I am the Sherriff of Movie Town

I must confess that I am a movie snob.  I always see the oval dot.  You know the one in the top right corner of the screen that tells the projectionist when to start the next part of the film (this of course is an anachronism, as films are now rolled up on platters if they are still even produced on actual film at all and not a digital image).  If there is a repair in the screen, trash on it or a pin-sized hole, I find it extremely distracting.  There is a cinema called the Rave that I went to once where I could see a slight reflection of some speakers through the screen.  It bothered me throughout the whole movie, and I never went back. 

On another occasion, at the late show, the projector actually broke with about five minutes left in the movie Jackie Brown.  They gave me a free pass to come back and see the end.  I did not.  In fact, I have made it a point to never see the actual ending of that movie.  I just made up my own ending in my mind.  In my version Louis Gara (Robert DeNiro) comes back to life and kills the entire cast of characters and director Quentin Tarantino.  He then kills Nick Nolte and the cast of Cape Fear.  He caps off this award deserving performance by arriving at the theatre where I saw the movie and killing the incompetent and unprepared projectionist.  The point is, if I am going to plop down my $10 to see the newest supposedly great flick, I want it to be the best experience that it can be. 

When I was growing up, I lived in a moderately sized suburban community north of Dallas.  For most of my youth, it had one cinema with two ‘houses’ inside.  The seats were small and crowded, and the sound system was primitive.

Then, someone built a mall with a larger multiplex that had 10 houses featuring actual THX and Dolby sound.  It was great, except of course for the bleed-over sound from the other houses.  I remember seeing one movie there.  I don’t actually remember the movie, but I remember the one next door.  It was Congo.  The whole time, I was sitting there, I was wondering why I was not enjoying getting two movies for the price of one or at least the sound from two movies for the price of one.  It was awful.  However, in the same theatre, I remember watching Jurassic Park.  This time I was in the house with the soundtrack that downed everything else out.  There was one point when the characters on screen were walking around outside, and I actually heard something moving through the forest behind and to the right of me.  A good surround sound track can definitely add a lot to a movie. 

Later, in college, I went to another decent theatre with good sound and saw the greatness of The Hunt for Red October on the big screen.  It was this movie, and later, The Last of the Mohicans that made me realize the greatness of watching a movie on the ‘big screen’, especially when it deserves to be there.  In the case of Red October, I remember the submarines slowly moving across the whole screen, emphasizing their huge size.  In Mohicans, there were moments when a battle was taking place that encompassed the whole screen.  I particularly remember when Chingachgook hurled his axe/sword completely across the scene in one battle.  I saw this movie later on video (regular definition), and the battle scenes seemed very disjointed.

After I came home from college, the greatness of Grapevine Mills was built.  It was the first of the modern ‘stadium seating’ theatres that was close enough to go to on a regular basis.  That place was and is great.  It has great sound, huge screens, tall backed chairs, raise-able armrests, and aisles between the rows of seats that are wide enough walk down without touching the sitting folks or having to have them stand up as you are making your way to your seat.  It is movie heaven, and even though I live much further away now, I will still drive there to see a movie.

Unfortunately, as the years have moved forward, movie decorum has not, in fact, it has digressed.  Sometime during all of this, I appointed myself the Sherriff of Movie Town, and I began to codify a set of laws that in my opinion should actually eventually be ratified as a constitutional amendment.

Section 1: Food and Drink

I do not care what you have to eat or drink in a theatre.  The price that they charge for their food and drinks is outrageous.  If you can squeeze a side of beef into the chair next to you and gnaw on it for the entire movie, I don’t care as long as you do not bother me.  That being said, there are ways to abuse food or drink in a movie theatre.

1. Do not bring candy or food with wrappers that audibly crinkle or rattle.  Unfortunately in some cases the theatre will sell actually sell candy that makes noise.  If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having food in which the wrapper makes noise, the onus is on you, the purchaser.  You need to find a way to silence it or put it away until later.

2. Do not bring food that has an audible crunch such as Doritos.  Other issues covered by this include, smacking while you chew your food, smacking or popping your gum, and crunching the ice at the bottom of your cup.

