of minutes. And what beautiful, articulate comments they were. Shall I share?

“Damn, that monkey laid that dude out!” Or how about “HAHAHA they know sign language!”

If this were all to happen just once, then it would be permissible. A few bad eggs in one showing can’t ruin the whole cinematic experience. But like I said before, this is a trend. I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie theater and the movie wasn’t interrupted in some way. How can I let Insidious terrify me if there’s a group of fourteen-year-olds giggling loudly up front?

Or how can I say farewell to my favorite wizards from Hogwarts if there’s a guy texting in front of me and then leaving his phone out with the light on? And the group of kids in front of him twisting up plastic water bottles and popping the caps off at the emotional climax of a series I grew up with?

I’m not preaching here, because I’m not completely silent either. I’ll occasionally whisper a comment to my friends, but nothing that can be heard past us. Obviously people want to talk about the film they paid to see, but if they paid to see the thing, then why can’t they just shut up for the two hours it’s on and get what they paid for?

At risk of sounding like the aforementioned stodgy old man, it looks like a lack of respect for cinema is to blame for this. Audiences don’t go to movies to escape into foreign lands anymore, they go to hang out with friends and socialize. While technology advances, movie theater behavior declines into individuals shouting for attention and being completely disruptive for those of us who want to take in a good flick.

People can’t be expected to fix this behavior, so it’s up to movie theaters to step up their policies on disruptions to ensure that the cinematic experience remains a respectful. One theater in Texas, the Alamo Drafthouse, has done just that by strictly enforcing a no talking or texting rule. They even took it another step further by using an angry voicemail left by a woman who was kicked out to warn audiences about their policy.

So is this a problem caused by people or negligent theaters? Tell us your aggravating movie theater experiences and give your thoughts in the comment section below!