A Quick and Dirty Guide to Movie Theater Etiquette

I’m about to say something that will make me sound like my mother. But I’m going to say it anyway.

When I was a kid, people didn’t make all kinds of noise in the movies. People these days have no manners.

It’s not just kids, either. People of all ages are embracing Courtney Love and kicking Emily Post. The worst seems to be the movies. My husband threatens to not go to movies with me anymore because invariably, it’s a bad experience. “You have the WORST movie karma,” he tells me after a movie where all of the following happened:

Ã?·A man with three kids allowed one of the little cretins to sling some kind of big round hard candy at us and then acted like he didn’t know what happened when my husband asked him to stop.

�·A woman brought five children under the age of 10 (to a PG-13 film) to the row in front of us, and while she openly breastfed (to the curious delight of the 9-year-old sitting right next to her), the two youngest used the theater railings as a jungle gym.

�·The breast-obsessed 9-year-old rocked his squeaky seat until I pushed my shoes up against it, thus immobilizing it and frustrating the Squeaky Boob Looker.

A few other movie annoyances: audible running commentary on the entire film. (My personal favorite: a young lady watching Troy in front of me hissed, “Oh, like they’ve never heard of a Trojan Horse before.”)

Gaggles of mini-skirted mini-Britneys clomping up and down the aisle in their platform flip flops to rush into the stairwell to answer their cells phones.

Cell phones.

Text messaging.

It’s enough to drive a person mad.

My feeling is that we Americans continue to isolate ourselves in our lives and forget that other people are around. Our homes are bigger, with more room to spread out (and avoid each other). We drive alone in our cars thinking nobody’s watching as we rock out with some air guitar at the stoplight. With the prevalence of home theater systems, DVD players, TiVo, etc., we forget we’re not in our living rooms when we go out. I don’t know about your town, but where I live, teenagers no longer hang out in the mall or such places to socialize, they theater-hop, looking for their friends or bailing on movies they don’t want to see.

I’ve shushed and rolled my eyes and shot dirty looks, huffed and puffed, and asked nicely, even. But things aren’t getting better and I’m at the end of my ticket stub.

So I would like to offer the following movie-going etiquette for consideration.

1. Talking: If you’re talking, people can hear you. If you MUST speak during the film, lean in to your listener and WHISPER to them. Remember how to whisper? And while you’re talking, you’re missing the movie, which will cause you to continue talking with, “What’s going on??”

2. Phone Calls: If you think you might be receiving a phone call during the film – if you’re, say, a doctor on call or you’re a parent who might hear from a distraught babysitter – sit near the door and remove yourself for your interruption to avoid making it everybody’s interruption.

3. Text-Messaging: You know that you should turn off your cell phone at the film. But please don’t think that text-messaging is less intrusive. In a darkened theater, that blue glow might as well be a bonfire. See above for how to handle text messaging.

4. Thinking You’re Funny: Making comments loudly so everyone can benefit from your insight or humor is neither insightful nor humorous. Keep it to yourself or whisper to your neighbor. If you insist on stand-up in the theater, you will only increase distaste for whatever group you’re part of. For instance, if you’re a teenager, and you yak through the movie, people will get the idea that all teenagers suck.

5. Ups and Downs: Nobody minds if you get up to use the loo. But for Pete’s sake, this is not step class. Sit down and shut up.

6. Do your homework! There is no reason for you not to know the basic plot and pertinent details of a film. To avoid brining Junior to a movie with nekkid ladies or one that’s entirely in Swahili, do your movie homework. Here’s a hint: if the movie trailer doesn’t have anybody talking, it means the film probably isn’t in English. If you are one of those people who “doesn’t like to read movies” please check the film out before you buy a ticket so you can avoid the string of profanity that is sure to issue from your mouth when you realize your faux pas.

7. The End: Some people actually like watching the credits. I know, I know – how stupid. But can you just respect that and get out of the way? Chitchat in the aisles but don’t stand there blocking my view of the names of the gaffers. (This also goes for you ushers who insist on cleaning up while I’m still watching the credits.)
That’s it. Seven little suggestions for everybody’s film-going pleasure. To recap: Don’t talk, answer the phone, text message, or get up during the movie unless you absolutely have to. Do your movie homework. Be respectful of other people in the theater.

If you don’t, I will personally hunt you down and pelt you with Milk Duds.

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