Movie Theaters Are Not Sports Bars: 7 Faux Pas We Must Stop at the Cinemas

Movie Theaters Are Not Sports Bars

As we approach the release of one of the most anticipated films of the year, Avengers: Age of Ultron, I am reminded of a certain unpleasantness that occurred when I saw The Avengers in 2012: people clapping and cheering during the movie. Reflecting on this unusual social behavior got me thinking about six additional theater faux pas that I assume many will come across this weekend. And before we get in line for the mega blockbuster this week, I would like to decree: a movie theater is not a sports bar.

1) Keep Off Your Cell Phone

This kind of goes without saying, but there are still some who choose to check their phones. My optimism would like me to believe that Age of Ultron is so spectacular that moviegoers will not feel the need to grab their phones until after the movie to gush about it with their friends. As much as I appreciate theaters taking the initiative by playing PSAs before a movie begins, this message either goes unnoticed because audiences are on their phones or some may think they are above common etiquette and they’ll “do what they want, bro” – sort of like how men think they can spit their gum in urinals because someone else is paid to clean it up. Why do this if it causes an inconvenience to fellow humans?

I’m not saying you should have to completely turn off your phone – it’s the better solution in my opinion – just keep it on silent, not on vibrate, and keep it stashed away. When you check to see the time or if you’ve missed a call/text it causes “light pollution.” Imagine taking a date star gazing, you’ll likely you’ll have to go outside city limits to avoid the lights in order to get a clear view of the night sky. Now why would you want to turn on your phone into a dark movie theater? Anyone who catches the flash of light will be immediately be taken out of the film.

Even if you think you’re being sneaky, assume that someone can see it. When our eyes are focused on an action blockbuster, engaged in a suspenseful moment of a horror movie, or locked in on a Morgan Freeman delivering monologue, it’s terribly unpleasant to be interrupted with the florescent glow of your cellular device. The filmmakers worked very hard for audiences to enjoy these scenes, not for it to be ruined because you wanted to see what time it was or your bro texted you asking what they’re doing later.

I understand that there are those who are “on-call” for work or perhaps a babysitter needs to get a hold of a parent because their kid fell down the stairs, but please wait to answer or return the call until after you’ve exited the theater. Mostly everyone is good about this, but there are still some flaws we need to address. Noticing a person get up to use the restroom or return to the lobby to get a refill is one thing because a phone is not needed to do so. Despite this being a slight disturbance, we can assume one of the two aforementioned items are taking place and we can go about our business in watching the film. But when a call needs to be taken, more than likely the person leaving will keep the lit phone in hand and carry it out with them for all to see. This is quite disorderly because our eyes will follow that little light source up until the moment of exit, causing even more time lost from keeping attention to the film. Keep it in your pocket or purse/satchel.

We are getting better at cell phone use in theaters these days. Just remember that it can wait. We’re going to the cinema to get away from the distractions of the world to engage in a fictional one. The least you could do is take a couple hours to stay off the phone, we’re on them enough in our lives. Give it a rest.

2) Fiddle with Food Before the Movie Starts

It’s pretty simple. For anyone who brings in food that could cause a ruckus, make sure that it’s opened and ready for consumption before the movie begins. Candy wrappers, bags of chips, or anything crinkly is like fingernails on a chalkboard when someone is fiddling around with it during a movie. The struggle is real, so cut out the middle man and ensure that bag is on lock down beforehand. Got a box of candy that makes a rumbling noise? Shake it up before the movie and then make cautious pours during. Sharing is optional.

3) Try Not to Kick the Seat in Front of You

You’d be surprised how many times I’ve experienced my seat being knocked around. Sometimes by accident, but mostly out of inconsideration. Just like on a plane, and as Bruce Wayne was taught, be mindful of your surroundings. Do your best to respect others’ space. We all get a riot out of nut shots, it’s a universal knee-slapper, but don’t literally get a kick out of it and flail your legs around.

Don’t put your feet up on the chairs if someone is in front of you either. And just because no one is sitting directly in front of you, but a seat over, keep in mind that all of the seats are practically interconnected. So if you rock your feet around on the seat in front of you, the person sitting next to that chair is going to feel it.

4) Hold Commentary to Yourself

In my movie going experience, I find more often than not that it is the elderly who tend to engage in peer-to-peer commentary compared to other age groups. I’m not sure why, maybe they give zero f•cks as they draw near death – I recently asked an elderly couple to stop talking during a film on multiple occasions and they actually laughed at my request.

Now I don’t want to hone in on one specific demographic because moviegoers of all ages can be heard chatting it up during a movie. We must simply remember that a public theater is not our living room to engage in conversation. Those who like to talk in theaters typically A) discuss where they believe the film is heading, B) explain who a character is in relation to the main character, C) narrate exactly what they’re seeing before them, D) perform color commentary as if they’re part of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or E) something completely nonsensical.

Nobody needs to hear this and no one wants to hear this. There are others around you who would like to tie plot threads together themselves, who don’t need your play-by-play sports commentary in order to figure out the direction the plot is headed. Your chatter is an utter hindrance, and if I wanted to I’d do it in the comfort of my own home where my chums and I would not be a nuisance.

You’re practically inviting everyone to listen in on your conversation because of the confined space of the theater. And even if you think you’re whispering so that no one can hear you, like cell phone light, just assume you are disrupting the environment around you. Some people have great hearing, and in certain cases there are theaters that have curved screens where noise can bounce off fairly easy for the whole auditorium to hear.

If you feel the need to ask a question about what’s going on or who’s that character you can’t seem to remember, be patient. Let the story unfold before your peepers and give it a chance for you to catch up. That is one of the many joys about going to the movies, to discover the filmmakers’ intent and bring you into their world, not for your friends to describe every situation when you become lost. Sometimes it can be the director’s intent to lose the audience and provide misinformation that takes the full run of the movie for us to figure out the grand scheme of the film.