3. Do not move your straw up and down in your cup so as to makes the sound of a wounded baby harp seal.  Why are you the only person who does not notice this?  Thanks to a friend for this submission.

Section 2: Respecting and Occupying your seat and repect the seat of others.

1. Arriving Late:  Did you see that line of people outside?  Yeah, the one with the people behind the rope waiting for the movies in the next house when you came in late?  All of those people who are sitting up there in the good seats in the theatre that you just walked into late did that too.  That’s why they have the good seats.  Don’t stand at the bottom of the stadium seating looking up at the crowd and talking with your friends in the expectation that there are five seats together up there that no one else saw.  And please, do not violate the sanctity of someone’s coveted empty-side-seat (the coveted empty seat next to you that you have strategically arranged to be there by the way you sat so that there would not be a stranger next to you) by asking them to move down.  Go and sit down at the front of the theatre where the people who walk in late are supposed to sit.

2. Staying in your seat:  This rarely applies to anyone over the age of 18.  It’s funny that when you actually pay that $10 of your own good money to see a movie, you actually want to see it.  On the contrary, unaccompanied groups of minors as many as ten strong inevitably enter a theatre and spend the next two hours repeatedly entering and leaving the theatre en masse.  The best way to combat this is for parents to explain to their children the importance of staying in their seats, or better yet, these parents could actually make sure their children ages 10 to 14, actually have a chaperone when going to the movies with friends.

3. Kicking the seat in front of you:  It’s amazing, but this problem occurs more than a person would think.  A person who is oblivious to the world around him will absentmindedly kick the back of the chair in front of him.  The poor person in the chair being kicked had no idea that there would be Morse Code subtitles associated with this particular movie.  I know you want to really get into the movie, and sometimes you actually feel nervous for the characters on the screen, but you must remember that you are not the only person in the theatre.  Police yourself.  Sit on your foot if you have to.

Section 3: Strong Scents:

1. Perfume or cologne.  Few things are worse than trying to escape into the fantasy world of a good movie while being continually dragged back to musk-land by the 14 year old Axe saturated kid four rows behind you or the woman, sitting alone, who smells like a candle factory at the end of the aisle.  Look, no one is going to stand up during the middle of a movie and approach you with the line, “What a wonderful aroma you have.  Is that a flower shop or just your armpits?  Can I get your number?”

2. Body odor:  This is worse.  Be on the lookout for this at Star Wars premiers or movies based on comic books.  These guys are usually alone, unshaven and are playing with a portable video game or reading a book while waiting near the front of the line for these movies.  Be strategic and make sure you are not sitting anywhere near them.  Social mores are lost on these guys, so don’t waste your time.  They just do not understand.

Section 4: Smoking

Really.  Does this really need to be said?  Unfortunately, the answer is, “Yes.”  I was actually in a theatre where a guy lit-up once.  Luckily for everyone else the Sherriff was in town.  I moved as fast as I ever have to get the ushers, and surprisingly, they actually kicked the guy out of the theatre.  Good.

Section 4: Sex and PDA

1. Public Displays of Affection:  When you go to see a movie, the point is to watch it.  Though they are legendary as places to first hold hands or put your arm around the girl on your first date (which is fine), they are not places to express you chosen sexual preference or reaffirm the physical bond between to people who already have an intimate relationship.

2. Sex: Again, does this really need to be said?  Well, I have failed to mention that I actually worked at a theatre many years ago, and had a patron come out of one of the houses to tell me that a teenage couple was actually having sex on the back row.  Being the responsible guy I am, I referred the gentleman to my female manager and beat a hasty retreat.

There have to be a million better places to have sex than a theatre with other people, including children in attendance.  Find one of them.

Section 5: Foreign Objects

1. Throwing things at the screen.  This one is generally abused by teenagers who seem to get a kick out of throwing popcorn and other things at the screen so they can see how it catches the light and casts annoying shadows on the screen.  Stop it!

