Tuesday, January 17, 2006

This reminds me why I stopped going to movie theaters.

Peter Rainer, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, has a piece on movie manners for January 13, 2006. It clearly reminded me of the many reasons I just don't go to movie theaters anymore. The last big movie I saw in a theater was Star Wars: Episode 3, and it was only because I had seen the other two the same way. I went long after the buzz had passed and at off hours, anything to avoid the rude people that populate movie theaters as of late. Mr. Rainer is a film critic, so I feel sorry for him since he has to go to theaters in order to do his job. Actually, he writes that film critics can be just as obnoxious as regular people in a movie theater. He writes,

For example, there is one group (whose identity I won't divulge except to say that it dispenses Golden Globes every year) that's notorious for smuggling hot and spicy entrees into screening rooms (often poorly ventilated) while pursuing a line of nonstop chatter in heavily accented English. Then there are all those critics who pull out their lighted pens at the drop of an insight.

But that's old-school behavior. New school is bringing your laptop into the theater and typing your insights as you go along. If enough of these typists are in the theater, the collective sound is like a squadron of rats clacking across a linoleum floor.

I don't have that kind of work; I don't think anyone would want to pay for my opinions anyways, so I decided I had one rude patron too many and gave up on the whole thing. Besides, given that the movies in the theaters now will be in rentals within a few months, if not sooner, I can certainly wait and then rent anything I want to watch. Mr. Rainer has all sorts of coping ways when he does go to the movie theater, but the way I see it, I should not be the one having to cope because other selfish people feel a need to behave in a way they most likely would not behave in their home. Then again, I bet they actually behave that way in their home, if not worse, which makes a sad commentary on the state of affairs when it comes to manners.

Mr. Rainer also points out that he is middle-aged, and he has noticed the decline in manners within the last decade. I think this has been going on a bit longer than that, and I have not reached middle-age yet. So I wonder if I am really that much different. In my day, misbehaving in a theater (movie theater. Playhouses for now still have strict manners) meant serious consequences for me if I went with my parents, but even without them, people were not very tolerant of rude behavior. I don't think it was that long ago. In the end, as Mr. Rainer points out, "age has no dominion over manners." Middle-aged, older and younger can all be rude. Cellphones, kids too young to be in a theater, talking, the running commentary from some people, etc. Mr. Rainer describes them all, and I have seen them. Actually, when I think of people too rude to turn off their cellphone, I think of some very creative ways to take the device and introduce it into certain body orifices. And then theater owners wonder why their ticket sales are getting lower. I will tell you, not that they will listen.
  • The price of admission. I am sorry, but paying eight to ten dollars when I can get anywhere from three to five rentals at that price to get my movie fix is simply not reasonable. Given that movies come out on DVD so much quicker now, I honestly do not see a reason to pay that. If you have to take the family with you, do the math. My family was five members. On the high end, that would have been up to fifty dollars if we did it on today's rates.
  • The concessions. Pretty much the same rationale. My wife makes one mean popcorn. Not the microwave stuff. She uses a pot and popping corn, none of that jiffy stuff either. So, if I can get that at home, in my leisure, why would I bother with theater popcorn?
  • The movies that Hollywood is putting out as of late. With a couple of rare exceptions, let's be honest. What is coming out of the movie industry these days is pretty much crap. Why would I waste an hour and half to two hours on a bad movie? If I want to watch a television show, I will watch the reruns thank you, not the next mediocre remake. As for the few good ones, I can definitely wait.
  • The bad behavior. Well, that is what the essay is about, but I don't think the movie theater owners actually care. I am willing to bet if I made a complaint about noise, that absolutely nothing would be done. You try being disruptive in a playhouse or symphony hall, and see how long before someone escorts you out. Although, I am starting to wonder how long before the bad manners start seeping in there too. At any rate, I don't care about the idea of people feeling they have a right to answer their cellphone anywhere. In a public place, the rest of us have a right to some peace. You know what you can do with your cellphone, you inconsiderate egotist.
I make a reference to playhouses because plays are actually one performance I will go see. I don't do it very often because it requires planning on my part (reserve the seats, dress up for the ocassion, unless it is a student production or a more casual local theater) and getting a sitter for the little one. However, it is one of the few places where once the performance starts, people do shut up and actually turn off the cellphones (or put them on vibrate at least).

So don't ask me if I saw the latest film. If it is still in the theater, odds are I am waiting for it to come out on DVD to rent it. I would rather spend some quality time with my family watching something good in the privacy of my home than bothering with rude people. That's just me, but I wonder how many other people like me may be out there.


Mark said...


For all your reasons and one more: Since I am in the cornfields and we don't have the state-of-the-art in theater sound, I have a MUCH better audio system at home. My screen may be smaller, but since it is 29" and I only sit about 7' away (small room) it's not a huge difference.

And of course, one can pause to go make the popcorn once you're ready, get something to drink....

There's just too many good reasons NOT to stay at home and watch movies.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Mark: Actually, in Indiana back in the day I was in a couple of places that were almost middle of the cornfield, so I can relate to that detail of not having enough choices. The pausing is nice too.

Dean said...

On the theatres: I agree with almost all of what you said. You get overcharged and underserved. The only reason I like to go is for big movies where people are very excited, they have a certain atmosphere that conveys that.

On manners: I think it you look back over the last 100 years, everyone's parents have said their children's manners were worse than during their time. Perhaps it's been going on that long. Perhaps forever. If not, then I would think it's probably from a lack of respect earned by the parents, possibly as a result of not dealing with their children fairly but as leaders of the family - and with the same respect they expect when it is deserved.

But then, what do I know?

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Dean: Thanks for stopping by. On the experience factor, I have to agree to an extent; there is still something about the big screen and a responsive crowd, but what I have seen as of late is that the response is not exactly desirable. Thus, I am willing to forgo that in favor of a more intimate experience. In terms of manners, interesting you say that about the older generations. I think my parents and theirs would say something similar. What I do know is that if I ever misbehaved in a theater, rest assured I would get "it" at home (and "it" was not just some whimpy time-out and think about what you did in a corner either). A lot may be what you say, which I think it may boil down to parents just don't do parenting anymore. As a parent, I can tell you not easy doing it these days when everyone else seems to want to be a kid's buddy instead of a parent. But one perseveres. Best, and keep on blogging.