Many of us movie watchers like to go to theaters from time to time. It lets us check out films in a large, dark room with a huge screen and a killer sound system: something that only the obscenely rich could afford to have at home in this economy. Whether it be a hot new release or a classic put back in theaters, whether you’re a casual viewer or a film enthusiast, chances are that you’ll find something to enjoy about the experience.
But the fun comes with certain pitfalls that we can’t avoid; outside elements that range from mildly annoying to torturous, and most if not all of them beyond our control. Why does it have to be this way?
The short answer is that doing anything involving other human beings means that you forfeit pretty much any control over your environment. But even the rules put in place to be fair to everyone aren’t always followed, whether by the theater people themselves or the other people seated around you, and that’s just rude and unnecessary.
In a perfect world, you pay for something and you enjoy it.
So today, let me forgo a media review and just talk about some of the things that I – and people I’ve known – find painful and avoidable about going to see a film in theaters. Pet peeves, if you will.
Starting from least to most obnoxious:
(10 People Who Look at You Strangely When You Go Alone
I doubt this happens to most people, and not even all that often if it does, so I put it pretty low on the list.
While it can be fun to go see a new movie with a friend or group of friends, unless you are alone in the theater, you don’t interact all that much. You can talk during ads, and at the start and end of the film, but during, you are faced forward, looking at the screen. Occasionally, you might whisper to the person directly next to you, but that’s about it.
So why do some folks think of movie-going as a purely social experience?
Introverts in particular might decide to go it alone once in a while. I certainly have. It is possible to enjoy a film and react to it with no relation to another person nearby. Sometimes it might just be because no one will go with you. They don’t have time, they’re not interested in the film or genre, they’re tired, etc. That’s fine, and it should not need to stop you.
And yet, you might get looks or comments, mostly from total strangers, like you have no friends. You must be weird or sad or something! You’re going to see a film by yourself!
As a kid, I used to believe that you needed friends to do any big social fun things, and I would be damn near devastated when no one wanted to do what I wanted to do or weren’t available at all. When I spent some time in Tokyo studying abroad and slowly grew to discover that I disliked the company I was keeping (female classmates that weren’t friends and bickered frequently), I became a lot more comfortable doing things on my own.
It can be lonely, sure, but sometimes you have to be willing to be alone, or good opportunities will pass you by. And who knows? You may make some new friends if you’re lucky.
It isn’t weird or unnatural or sad. It’s smart and self-sufficient. Screw anyone who tells you otherwise.
Movie theater companies, we need to talk.
We know how much you want us to come back to your venue. We know you’d like to try to sell us food and drinks. We also know that new stuff will be coming out soon, and you think we might like to see the next Hunger Games film…because we are about to watch The Nut Job…
Thanks for trying to help us out. Now please stop showing us over 20 minutes of ads before a film. I don’t care about half of these upcoming releases; I’m here to watch a movie. I’ll put up with this for a little bit, but after 20 minutes passes, you are seriously pushing your luck.
Also, stop with the shameless food ads over and over again. If I haven’t bought a popcorn and a large beverage by now, I’m probably not gonna, and more ads reminding me to visit the concession stand just make me want to never buy food from there again, out of pure spite.
(8 Theaters That Overbook Showings
Crowded theaters aren’t really that much fun. I think we’d all prefer that it just be our groups and no one else watching at that particular time, not a Sunday morning IHOP’s worth of people.
When Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows first came out in theaters, a good friend of mine and I went to go see it around New Year’s. When we got there, we were told that there were only six tickets left for the showing we wanted, and we decided to grab them. Hopefully, we’d find seats together inside.
After procuring some snacks and attempting to prevent future movie bladder, we went to our specific theater and found, to our dismay, that there were no seats left. Anywhere.
So we watched the movie sitting in the aisles, in the gap typically reserved for wheelchairs, and fidgeted nervously every time an usher went by. My friend shook her head. “They better not try to kick us out. We paid to be here.”
This is unacceptable. Going to theaters is expensive, damn it, and if you pay for a seat, you should be given an actual seat. I’m not typically a person who makes an audible, visible fuss about bad service, but this is bad service. You have a right to be angry and demand your money back.
And we weren’t the only people stuffed into the aisle that day.
The audience should not ever be allowed to violate fire and safety codes like that. And companies should bother to actually count the number of seats vs the number of people paying for them.
(7 Not Allowing Outside Food and Beverages
Not much to say about this one. It’s annoying, but I see why it’s in place. Easily circumvented if you are a girl or know a girl with a big purse, and excluding all but #10 of these annoying elements, this one is probably the one you can do the least about.
I particularly hate the overpriced candy, which is only really half full when you actually open the box. It is bull.
(6 People Who Throw Trash Everywhere
No cool, people.
