Seeing Movies in a Theater Has Become Almost Impossible

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As excited as I am to see Avatar this coming Sunday – I already bought my ticket for IMAX 3D, ‘cuz I’m a nerd like that – there’s a part of me that’s dreading the experience.  Going to the movies used to always be an enjoyable escape for me, but these days I find myself more selective about which theater I want to go to than I am about the actual movie I’m going to see.  The reason has nothing to do with theater location, screen size, or sound.  No, those are all secondary considerations.  Frankly, I try to find a time and a theater in which the least amount of inconsiderate people will be present, and I find that this task gets harder and harder every day.  I’m sure I’m not alone on this, and this is perhaps long overdue – but inconsiderate people have made it nearly impossible to fully enjoy a movie in the theater.

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Maybe I’m becoming more crotchety as I get older, but I really can’t remember so many rude and obnoxious people going to the movie theater when I was younger.  Hell, even when I was in high school and law school, it was rarely a problem.  Now, though, it seems as if there’s no escape.

I saw Drag Me to Hell in Times Square a couple weeks after it was released.  I’ll never see a movie in Times Square again.  I tried my best to focus on the movie and enjoy it, but several groups of people were talking throughout the entire movie.  Not certain individuals, but groups scattered throughout the theater.  Conversations were taking place in front of me and behind me, and people weren’t whispering, either.  Nope, they were talking as if they were on the street without a care in the world.  Once someone in the back started yelling out every time there was a suspenseful scene, I went into the theater’s lobby and asked for my money back.

When Paranormal Activity rolled around, I went during an afternoon to see it at the Kips Bay theater in Manhattan.  Once again, talking and shouting persisted throughout, except this time, it was from a couple of kids sitting with their mother.  The mother did absolutely nothing to discipline her children, and when one member of the audience – who must have been as annoyed as I was – asked the kids to be quiet, he was greeted with vulgarities and laughter.  The mother, of course, did nothing.  Another movie ruined, thanks to inconsideration on the part of my fellow movie-goers.

Kips Bay was always one of the “safest” places to see a movie, but now I really don’t have any safe places left.  Every time I go to see a movie, I have to anticipate that it’ll be ruined by other people.  Whispering here and there is fine, but full-on, normal-voiced conversations throughout the movie?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  At this point, an expectation of silence is completely unrealistic.

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This isn’t cool, either.  At all.

Of course, it goes far beyond talking, too.  I don’t care if it doesn’t make any noise, texting during movies is not OK.  Can you really not be away from your phone for two hours without reading or sending messages to someone?  Every time someone sends or receives a text, the bright white screen on his or her cell phone distracts everyone else in the theater.  I don’t need to see a movie in perfect, serene conditions, but little white lights flashing up all over the theater during a movie is incredibly distracting.  Wait until the movie’s over, texters.

Of course, there are people who decide to answer their ringing phones and speak to the person on the other end during a movie, so maybe I should just be thankful that the texters aren’t talking.

But instead of just bitching and whining about how horrible people behave in movie theaters (and I have a lot more anecdotes, but I’ll spare you), I’ve actually come up with a decent solution.  I know that many people – maybe some of you – are not like me and don’t think that a movie theater is a place for silence and discipline.  You’re inconsiderate and you’re wrong, but I also know that you’re not going to stop acting like assholes.  That’s fine – you can keep going to the movie theater and bothering people around you with your boorish behavior.  For the more considerate people like myself, well, I propose that some theaters (either new or existing) require adherence to a few basic rules, and failure to abide by those rules results in removal from the theater.

It’s really quite simple.  I’d like a couple of ushers (or bouncers, whichever you prefer) to stand in the back of the theater.  If someone uses their cell phone in any way – for a text or to make or receive a call – or if their phone rings, the usher simply walks over to the person and tells them to turn off or silence their phone.  If it happens again, the person is removed from the theater.  The same thing goes for talking.  You’re warned once, and if you still can’t control yourself, you’re removed.

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Excuse me.  You’re going to have to leave for being a selfish bitch.

I’d think that people who want to make noise in theaters will avoid seeing movies where rules prevent them from doing so.  And people like me, who like to enjoy their movies in uninterrupted silence, will flock in droves to these new theaters.  In fact, I’d be more than happy to shell out a few extra bucks to see a movie if it meant that any jerk would be removed for being inconsiderate.  More than happy, really.  Ecstatic.

I know that people generally suck and don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves, so expecting this trend of inconsiderate people in movie theaters to die down is simply wishful thinking.  It’s only going to get worse.  As I see it, there are two ways to deal with the problem: either stop going to the movies (which I don’t really consider an option), or have some theaters start punishing people who ruin an otherwise enjoyable experience for everyone else.

