R#09's Ultimate Guide to Cinema Etiquette

After 16 years of frequenting movie theaters – from multiplexes and three-screens to art-houses and IMAXs – I feel as though I am entitled to offer the public a few simple rules to abide by while enjoying a film in a public cinema. Because, God help me, if one more teenage girl kicks me in the back of the head while attempting to recline her seat, I’ll snap and kill the nearest theater patron. If you happen to be enjoying a film in the same theater as yours truly, these are the guidelines you absolutely must follow. Or again, I might murder somebody.

You should not be talking for any reason whatsoever

And if you are, promptly shut that bellowing hole you call a mouth and talk on your own damn time. There is no reason to speak to anyone in a movie theater. Ever. Conversation is not warranted, at least not audibly. Bear in mind that whispering into the ear of the patrons seated on either side of you is permissible if kept to a minimum. But the moment you start leaning over people’s laps to speak to someone, you’ve crossed a line.

If you’re the only person laughing, it’s not funny

Ever have one of those moments during a movie when you find something completely hysterical and let loose with a shrieking cackle, only to discover that nobody else in the theater is laughing? Congratulations, you are unable to tell what is and what is not funny. Get yourself into the nearest Scary Movie writing team flick and leave the rest of us to our movie. I once suffered through an afternoon screening of The Departed with a woman who apparently got a real kick out of those crazy Boston accents.

You are not in your living room

And furthermore, the audience is not comprised of people who want to listen to your inane running commentary. You might very well be a riot watching movies with your friends in your apartment, but I don’t know you, and thusly do not find you funny, witty, or enjoyable in any way. If you can’t find it within yourself to shut up for an hour and-a-half and let the audience enjoy the movie, maybe you should stick to DVDs and save the rest of us a lot of grief.

If your cell phone isn’t silent, I should legally be allowed to murder you

I’m serious. Can we contact somebody about this? I want a law allowing me to kill anyone whose cell phone rings during a movie. It’s not too much to ask for, is it? This is America, for God’s sake, and if I can’t beat a guy senseless with his own ringing mobile phone, the terrorists have truly won. There is a deep, agonizing level of Hell reserved for rapists, the members of Limp Bizkit, and people who answer their cell phones during movies. Nothing removes me as violently from a film as a ringing cell phone. It is one of the most obnoxious and grating sounds in the world, ranking up there with nails on a chalkboard and Harvey Fierstein.

Confusion is for old people and toddlers – don’t embarrass yourself

Movies are often confusing. This isn’t a bad thing. Disorienting the audience is a strategy employed by the best and the worst filmmakers. Plot twists, backstabbing characters, dream sequences… sometimes, you just don’t know what’s happening in a movie. But there are a select few moviegoers who, when confused in a movie, cannot seem to get over it. They immediately turn to their friends or even strangers to talk loudly about their confusion, asking questions like, “Is that the same guy from the flashback?” and “Wasn’t she dead?” The correct response to these and similar questions is, of course, “Watch the damn movie and maybe you’ll find out, you tool.”

You know your feet? They belong on the floor

You would think that this would be common sense, ranking up there with “Don’t fart in public” and “Don’t punch random strangers in the nuts.” But somehow it happens, often enough to illicit an entry in this hallowed list. And it’s not just the bored little kids, either, kicking the seats and running up and down the aisles because their parents couldn’t get a babysitter and decided to bring their kids along for date night. No, plenty of teenagers and even full grown and mentally functional adults think it’s perfectly alright to drop their dirty sneakers right behind your head like they're reclining in their living room. And when you turn around and kindly ask them to remove their feet from the back of your chair, they roll their eyes and act as though you’ve asked them to run and get concessions for the audience. It’s really very simple, people: keep your damn feet on the floor.

If you’re a teenager, shut the hell up

Please excuse the crotchety old man that occasionally surfaces within me, but nothing steams my beans like a rowdy group of teenagers. To think that a few short years ago, I was one of them. It sickens me. Of course many teenagers are polite and courteous and enjoy serious cinema like the best of us. But often enough I have been forced to deal with a ceaselessly chattering mob of shaggy-haired, pimple-faced teenage boys and the obnoxiously cheerful young women who somehow manage to hold their company. They talk through the trailers and through the film without fail, change seats often and seemingly at will, throw things, rock back and forth in their seats, call across the theater to their friend Brad, who showed up late after hitching a ride with his mom on the way to her workout at Curves. They are completely singular-minded, not caring for anyone in the theater but their close-knit group, disregarding everything and everyone in their desperate attempt to be liked by their equally fake and insecure friends.

Bitter? Me? No.

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