Every now and again, you’ll hear the headline, “Movie goer stabbed/shot for telling someone not to talk/text during a movie.” Although those are extreme cases, I’ve never really considered this to be something I would have to worry about. The theaters I attend are pretty tame. They are not in rural areas known for violence or are rundown where only shady patrons watch movies. But knowing my luck, I should have predicted something silly was bound to happen one of these days.
My typical movie going ritual is like this: I arrive at a theater about 15-20 minutes before the trailers even begin. Some people love movie trailers and it would be distracting to have someone walk past you to find their seat in the dark; or even have them enter the theater and yell for their friends to tell them where they are sitting.
I choose to sit near the top and directly in the middle. Never do I sit in front of anyone if it can be avoided because I always get annoyed if someone sits in front of me. Heads can cut out a bottom of the screen or they fiddle around too much. So why would I want to do that to them? I check-in on Foursquare and Get Glue during the commercials, and then I check Twitter. The lights dim.
When the PRE-SHOW WARNING comes on asking you to “please be quiet and courteous to others and please turn off your phone,” that’s a pretty good indicator that it’s time to turn off your phone. So I make it a point to do so. (Most theaters do this and have done this for at least the past three years now. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t have known this.)
My phone stays off the entire film and I never once think about checking it. I am watching a movie, in a theater, surrounded by other people. I’m not at home, it’s simply rude to let the bright light of your phone flash behind you into someone’s line of vision. It can’t be hidden, not with how big these screens on cell phones are these days. After a film has ended, I will turn my phone back on during the credits and Tweet my first reactions.
So let me tell you a story.
This week I went to see a movie, like I normally do. Five minutes in, this character comes waltzing in late with his two daughters, not during the trailers, but while the movie is playing. These two girls run up the aisle to find seats, which was pretty distracting. They then proceed to sit directly in front of me. This again, wouldn’t have bothered me if the theater was full, but nope, completely empty – only three other patrons where there about five rows up. I deal with it. If the movie hadn’t started I would have moved.
About 3/4 of the movie had played through, that’s when one of the daughters decides to turn on her phone to text. (Both daughter’s had to between 8 to 10-years-old watching a PG-13 movie.) I ask her, “would you please turn off your phone, the light is distracting.” The other daughter tells the father what I said because he hardly spoke English. Do you know how I know he hardly spoke English?
After the movie ended I sat through the credits, the family left, I thought nothing of it. Halfway through the credits, this Indian guy comes stomping up to me and asks me what I said to his daughter; in a pretty angry tone mind you (he left his daughters in the hallway). Huffing and puffing, a closer talker, he is spit talking his every word; my face absorbs his saliva. By this time I had this sudden surge of adrenaline coursing through my body.
I tell him my side of the story and he sees that my phone was on because I was tweeting my reaction after the movie had ended. He accuses me of being a hypocrite. He asks me why my phone was on right then and there. I tell him it’s because the movie had ended and everyone had left the theater, thus it wouldn’t be a distraction to anyone else.
This guy is irate, he gets all flustered and asks again what I said to his daughter. I must have sounded like a broken record throughout this entire conversation because he had asked me this same question three more times. He just didn’t get it.
So I’m sitting there, ready for anything to happen, and he asks me if I want to take this outside. I tell him, “sure…” in a very relaxed, unsure tone. Those who have met me know I’m a lover, not a fighter. I always avoid kerfuffles because I believe meathead confrontations are just childish – I didn’t know if he meant to go outside to argue or if he was actually serious about fighting me. My adrenaline shot up pretty high then.
I rise from my seat and the guy sizes me up. I’m not a big guy per say, but I suppose I have been known to hit the gym when I’m not stuffing my face with McDonald’s after painting the town red. This chunker’s height reaches to about my chin. He backs off, which surprised me because I thought he was going to lead the way out of the theater. Instead, this man begins to barrate me with the same question and calls me a hypocrite once more.
Rolling my eyes, I explain to him the situation. He must have finally understood or he knew that this was one argument he wasn’t going to win because he then began to walk down the stairs, but only after I tell him that it’s simple common courtesy and that he should learn more about it.
The guy actually waited for me in the parking lot too, as he lit up a cigarette right in front of his daughters as they walked toward their car together.
I lived to see another day, no headlines were made, but I felt like I had more enjoyment out of those five minutes than during the entire movie. It was terrible.
This just reminded me of a theater etiquette PSA done by the famous Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. More theaters should have policies like the Alamo.
Please do not turn on your phone or text during a movie. A theater is not your living room. Other people are trying to enjoy the film, and although you may be use to distracting yourself from something you paid money to watch, other people may not. If you have to text or take a phone call, leave the theater.
Also, parents of San Diego, stop bringing your kids into movies that are completely inappropriate for them. I watched you bring in five-year-olds to see End of Watch and I witnessed another family bring a few tweens or younger to see Seven Psychopaths. Unfortunately all I can do is shake my head.