Or I may just bring a pistol to Avatar and open fire on the first moron whose phone goes off.

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49 Comments

  1. I’ve never had these kinds of problems at the movie, and I always go on cheap nights during prime time when everything is packed. I’ve also definitely seen people get kicked out for being too loud or distracting *shrug* maybe its less common in Canada.

  2. Don’t bring a real pistol. Do what I’ve taken to doing.

    I bring a water gun. Seriously.

    When you want your cat to get off the drapes Veterinarians suggest you spray it with a water gun until it learns.

    So, taking that idea a bit further. I take a water pistol. (one of the clear orange/green/pink ones you get at a dollar store, so no one thinks there is actually danger) I’ll ask someone to shut up/get off the phone/stop kicking my seat once. If they continue, I hit them stealthily with a few squirts. (unfortunately they have to be fairly close to you to avoid collateral splashing)
    You’d be surprised at the reactions you get. Usually confusion is first. Then, when I am smiling at them as they look around for the source, anger.

    In the interest of full disclosure; I’ve been kicked out of the theater twice for doing this. Once I left with clapping an cheers from the other courteous audience members. The other time I had insinuated that the gun was filled with urine after the target confronted me (it wasn’t). Both times I’ve been able to get my money back after they asked me to leave. If more of us start doing this we may be able to correct the behaviors altogether.

    Consider this a call to (water) arms. Take back the theaters!

  3. i think it’s not the fact that we get older but the poor level of brain capacity of some people. I went to a movie yesterday and a bunch of retarded teens started to do their “funny jokes” so i had to shut them up, well i admit i used a bad word but in the end they stayed quiet the whole movie. it’s really annoying.

  4. Don’t bring a pistol, bring a water pistol. If someone decides that their talking or texting is more important than other’s enjoyment of the movie, squirt them. See how they like being disrupted.

  5. I’ve noticed that movie theater in the mall suffer this far more than anything else, ie. teenagers. I’ve screamed “Shut up” in a theater in the past year more times than I have my entire life going to the movies. Perhaps my fuse is much shorter I guess.

  6. I had a tough week so I decided to watch a movie in the theater (this story is a couple years old). At the time I was a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps living in Jacksonville and it’s filled to the brim with young annoying Marines.

    I grab my seat and I can hear obviously fresh new Marines bumping their gums behind me and one of them, a female, calls out to me. I had no idea she was talking to me, so I sat down and chilled out. She got up, sat next to me and said in a very loud and annoying voice, “What’s up fucker!” then ate one of my coveted Nacho’s w/ Jalape├▒os. I looked right at her and said, “You must be a Private. Private First Class.”

    She said, “Yup, PFC.”

    I then presented her my ID, showing her that I was a First Lieutenant and her eyes opened wide. “Leave me the fuck alone,” I said and she promptly got up said “Yes, sir” and started walking away. To which I responded “What?” and she said again “Yes, sir.” Which I repeated until she got to her seat. She and her friends sat stock still and quiet throughout the film.

    It was the best and most relaxing movie visit after that.

  7. I recently had an issue with a semi-deaf guy at a movie theater talking loudly to his family (who were with him).

    I asked politely that they refrain from talking as they were very loud and distracting. They replied “We’re sorry, he’s deaf.”

    I replied “I’m very sorry he’s hard of hearing, but you’re talking is distracting and the rest of us are trying to enjoy the movie.”

    I then heard him ask his daughter what I said, she relayed my message, after which I heard him say “Tough shit.”.

    Fortunately there were some empty seats in front of them, because at that point I stood up, walked directly in front of them, turned around, opened my jacket, and put my hands on my hips so my jacket was hanging off my shoulders and elbows to block the maximum amount of screen in their view.

    I stood there and counted to sixty after they had stopped talking, then turned and said “Thanks for being so considerate.”, then sat back down.

