Opinion – “Movie Theater Etiquette” by Laurie Coker

If I wanted to watch a movie with various distractions, snuggled under a blanket and chatting with my buddies, I’d stay at home, invite a crowd, wrestle with my dogs and regulate my own thermostat. At home I wouldn’t care if the phone rang or if someone talked, because I can always rewind, but there needs to be some sense of decorum and reasonable comfort level in a public movie theatre, especially for the price of a ticket these days.  Be it cleanliness, personal behavior, general ettiquette, or comfort, a trip to the movies should hold some level of specialness especially to warrant the high prices for movie tickets and concessions.

Is there some unwritten rule about temperatures in movie houses? And who is in charge of regulating the thermostat? Occasionally, I have been too warm in a theatre, but I can count those times on one hand. I must have a propensity for choosing the seat directly below an air vent, in line with an arctic breeze blowing mercilessly on my seat. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it is spring, summer, fall or winter; I am almost always freezing in the cinema, with a blizzard-style wind blowing down on me, turning my fingernails purple and forcing me to tuck my hands inside of my shirt.

I have noticed too, that I am not alone in this. People have taken to carrying blankets, jackets and other wraps into the theatre year round. I realize the difficulty theatre managers face trying to please all of the people all of the time, but winter wear in the summer months should be telling someone something about the frigid temperatures.Texasis hot and we do appreciate good air conditioning, but must we be subjected to shivers and rattling teeth?

And while I am on my soap box – who doesn’t realize it is bad form to keep a crying child in a theatre or that it is down-right RUDE to let a cell phone ring and WORSE yet, to answer it and carry on a conversation. I attend so many screenings that I am beginning to wonder if folks who pick up free passes believe, since the movie is free, that it is acceptable bring all the kiddies and to heck to proper cinema etiquette.

I have seen small children, toddlers and even infants in films that freak me out and I am adult. Some woman had her three small children in a screening of Seven Psychopaths. Talk about creating nightmares!  Have we gotten so numb to violence and gore that we find it acceptable to subject our children to it? Years ago I had a huge argument with a colleague who took her daughter to see Braveheart when the girl was only five and later, to see Hannibal and the child was all of ten. NUTS! What happened to the Wonderful World of Disney? Once I found myself in a disagreement with a woman who decided to stand her chortling child up on her knee – directly in my sight range – and talk baby talk to her during a screening. What is with that? This inconsiderate lady had already taken up an extra seat in a full theatre for her child carrier, and was verbally testy when a gentleman asked if he could sit in it. The poor fellow, party to a fiendish stare, was already separated from the person with whom he had come to see the film and had to sit next to the witch for the duration.

Even more bizarre was the woman who instructed her son to run around the theatre stealing all the radio station prizes stashed under seats for screening patrons. Several of us saw him, caught him and returned the stuff to the station representative, only to have the mother come down and demand that the shirts be returned, insisting that her son did not steal them. No wonder so many youngsters shoplift. This boy’s mother gave him permission to be a thief. What a sad state of affairs!

Cell phones are another matter all together. I nearly came out of my seat one evening when my man’s went off in a screening and I’ll be darned if at least one doesn’t ring every time I see a film. One time, the guy right behind me, whose phone rang – though we did not hear it since he had the limited sense to put it on vibrate – and he answered it and carried on a conversation of no fewer than three minutes. The nerve of some people!  I am certain that my man will NEVER let his ring during a movie again. Maybe theatres need noise police, someone to toss out the offenders so others can enjoy the film. And while they’re at it, maybe the same people can adjust the temperature to a reasonable range.

I know some things never change and RUDE people are everywhere. I suppose I have been guilty myself, but I personally go to the theatre to escape from the realities of my life and the distractions of the world. Theatres have taken to flashing slides and making requests for silence and consideration, but apparently many don’t read or don’t care.

In my PERFECT world, a movie house would have personal thermostats, more comfortable seats, sound-proof booths for folks with infants and children, a phone and pager check-in station and theatre police, but ticket prices are already through the roof. I daren’t ask for too much, but I can hope for people to use common sense and common courtesy when viewing a film with children and phones, and to keep personal chats to a minimum. I’ll start carrying a blanket.

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