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Movie theatre etiquette


January 28, 2014
By Ian Robinson

It may be time to bring back the death penalty.

Not for murder.

Everybody knows the poor little fella wouldn’t have slaughtered that troop of Girl Guides with an axe if only society had been just a little more understanding of him and given him everything he ever wanted.

A little counseling, a little understanding, he’ll be fine.

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Besides, murder isn’t a widespread societal problem.

If it was, a big-mouth like me would have been worm food long ago. Admittedly it’s rough on the actual victim and his family, but doesn’t affect millions.

No, instead I want to see the death penalty applied to the greatest scourge that polite society has ever seen.

Making noise in movie theatres.

I just went to see the film American Hustle. I don’t like to go to the movies because I think the average theatre audience is made up of self-involved barbarians, but I’d heard good things about this flick.

Besides, American Hustle is set in the 1970s, and I went so I could make fun of the way people dressed when I was a teenager.

I remember going to a formal school dance once wearing two-tone platform-style saddle shoes, purple plaid cuffed bell bottoms, a purple pirate shirt and a purple silk sports jacket.

With a white tie about eight inches across at the bottom.

And the sad and awful thing about that decade is that I was the guy in that high school gym who was conservatively dressed.

American Hustle is a pretty good movie. It stars Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams and Amy Adams’ physical charms.

That’s right.

It’s a non-speaking role for the charms of Amy Adams, but they are memorable roles nevertheless.

Anyway, like many people, I went to the movie to — stop me if I’m getting really weird or something here — hear what the people on the movie screen were saying.

This did not happen nearly as often as I would like.

For one thing, there was a posse of women enjoying a girls’ night out behind me.

Women on a girls’ night out like to talk.

So during the awesome trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, they chattered loudly about … you know. Guys mostly. Makeup a little bit. How if your boyfriend is cheating on you, why is the vile adulterous whore always named Jennifer?

But then … THEN! … the trailer for a Johnny Depp movie came on.

And there was nothing but reverent silence from three of them and a distinctly unladylike moan from the fourth.
Johnny Depp is the Chick Whisperer.

After the actual movie started, they settled down like the decent, grownup humans they were and I loved them all a little bit for it.

Sad, sorry experience has taught me that there is no point in asking people politely to be quiet during movies because if they’re talking loudly during a movie, they’re already so estranged from the social contract that they’re beyond reason.

Once I was in a movie and a cell phone rang behind me.

No big. Sometimes folks forget to turn them off.

Then the conversation, the loud conversation, started.

I turned. Politely said, “Excuse me, ma’am, could you go to the lobby to talk to your babysitter?”

She got huffy. The guy she was sitting with said something … provocative. It involved my mom. And me. And illegal romance. But I let it go. However, after the movie was over and we were outside I happened to bump into the guy in the parking lot and he said it again and well.

You know how that goes.

I had to ice my hand for two days before I could use it again because you get fragile when you get into middle age so I no longer ask people to shut up in movies because I’ve been wounded in World War Politeness and it’s time to accept my honourable discharge.

But while the young women were decent movie goers … I hadn’t noticed the large folks sitting beside them.

They didn’t talk.

They couldn’t talk because they were too freaking busy jamming food into their mouths.

I get it. People like to snack in the movies.

But these people weren’t snacking.

They were feasting.

Like starving, ravening wolves.

And I guess you don’t get to be that size by chewing in silent politeness.

It was like feeding time at the zoo. Popcorn was masticated loudly. They crinkled their damnable cellophane packages of Twizzlers making a sound like radio static during a thunderstorm. They rattled their Junior Mints. And the slurping of the extra-large vats of soda was the icing on a very unpleasant cake.

You know, there are only a couple of reasons to make loud noises in a movie theatre.

If there’s an actual fire, you can yell, “Fire!”

You can laugh in comedies. Cry quietly when he leaves her even though any fool can see the two of them ought to be together forever and what the hell is he thinking? And … I think that’s it.

Now, I’m no barbarian. I don’t want to see people hanged for making noise at the movies.

I want to see them guillotined and then have their heads prominently displayed on pikes outside the theatre as a deterrent.

For a little while, the theatres might suffer a slight drop in business. But those of us who don’t like to go to the movies anymore … we will return.

We will return happily. Often.

And very, very quietly.


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