  8. Maybe this is just a Winnipeg thing but what’s with people bringing little babies to adult movies? I’ve lost count at how many times I have seen an adult movie and someone needs a chair for their little spawn’s car seat thingy??? Hello! I know finding a babysitter sucks sometimes and I know your precious darling never cries (the cooing and other assorted baby noises are just as annoying btw) but really? We went to the opening night of Harry Potter this summer and this lady got very angry when they told her she couldn’t have the baby/car seat in the theatre as they needed the seat and for the comfort of the other people. She litterally stands up and starts demanding who hates babies and that she is being discriminated against…GAH. (Note: I dunno how she got past the ticket ripper and stuff, maybe my beef is with the theatre)

    Side story: New Moon opening night we see a very young girl with one of those baby car seat thingies coming and as she’s passing everyone she’s explaining she has one of those Home Ec dolls and she’s figured out how to disable it for the movie, haha (why bring it in the first place and not leave it in the car I dunno, still made me laugh)

  9. There are many problems with the ushers in the back , starting with ticket prices. The price of a ticket in prime time (ie after 6pm) are already frikin over the top, but if you start hiring more ushers just to stand in the back of the theaters will send them to the $20 range. Even if you pay the extra cash for the “bouncers” the fact your movie experience is already ruined by the phone then someone walking from the back to make the confrontation.
    The only time i go to the movies is during a weekday before 6pm for minimum interruption. Not only are the people sparse but its usually a lot cheaper. I know this is not a solution for everyone, but going to the opening night of Avatar and expecting everyone to be respectful is just a pipe dream.

  10. Tell me about it. I usually wait a few weeks after the movie has premiered around the theaters and then go during the week at the time when most people are at work and the kids are in school. Works even better when the weather sucks. With this I have achieved very good results. I quite often manage to land in a theater with only five six other people and sometimes even with one or two. And let me tell you man you have no idea how much of a great experience it is to see a movie when you are almost by yourself. I am kinda getting why all those rich people are building their own private theaters

    Of course this comes with a price namely having to wait a few weeks but it’s more then worth it

  11. @ Adam

    Well, I’d gladly pay more for peace and quiet during a movie. I know not everyone can, but I’d be happy to.

    And at first, yes, the bouncers would be a distraction, but soon enough, I think that the theater would develop a “zero tolerance” reputation and hopefully the inconsiderate types would see movies somewhere else.

  12. This is one of my most hated things in the world. You’re in a damned theater, be fucking quiet. The worst part really isn’t the talking, though, it’s the jackasses who don’t realize that you are NOT supposed to eat with your mouth full.

    Personally, I have a better way of doing things. Have one showing a day for movies released in the last week or so (blockbusters could be longer, of course) that prohibits food being taken into the theater and charge $2 more per ticket for it. Do it in the mornings and afternoons when less people are seeing movies. Most people seem to think that movies are social occasions that require eating, texting, talking, etc. (surprise: they’re NOT!) and the easiest of those to remove would be the eating.

    So have an usher standing outside said showing ensuring that no one brings food in (and inform people when buying that ticket, of course) and I think a lot of the problem would be solved. You would get only the people who actually want to appreciate the movie (and thus are willing to pay an extra buck or two for the silence) and the theater wouldn’t see much of a hit in the revenue, since few people would attend these showings.

  13. Should clarify that last bit: They would see a hit when it came to those theaters, but might be able to make up for it in the extra buck or two being charged (especially since not many people see movies at 11am on Fridays). The extra buck or two would make up for the concession sales lost since a lot of these people (myself included) seem to avoid the concession stands except for a drink, so they aren’t making any money there anyway.

  14. I go to the theater once a week, me and a friend always go on Mondays to this one regal theater out in the middle of no where. we consider it a large crowd when there are 4 other people in the theater with us. the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen there was actually last night for a Rifftrax event that was taking place, but last monday when we saw armored (read my review by clicking on my name) there was one elderly couple there. I don’t like that we don’t get a lot of the limited releases in the theater, but I wouldn’t trade the small crowds for anything

  15. When I saw Fantastic Mr Fox last weekend, there was 3 people in the theater. AH-MAZING. But it’s also sad more people aren’t seeing it.

    Texting is just as annoying, people.

  16. I hate this too. Unfortunately, there is only a single theater in my relatively small town, and it seems like the ratio of inconsiderate jackasses to courteous people has gone up in the last few years. I rarely go to the movies anymore, thanks to Netflix. It sucks to have to wait several months to see movies though.

    Once, my wife and I were in a theater and a mother and her kids came in and sat directly in front of us. The kids were talking really loud during the previews, so we moved. As we’re moving, one of the kids says “bye” really loudly, as if we were overreacting by moving. The mother didn’t say a word. I didn’t respond, but this struck me as incredibly rude and stupid.

    I have always wanted to explode like George Costanza when he was trying his “opposite of every instinct I’ve ever had” life strategy. I would imagine that most people would shut up if you really came unglued like that, but I have yet to do it. If I did, I’m afraid I’d end up with assault charges being brought against me or something.