Yes, there are people paid to clean the theater when you leave, but leftover food spilled in the aisles, down the seats, and in the crevices is rude, gross, and shows contempt for your fellow-man in more ways than one.
Imagine it like your floor being covered with germ-ridden legos, and you’re barefoot. Police your kids, if you’ve got them, and pick up after yourself.
(5 Forgetting/Disregarding the Guy in Front of You
I consider this seat kicking, propping your feet up, and grabbing that seat to leverage yourself out of your own. You are not at home, so if there are other people around you, try to disturb them as little as possible in your comings and goings.
(4 People Who Complain About Kids
This ties in with Pet Peeve #1, as it tends to occur in the theater, during the movie proper.
If you’re watching a family film or something specifically aimed at kids, there is nothing wrong with that. But, yeah, no $&1# there are kids here. Suck it up.
I once had a friend who complained about this frequently, at a matinée of all places.
You lose the right to complain just by virtue of where you are. Just have patience, or pick a time of the day where most of the little rugrats are at school if it bugs you so much.
(3 Misbehaving Kids
Haha, I’m being contradicting. But hey, even with the above, there are limits.
Movies are a good way to shut your kids up for an hour…except when they don’t. Whether it’s a small group or a large group, be firm with them. Threaten to take them outside, then home if they don’t behave themselves.
And I’m not talking about being a little loud or talkative here. I mean the kids running around, screaming, throwing food and things, being wild and excessively distracting. This stuff gets less and less forgivable the further you get from a G rating.
I know it’s difficult, and hey, maybe you wanted to watch the movie too. But sometimes you have to make sacrifices to raise your kids, and one of them is to not indulge rude and bad behavior. They may not know better, but you are the adult and they are supposed to obey you. Whether they “really are good kids” is irrelevant; disrespect to you and other people is a problem. It may even fester and stick around if you don’t treat it in moments like these.
And just don’t bring babies. Ever.
Personally, I haven’t heard a lot of people with the nards to actually answer a call mid movie, but it happens apparently.
Why haven’t they stopped showing those ‘turn off your cellphone’ ads before the movies yet? Clearly because people still do it in droves.
This one will never go away.
At least in America, from the tweens and on, people need to be plugged in at all times. An hour or two without being contacted or posting on social media clearly means that you have died, and the world is moving on without you.
I once went to a dive-in movie at my college’s main pool, and I saw a girl in an inner tube staring down at her smart phone. People were splashing all around her and a movie playing on the screen, but there she was, phone barely two inches above the water. No joke.
I’d ask where to draw the line between spoiled and stupid, but in this case, there may have been no line at all.
If the theater has almost no people in it, you’re in the way back row, and you bump down the volume and brightness, you might be able to subtly check your phone during a movie. But it’s easy to tell what you’re doing, and it’s distracting. If you can’t disconnect for a bit, then what are you even doing here?
Please don’t be rude, or waste your own time and money like that.
Even whispering. Once the movie starts, keep it down. And whatever you do, DO NOT pick a quiet moment to share your thoughts. I can hear you as clear as day, and probably the other end of this theater can too. Sound waves travel farther than you think.
If you must talk, keep it short, and whisper right up in the person’s ear. We’ll understand if you had to leave for a few moments and missed something. Again, unless the theater is virtually deserted (I’ve had showings like that, which is more conducive to friends joking and talking), this is distracting and rude. You could be the funniest person on the planet, and people would still hate you. We didn’t come here and pay to listen to you.
When seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 with my folks, the theater we visited was a little on the lean side, but by no means empty. All the way at the front row, there was a group of young teenage girls who giggled frequently and made gag-worthy passes at the characters on-screen.
In the tense scene where, having just escaped from death eaters at a wedding and then at a deli in the city, Harry, Ron, and Hermione explored the quiet, seemingly abandoned headquarters of the Order, one of the girls began shouting things like, “We love you, Daniel!” and, “Marry me, Rupert!”
A man several rows in front of us got up and whispered something to them, then went back to his seat. Everyone else cheered him on, and the girls were silent from then on. Whatever he said, I still salute that theater hero to this day.
As I’ve said, this is my personal list, but I did take into account my friends, family, and colleagues’ rants when thinking about it.
What it all comes down to is people being thoughtless and disrespectful in a public space they are meant to share. And sometimes even I can do some of these, because we all have forgetful/thoughtless moments from time to time. But most of this is taught to each of us – see “common sense” – at one point or another in our lives, and just because we are grown adults who can do whatever the heck we want does not mean that all has to go out the window.
It’s impossible to think about everything and everyone 24/7, but it is possible to remember basic manners and preserve politeness so that everyone can enjoy the movie theater experience, if not the movie itself.
So don’t stress about it, but don’t brush things off thoughtlessly. Intent or not, no one wants to look like a jerk.
*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to their respective owners. None of the images or sounds belong to me.