In the last year or so I’ve become almost as comfortable in the local theater as in my own living room. I’m what you’d call a frequent filmgoer, and am reclining in front of a theater screen once a week whether or not I write a review. The rest of the time I’m streaming something on Netflix or trying to keep up with the myriad addictive TV shows airing right now. I confess I sometimes feel like a blank-faced robot sitting in front of screens most of my waking hours. (C’est la vie, or La vita è bella, depending on your viewpoint.)
Seeing a movie in the theater is a singular experience. It’s seeing a movie the way the filmmakers want you to see it. When the lights go down, the screen becomes the only brightness in a dark room, and all eyes focus on the eerie glow. Word of mouth fables are a part of human cultural evolution; our ancestors sat around campfires reciting tall tales, and the theater is perhaps the modern equivalent of those campfire stories. It’s one of the only ways in which a large group of strangers gets together to enjoy something together, and yet separately–because films affect each of us differently (which makes my job difficult sometimes). With the advent of home theater technology and the internet, the theater experience is (sadly) becoming unnecessary. I still prefer it, even when the movie’s terrible.
No matter the value of the theater “experience,” there are times when I bite my tongue against chiding my fellow viewers or have to restrain myself from smacking them upside the head. I won’t bother going into seat-kickers and unnecessary talkers, because we’re all familiar with those. What follows is a list of my own personal moviegoer pet peeves.
1. THE CELL PHONE ADDICT. You know those commercials that air before movies requesting in some sugary-sweet way that you should be courteous and “set your phone for no sound and no light”? They’re not for your entertainment. I’m not even referring to jerks who actually talk on their phones, or someone whose phone accidentally rings, causing them to scramble red-faced to shut the thing off (although that happened during the suicide scene in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, nearly ruining the whole experience for me). No, I mean the one who can’t seem to get through a two-hour movie without checking his phone every two minutes. You are NOT that popular, and we all paid far too much for this movie to watch you giggle in your green-tinged LCD light at whatever super witty thing your friend just sent you. That light you think is really dim? Yeah, it’s not. We can all see it.
2. THE REPEATER. We just heard the line when the actor said it. You really, really don’t need to repeat it. Laughter will suffice to express your entertainment and admiration for a great script.
3. THE ONE WITH THAT GUY WHO DID THAT THING. This one isn’t regarding a theater experience, per se, but a type of moviegoer who can never seem to remember the name of a film or anyone who acted in it. “It’s that one where that guy did that thing with that other guy!” she says, staring at you like you know, that one! My generic response has become, “Oh yeah, where they did that one thing and that other guy came in and saved the day!” Perhaps this is a bit snarky, but usually the offender then provides the details needed.
4. THE ONES WHO CAN’T FIND A BABYSITTER. I’m not referring to that baby who wouldn’t stop crying during Up or How to Train Your Dragon, but those parents who really wanted to see, say, A History of Violence and brought their two-year-old along. First of all, way to scar your baby for life. Secondly, I know how tough it must be to have kids and want to be an adult for two hours, but please, for our sake and theirs, leave your children at home for that.
5. THE SMART-ASS. Okay, buddy, we get that you think you’re awesome. There’s really no need to make jokes loudly enough that the whole theater can “appreciate” them. We are here to see a movie, and not to listen to your arrogant self complain, snark, or joke. So quit it.
What pet peeves have you, fellow cinema viewers? Come on, everybody’s got ‘em, and the internet’s the best place to vent ‘em.
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