  17. Im going to see avatar saturday in imax 3d during lunchtime when all the little bastards who have to eat will be eating lunch…I’m bringin a water pistol…thats the best idea of all time…and im sure during the movie i will be saying “SHUT THE F*ck UP” at least once. Everytime i go to the movies i say it at least once and it works

  18. I guess I’m lucky since I don’t encounter the problem of people talking during a movie often, but I always seem to get some douchebag who kicks my seat during a movie. Sometimes its a little kid, but most of the time its someone my age(20) or older. Seriously, if you can’t sit still for a movie, get the hell outta the theater. I think that watergun idea would be the best strategy for that problem, other then kicking that person in the face with a steel-toed boot.
    Also, I don’t get why people bring their babies to movies. Not kids that are two or three, but infants that are like six months old. I went to see the recent Indiana Jones two springs ago, and for half the movie a baby’s screaming its head off because of the loud noises, explosions, and russians screaming. And people wonder why their kids have bad hearing. I just didn’t get how a baby would find any amusement watching the movie and why the parents couldn’t wait till it came out on dvd. It wasn’t that great anyway.

  19. I’m with all you guys – inconsiderate movie watchers suck moose balls. I try to avoid the big multiplexes so that I can skip the jerks, and it seems to work. My hometown has two mom-and-pop independent theaters which are always nice, quiet, relaxing places to see movies. Also, the lesser cinemas like the one at the downtown mall are usually okay because people tend to go to the giant multiplex cinemas instead.
    That being said, I went to see “Ninja Assassin” a few weeks ago and it was all I could do not to splatter the screen with the blood of the idiots sitting behind me. They committed all of the sins desribed above – talking loudly (in Arabic, too, so that they could play dumb when someone told them to shut up), texting, both answering AND making phone calls. I tell ya, I heard a collective sigh of relief from the whole audience when they left 45 minutes in.

    Now, there are exceptions, I think. Certain movies like “Drag Me To Hell” warrant a little whooping and hollering because everyone knows what kind of movie they’re going to see and want to get a bit rowdy. Talking, texting, and cell phone use is NOT cool, but I’m all for a rowdy late-night horror movie crowd really getting into things.

  20. i don’t understand why theaters don’t adopt the technology that block cell phone signals… it’s not that new and it would benefit everyone. the worst is when i see someone seriously updating their facebook status “district 9 was SOO kick-ass” before the movie is even over. if you can’t handle being without your phone or the internet for 2 hours, then you need to be locked away. i haven’t been to the theater in months when i used to go at least once a week. i can’t handle it, and my goal has been to open my own theater. all you need is one usher standing in the back of the theater… if you use your cell phone or talk, you are out… there are no second chances in my theater. you will be escorted out, no refunds, no discussion. i would also refuse the right to serve any customers i wanted. there would be no military discounts. say what you will, but i live in a marine town, and they are the WORST. i would rather lose their business than to deal with their rudeness.

  21. I hate teenagers at movies and thats saying something because i am one (17). The best way to avoid us is to see the “big” movie second or third week after its release. As for horror movies, well your screwed, because people are frankly stupid. Teens see horror movie and then talk when they get too scared which completely misses the point of seeing the movie. If you dont wanna be scared, dont go!
    On behalf of all teenagers let me apologize, were sorry. I feel like a dick.

  22. I cannot stand arrogant wankers who make any kind of noise in a movie theater. Whispering is fine, but conversations, using your phone at all, and overtly loud responses to the movie are just intolerable.

    I do not even hesitate to tell them to can it. I’ll even get off my seat and walk over to tell them to shut the f*** up or GTFO.
    I find aggressively conveying my stance is always met with compliance. If you don’t have respect, you won’t get respect.

    What’s wrong with just sitting there and enjoying the movie?

    Movie prices are ridiculously expensive and when a movie is worth it enough to go and pay to see it on the big screen,
    I won’t stand for some jerk off who thinks they are more important than everyone else.

  23. I went to the Roxy Theatre in Philadelphia for a preview showing of “I Love You, Man” and had a great experience. Although it was a very small theater, they had an usher who was extremely strict. If anyone started talking or making any form of disturbance he would come swooping in to silence them. Anyone who opened their cell phone, even if it was just to check the TIME, he came by and told them to turn it off. I agree whole-heartedly, I feel most theaters should use their ushers as more than just clean up guys. Use them as how they’re supposed to be, to eject problem customers.

  24. You know, I actually just stopped going to the theater. With Netflix and Red Box, what’s the point? I’m not even bothered by these threats of delaying new DVD releases 30 days – by the time they roll out, I’ve already waited so long, so who cares?

