For about the last six years, I’ve felt both apprehensive and a little gloomy about the prospect of going to the movies. It’s not just that I’m worried people will talk, but also that I know for a fact that if that talking is excessive, distracting, and well above a whisper, I seem to be physically incapable of not turning around to say something. Sure, that’s my problem. I could just let it happen. I could do a demure shush or just turn around and flash a fat stink eye and hope it stops there. But anyone who counts him or herself among that particular breed of theater shamer knows first-hand that it doesn’t work. Somehow the offending party — or parties — always manage to avoid your gaze and your shushing falls on mysteriously deaf ears. The truth is that you have to deal with rude, abrasive people a little more… abrasively.
I’m not advocating that you shoot ignorant chatterers, like James Cialella did back in 2008 when one man’s loud talking was keeping him from getting swept up in the magic that was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but I am saying that a more direct approach is often required.
As promised in the last post, I hurried to my local theater — Colossus Langley, run by Famous Players, owned by Cineplex Odeon, etc. etc. — first thing after work on Saturday to see The Hunger Games so that I could churn out my 500-750 words worth of sass and pretension. My boyfriend and I bought our tickets, stood in line outside the theater door and then grabbed our seats. The movie started, and there was a certain amount of rustling from the family behind us — popcorn, pop, jackets being removed, etc. Fine, no big deal. Maybe they just arrived late. Then the movie actually starts, and it becomes apparent that the family’s young son has decided that he should serve as narrator. “That’s Buttercup!” he half-shouts when he sees Katniss’s cat. Thrilling. When a vague insult is thrown out about Haymitch’s drinking, wonderboy pipes up, “Alcohol!” Compelling stuff.
But he’s a kid. And frankly, a kid does have more of a right to be pumped about a young adult movie than I do. When I say “young,” I mean maybe 9 or 10 — not 5. And if it were just the kid running his mouth, it wouldn’t be a problem. But from what I could tell, both Mom and Dad were not only talking to the kid about the movie (asking for the finer points about the characters, or what have you), but were talking to each other. And not in whispers.
So my boyfriend and I both tried the subtle approach. We looked back a few times, they looked away. At one point, when the Dad had gone on at length, the Daily Pletteau himself half-whispered an exasperated, “Really, guys?” Nothing.
Finally, Mom, Dad and the kid get into a real gabfest, at which point I turn around and say, “I have no problem getting an usher and having you kicked out, unless you think you can stop talking for some part of this movie.”
Mom looked like I’d slapped her across the face (which was tempting), the kid didn’t seem to care, but the Father balled up a soiled napkin, threw it in my face and said, “Piss off.”
I got up and made my way to the exit and told the closest usher (outside the doors, of course) what happened. She was more surprised than I expected her to be, and she called over a Manager to handle it. The Manager took me in the theater asked me to show him where the family was sitting. He walked over, Mom and Dad start going on about how excited their little tyke was to watch the movie, and how unfair it is that he’s being told he can’t enjoy it. Manager walks over to me (keep in mind that I was quite clear that this guy threw a dirty napkin in my face) and said that both of us needed to not talk and just enjoy the movie.
So there you have it. You can talk in a movie, curse someone out, throw a dirty napkin in their face, but as long as you paid for a $20 popcorn bonanza, it’s all just a silly misunderstanding. I thought about making a complaint afterwards, but I’ve been in customer service long enough to know that all that they would have done was get Management to wave a couple of free movie vouchers in my face and effectively tell me to “piss off” as well.
Theaters want to know why people pirate movies? It’s not because we’re deviants who don’t want to pay for things. I would much rather sit in a dark movie theater than watch some ripped version at home on my couch. But at least at home I can be relatively certain that some strange assholes aren’t going to come barging in, talking and rustling their feedbags of popcorn and then throw their trash in my face because I have the audacity to ask them to adhere to the oldest movie theater rule in the book. I’m not going to make some dramatic statement about how I’ll “never go see a movie again,” because we all know that won’t happen. But at $12.50 a ticket, it would be nice if theaters would wake up and stop treating their customers like a horde of cattle being shoved into a pen. It’s one thing to have your smarmy marketing team label your customers as “guests,” it’s quite another to actually treat them like it.