2. Laser Pointers.  I generally do not subscribe to any form of Sharia Law, but in this case I would not be opposed to cutting the hands off of those responsible for this.  I actually saw this happen in a crowded theatre during the first week of Saving Private Ryan, and I thought the crowd was going to attack the kids who were responsible.  It is difficult to find a better example of full blown egocentrism than using a laser pointer at a movie theatre.

Section 6:  Small Children:

1. Inappropriate Movies:  That rating that they put next to the title of the movie is to assist parents in making wholesome choices for their children.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had a guy tell me with a horrified expression on his face, “I went to Saw [for example] last night and there was a guy on my row with his seven year old son!”  I have a friend who saw five year old at 300.  Are you kidding me?  This is yet another unfortunate example of a parent feeling that life is all about them.  They have kids for their own enjoyment, and they see movies for the same reason.  So, why can’t the two go together?  It’s just a shame, and I really don’t have a good answer for it other than this rant.

2. Day Care:  I think some parents mistake movie theatres for day care centers.  Some mothers drop their kids off at the theatre in the evening so they can go and get laid by Hairplugguy0001 that they met online today.  These women will encourage their children by saying, “If I’m not there when the movie is over, just go into another movie.”  Later, they are still on the date as their ten year old kids sneak into the late show of Basic Instinct II for a little sex education.

3. Chaperones:  If your kids below the age of 14 ever go to the movies with a group of kids or you take a group of their friends to the movies, you need to make sure that they have a chaperone or chaperone them yourself.  This means that you or the accompanying adult needs to buy a ticket to Cars and watch it with them.  This does not mean that they go to see Cars while you go see The Notebook.

4. The Crying Child:  No, this is not a movie with a very unfortunate and inappropriate plot line (sorry).  If you are in a movie, a church service or a wedding and you child starts crying, the best thing to do is to politely excuse yourself to the foyer until they are able to regain their composure.  It is not going to kill you to miss a minute or two of the movie while expressing your love to your children and being polite to the other people in the theatre at the same time.

Section 7: Keeping Quiet

1. Talking:  In general, movies are not good places to have a business meeting, catch up on things with an old college buddy, gossip, or get to know someone.  And, if you are the person who cannot follow the plot and needs a constant update, maybe DVR would be better for you.  In that case, you can stop the movie, and ask for an update or rewind and try to catch what you missed without bothering a whole theatre full of people.

2. Coughing:  We all do it, and for the most part it is just something that you have to understand is going to happen when you attend a movie.  However, once you have lost control of the situation or if it is incessant, you owe it to the rest of the crowd excuse yourself for a drink or a cough drop, or in the worst case to actually surrender to the sickness and go home.  Besides, it is not very thoughtful to sit in a room with re-circulated air and infect everyone with your tuberculosis.

3. Crowd Reaction: This is a touchy situation.  I have seen two or three movie on opening night where the infectious reaction of the crowd added to the experience.  However, if you find yourself being the only person who is laughing out loud repeatedly, or if you feel compelled to warn a character by saying, “Don’t go in there!,” it may be time to reevaluate your active participation in the movie experience.  Remember, the movie is not about you.

Section 8: Cell Phones

1. Ringers off:  Turn your ringers off!  ‘Moto’ is not in the theatre, and no one needs to be calling out for him.  Turn them off, or leave them at home or in the car.  If you have to know when you are getting a call, put it on vibrate, and put it in the pocket of your shirt.

2. Looking to see who called:  This is a favorite of the unaccompanied minor who sits with his friend in the front of the theatre.  They might as well light a fire down there.  It would be just as distracting.  All you have to do is to politely excuse yourself to the foyer and see if it is an emergency.

3. Texting: Please see the description above regarding “looking to see who called” and stop it!

4. Answering the phone and talking on it in the theatre:  I swear I saw this happened once, and it was the guy sitting next to me.  After my head exploded, I turned to the guy and said, “Take that outside.”  He actually cursed me, and I actually did not kill him.  I did walk past him, found an usher and had him removed.  Obliviot.

As you can see, I am a little passionate about this, but isn’t it time for all of us to pull together so that we can help each other have a more enjoyable movie-going experience. Or, maybe I’ll just by that 62 inch LCD screen, and eliminate these problems all together.

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