Friday, April 27, 2012

Mike's Musings: How to Watch a Movie in the Theater Without Pissing Everyone Off

Theater attendance is down considerably from where it was a year ago.  It's been years since a movie I've wanted to see was sold out, and it's rare that there is much of a line to buy tickets.  There are a number of reasons for this: movie quality is going down the drain, there's a complete lack of variety or originality, the ticket prices are ballooning exponentially, and the theater experience (bad 3D, dim lights and sound unless you pay extra for IMAX) is terrible.  Plus, Blu-Rays and big Hi-Def TVs are fairly affordable, and offer a better experience for a much cheaper price, and since few people go to the theaters are causing the release windows to shorten, it's not that long of a wait for a movie that most are only mildly interested in.

But the reason no one talks about is that the theater goers are horrible.  I used to love sitting in a crowded movie theater watching a good movie.  Now, I dread it.  Many people in the theater are shockingly impolite to other people who want to watch the movie.

The biggest problem is right now is texting during the movie.  Seriously people, is getting a message of "LOL" from one of your friends really that urgent?  I admit, I have done this, but I've stopped now that I realize how incredibly irritating it is.  A few weeks ago, I was watching "The Cabin in the Woods" in a relatively crowded theater.  A few rows in front of me, I saw this LED light flash on and off every few seconds.  Someone was texting during the movie.  It got so bad that I said aloud for them to stop texting.  And I was criticized.  I doubt that the person meant any harm.  After all, a cell phone screen is pretty small.  But they're also pretty bright, and in a darkened movie theater, it lights up like the sun.  Our eyes are attracted to bright lights, so a cell phone screen, despite its size, is virtually impossible to ignore.

The second problem is talking.  You know those commercials before the movie that ask you to not talk during the movie?  They're not just filler.  There's a reason why they're there.  Theaters may be loud, but they're not loud enough to cover someone's whispered conversation.  This has been a problem for years.  Every time I've been to a movie, there was an add asking the audience not to speak during the film.  In the same movie, the cell phone girl and her group of friends were chatting constantly.  It was super annoying...so much so that I almost got out of my seat to ask them to shut up.  Complaining to the ushers, despite the warnings that they'll kick out anyone talking or texting, does little.  At a screening of "The Thing" last year, there was a couple who wouldn't shut up through the whole movie.  I complained to the usher (this is why there is no review of it), who simply sat in for a few minutes.  The couple quieted down, but resumed their conversation when the guy left.  And they were mad at me at the end of the film.  What the hell?  If your conversation is that urgent, leave the movie for a few minutes.  You're obviously not paying that much attention to the movie.

Another pet peeve of mine are people who eat their snacks incredibly noisily or worse, come to the theater sick.  No one wants to hear you chew your popcorn or shift your popcorn bag.  And I can guarantee you no one wants to catch your cold, much less listen to you sniffle or hauck up a bunch of mucus.  Seriously people, stay still, chew with your mouth closed and stay home if you're sick.

People get into the habit from watching television together.  There's no one who cares if you talk a lot since it's just your friends, and some people love giving commentaries on the film while they're watching them (the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" crew made a career out of this).  But movie theaters are public places, and the people around you don't want to hear your conversation or bodily functions.  They want the optimum experience from going to a movie theater.  And with the high prices and low quality, that's something that should be respected with a 10 to 20 dollar fee.

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