This article is authored by KELI GOFF at THE HUFFINGTON POST

When a friend of mine jokingly insinuated that I might consider enrolling in an anger management course so that “we don’t get shot” the next time we go to the movies – which she is 100 per cent convinced almost happened during our last trip – I thought maybe, just maybe, she was right.

Which of course meant that maybe, just maybe, I had been wrong when I loudly reprimanded a group of rude moviegoers during our last popcorn adventure – moviegoers who then ominously threatened to go “get someone.”

Then I came across the following posting (more like a diatribe…and I mean that as a compliment) on the media blog Gawker.

Based on the post, but more specifically the comments it generated, clearly I am not the only one for whom moviegoing has become as fraught as navigating a freeway on a motorcycle at rush hour – in all its crowded, traffic filled, not to mention road rage filled, glory.

Several months ago THE NEW YORK TIMES explored a number of theories for the declining box office revenues of major Hollywood stars. I could have saved them the trouble and summarized the reason in one sentence. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but going to the movies has officially become about as pleasant as a trip to the DMV or flying commercial post 9/11.

(And I certainly don’t mean either comparison as a compliment.)

When my friend asked me the last time I saw a movie before the one that resulted in our near altercation, I could hardly remember. And yet I enjoy films.

But I realized that I have actually attended far more Broadway shows this year than movies, despite the enormous price disparity between the two activities. After a few minutes of contemplation it dawned on me the last film I saw in a theater was THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE during a weekday matinee.

No fuss. No muss. No drama.

But recently venturing out to a Saturday night opening weekend in New York made me gladly willing to trade the temporary indignity of airport shoe removal for the herculean hassle of finding a seat during a crowded screening – and more specifically of finding a seat NOT located near someone who’s definition of multitasking is texting, talking on the phone, or to their neighbour DURING the movie.

Before you ask: no, I am not guilt free. I am sure I have probably broken every one of the tips below at some point in my movie going life.

(In fact I will confess to a mortifying cell phone moment during a screening of AMERICAN BEAUTY years ago that still makes me blush – and triple check that my phone is off at the theatre – till this very day.) So just think of me as someone who has found religion and is now determined to spread the good word.


5. Turn your gadgets off. Seriously.

Like many of you I have more gadgets than I probably need. But there are certain places where NO ONE should have them on or within reach because they are disruptive and a distraction – to EVERYONE. In the examination room at the OBGYN is one place that comes to mind and at the movie theatre is another. If your wife is expecting a baby or you are expecting a call from your son in a different time zone calling to tell you which law school he got accepted to, congratulations to you.

But please stay home.

There is this lovely service called Netflix and a machine called a DVD player that can keep you company while you await your urgent calls and conduct your conversations in the privacy of your own home. By the way, texting is just as bad. I’m just as addicted to it as you are but the tap, tap, tapping can be just as annoying to your neighbors as your yak, yak, yakking.

4. Unless it is a true emergency – please, for the love of humanity – keep your seats.

I thought it was bad when I watched a grown woman answer her phone mid film, then a teenager decided to enter and exit our row three separate times during one film to take phone calls outside. By the third time I was actually debating whether it would simply be more convenient for everyone if we all convinced him to just finish his chat right there in the theatre.

So unless it is a true emergency, one that involves bodily functions or death, please keep your seats.

Saying “Excuse me” is nice. But the truth is it’s distracting when you leave and even more distracting when you return so if you can, just relax and enjoy the show – the WHOLE show!

3. If it is not a children’s movie and you cannot find a babysitter, please stay home (with your lovely children).

I won’t even try to describe the awkwardness that ensued when someone decided to bring a 5 year old to a late night Saturday showing of Bad Santa. (Yes, the film where Billy Bob Thornton not only seems to determined to prove that there is no Santa – but that if there is one, he swears a lot and is a fan of anal sex references.) I would like to add an addendum to this one.

If it is a so called children’s movie but an adult show time, (i.e. 10 pm or later) please leave unruly kids at home. I recently saw The Princess & The Frog. It would have been nice to hear the film as well. But thanks to a toddler who was clearly not in agreement with her guardian’s assessment that 11 pm is not too late to have a toddler out and about I didn’t hear most of the film. Neither did my neighbours. The guardian’s defense upon being shushed multiple times (by multiple people): “Hey, it’s a kids’ movie.”

Umm, ok but isn’t it also past your kid’s bedtime? The kid in question clearly had more brain cells than the babysitter/mom/aunt eventually shouting, “I want to leave!” just before midnight. I guarantee you if they had, the entire theatre would have burst into spontaneous applause.

2. Unless you are literally shouting FIRE in a crowded theat
eer, please zip it.

Laughter is ok (after all, isn’t that why a lot of us go to the movies?) but speaking is not. Even if you think that you’re speaking in a whisper when you lean over to tell your spouse/child/friend that the star or costar or villain from the movie is the same actor from that movie you saw six months ago, trust me, we can hear you.

We can ALL hear you and we did not pay to hear you. We paid to hear the movie.

1. Just like a flight, or job interview, you need to arrive on time. And that means BEFORE the movie begins.

If you’re late to the theatre and proceed to try to take your seats, you’re not only announcing to the world that you are incapable of arriving on time even when given a 10 – 15 minute grace period known as previews.

But you are also announcing to an entire audience of people: “Hey, I know you rearranged your whole day so you could get here on time, pick the perfect seat and see your favourite actor go for Oscar gold. But I don’t really care. I’m late and I can’t find the group I’m supposed to sit with so instead of staring at Terrence Howard and listening to his opening monologue, you can stare at my backside in silhouette and listen to me say ‘Excuse me’ repeatedly for the next six minutes.”

THE ALVIN AILEY DANCE COMPANY has a terrific policy. If you miss curtain, you are escorted to a private upper balcony area until intermission regardless of how much you paid for your tickets. (As one of my friends unfortunately discovered.)

So how about the next time you and your posse open the door to a crowded theatre and see that the previews have ended and the movie has begun, in the spirit of the season do something selfless. Turn around. Go back to management and ask to exchange your tickets for a later show. Just think, you’ll be super duper early for that one and probably make someone else’s holiday viewing experience a little bit better.

Tis the season for giving after all.

Here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy holiday and New Year!

And a peaceful time at the movies.


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