    It’s surprisingly easy to avoid spoilers online for anything I actually care about. And, yeah, every so often, someone “ruins” the plot of something for me, but compared to having the experience literally ruined by a bunch of rude motherfuckers in the theater, I’ll take the plot exposure.

    The first big test of the system was The Dark Knight, but I stuck it out, and frankly, I’m glad I did.

  25. It might stem from living in Boise, Idaho but I’ve only ever had problems at a theater once in my life. I went to the movies with some friends 28 Weeks Later if memory serves, terrible movie granted, but from the time the previews started this jackass in front of me started with the commentary and the texting and even once an actual phone conversation. I asked him to be quiet once and he turned around and told me to shut the fuck up. Not being the peaceful type I was gonna oblige him the fight he was clearly after but half the theater stood up and chased him out.

  26. I totally could not agree with this more. However the problem with the ushers is that they’re usually about 15 and retarded. In Brooklyn I experience this all the time and as such do the same thing, go on odd off hours (if you want to see a new movie go to an early showing during the day Friday or wait till sometime on a weekday). That usually does work. I once though was in a theater where a group was asked to be quiet and immediately stood up and pulled out guns. That was unpleasant.

  27. It’s always the seat-kickers where I live. If the theatre isn’t totally full, my plan of attack is typically to move behind them and then start kicking their seat. Poetic justice.

    Worse than all the people, their eating and their texting, is the new fad with the incredibly shaky camera angles. I’ve gotten serious motion sickness at least in 1 in every 3 movies I’ve seen recently. It’s not like I’m stupid either. I know movies like District 9 and Paranormal Activity will make me sick. They’re advertised as such. But goddamn Where the Wild Things Are required a bathroom break to choke back vomit and Star Trek had me leaving the theatre to blow chunks in a trash can outside. Before probably two years ago, I never had this problem. For fuck’s sake, use a steady-cam.

    I’ll put up with all the seat-kickers in the world as long as I get to spend $10 to see a movie instead of a vomit-inducing over-hyped torture machine.

  28. Jenn, I really think that is simply your problem. You can’t expect film makers to not use certain camera techniques or effects because it makes a tiny, insignificant portion of the audience sick. If you suffer from motion related sickness, don’t go to movies.

    Having said that, I do admit that they can tend to over use this new fad of camera shaking. But removing it completely is just nonsense.

    In other news, I am pleased to report that yesterday when I went to see Avatar, the crowd was so transfixed by the movie, not one person spoke, used their phone or even so much as coughed throughout the entire thing. Considering the cinema was packed full
    (it was a large cinema, 360ish seating capacity)
    and not one person made a peep throughout the entire thing, I think that says something for Avatar…

  29. Madison,
    I am a seventeen year old high school senior, and I completely agree with you. I hate actually going to theaters now. Everything you said about the annoyances are true, but I don’t think thats the only problem. I really think theaters are just becoming way too crowded nowadays, and the crowds, even if everyone is trying to be quiet, magnify the noise to an unbearable level. The one movie I have been too in the last couple of years that has had a crowd and actually ben quiet was in fact Avatar, and that was only because everyone was slackjawed at the graphics. I hope you can get some places to implement your idea. I’d totally be up to do it and for minimum wage (oh, and by the way I live in Westchester and attend Regis in Manhattan, so I could totally do it in Manhattan).

  30. I’m curious how old the writer is. I’m only 36 and when I was younger we had ushers/ bouncers who would patrol the theater 2-3 times a movie and/ or stand in the back otherwise. Yeah, it sucked because you could never put your feet up on the seat in front of you, but it rocked because everyone, for the most part, would stfu for the entire movie.

    We as consumers have to take the theaters back and let them know with our wallets that we will not accept the viewing environment that they are offering us.

    I don’t blame people for not confronting the rude people in a theater; you don’t know what gun toting thug asshole ( not all people who carry guns are assholes, fwiw) is gonna prove that he’s bad ass for putting it in your face. Further, it is not our job to have to shush people, its the theaters. They, however, are choosing to make their establishments shitty places to spend $11.

    TAKE THE THEATERS BACK!!!

  31. I no longer go to the theaters to see movies. I simply cannot tolerate what they have become. Yes, it has gotten much, much worse in the past few years, much of it due to the current generation’s “I do whatever feels best for me” attitude (No, I am not an old man… I am actually part of the current generation, and I see it in my peers all of the time). I would really like to see Avatar, but refuse to see it in a theater and have other people ruin it for me. I hope the time comes when theaters actually do something about this ever growing problem, and maybe I can enjoy them once again. However, for now, I will keep my money.

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