5) Control Your Children

From kids bouncing around in their seats to standing up and staring at people to getting up and walking about, I’ve encountered it all. If you are one of those great parents who have managed to raise your kids to behave well at the movies, kudos. I know this is kind of a hard thing for me to ask when I do not have any offspring myself, but is it honestly that difficult to teach young people how to behave in a movie theater? I’m not advocating parents to stop bringing their children to see movies, far from it – all kids should be allowed the wonder and amazement that comes from seeing movies in theaters.

What I’m suggesting is for parents to sit down with the fruit of their loins to have a heart-to-heart chat in order for them to comprehend how they make others feel when they are acting up at the movies. Communicating the importance of proper manners in a public setting is vital in developing their social skills too. And don’t bribe them because taking them to see an incredible flick like Avengers: Age of Ultron should be reward enough.

However, if time and time again you notice your kids cannot behave well in a theater, teach them the significance of good behavior in simple ways that they can understand. Provide them with the basic skill set of what it means to be rude, how their behavior can be troublesome to other theater patrons, and explain how they can have fun without having to yell, scream, or jump all over the place.

One of the biggest issues I find with kids at the movies is that they like to repeat everything they find amusing. It’s impossible to keep it to themselves. This goes back to color commentary. I understand that kids find comfort in repetition – I’m sure mommy and daddy are sick of hearing “Let it Go” for the umpteenth time – there must be a way to come to a mutual understanding that repeating lines of dialogue at home is fine, but in a theater it is not acceptable. Sadly, the funny thing is, there are some adults that do this too for some sick reason. Repeat lines in your head.

And to parents who bring infants into the theater and allow them to cry and not take them outside, why are you lugging around an infant to a theater to begin with? Sure, the argument can be made about not having a babysitter available at the time you want to see it. Well then don’t go at that time and pick a better time that’s convenient for you to hire a babysitter. There isn’t enough money to hire a babysitter you say? Then why spend the money to see a movie when it could be saved for something more crucial to your survival like groceries or healthcare? But it’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON!?! See it one parent at a time if you must. That’s a good compromise, right?

6) Don’t Clap or Cheer During a Movie

We’ve finally come to the main point in which this article was founded. As much as I despise those who turn on their phones during the middle of a movie, I cannot find it in myself to comprehend why people must cheer and clap during the middle of a movie. I get it, you’re expressing your joy and excitement for what you’re seeing on the big screen. But why? Who amongst the crowded, this dark room of strangers, is benefiting from your exerted expression of happiness? What purpose does this serve other than to be a complete distraction that puts your noise of admiration above the thing we have all come to see? At no time is it appropriate or even meaningful to cheer in a movie theater.

I’ve played sports and have attended sporting events throughout my life. You cheer for your team and applaud your approval if positive action is taken. And this gets carried into establishments in which folks gather to watch team sports. But a movie theater is not a sports bar. What is being shown on the silver screen versus a TV at a sports bar are two different things. One is a cinematic endeavor, crafted to tell a story and for you to sit, watch, and listen, while the other is the struggle between two groups of organized athletes physically straining themselves to win a match, game, etc.

Test screenings are organized for filmmakers to figure out the pace of the story and where to make edits. Comedies do not run rampant with jokes one after another just like horror movies don’t plague jump scare after jump scare. It doesn’t work like that. There needs to be time in-between for the audiences to take in the dialogue or the mood, otherwise it all becomes a jumbled mess. And so I bring up a perfect example from The Avengers. When I saw it for the first time, at the scene in which the Hulk smashes Loki like a rag doll, there was uproarious applause and delight. Here is that scene:

This is a stupendous scene in The Avengers that could have been made better if everyone held in their excitement. Because while everyone in the audience was causing a ruckus, the moment when Hulk say “puny god” and when Loki is groaning in exhaustion they were inaudible for anyone to pick up. These three actions within the scene complement each other to work as a whole. Having missed out on how this scene was suppose to work, it becomes a completely different experience on repeat viewings. If it had been watched all at once the first time, the humor could have been amplified two-fold, easily. But since I, and probably many others, missed out on this gag. We had to go in a second time with anticipation for these jokes rather than experiencing the unknown for the first time. And it would be more fun having not to have this happen.

I’m not against laughing at funny movies nor gasping at a terrifying scene in a horror movie, but loudly applauding and cheering for a scene in a movie is a completely bonkers practice that needs to be stopped. And what’s funny is this seems to be a stereotype for the U.S. I did some Googling, and people from other countries seem to be at a loss of this phenomena too. And it was even a heated debate on Reddit two years ago.

So why do this? The actors, director, and filmmaking crew are not there to accept your gratitude – unless you’re at a special screening where they make an appearance. The action depicted on the screen will not gain momentum and ramp up the energy from hearing your praise. It’s aggravating just like light from cell phones, bickering of little kids, backseat commentary, or noisy candy wrappers. Not only does this cause everyone to be taken out of the film, but it also increases the chance for greater opportunities in scenes not to be heard.

If you absolutely must show theater patrons you approve of a film, do so at the end of movie briefly and make a swift exit or stay in your seat. But just so you know, clapping at the end of a movie is still pointless without the people involved with the film being there. Here’s a thought: instead of clapping after the final scene, start a conversation with a fellow human in the lobby and discuss what you liked about the movie. Wouldn’t that be wild?

7) Pick Up After Yourself

One final note to end on: there are trash cans at the exits of every movie theater, USE THEM! Ushers wheel them out into the theater to pick up after you, so why not do them a favor and take your trash with you? I can’t understand why or how this habit started, but I find it to be very disrespectful and makes you look like a slob. Would you do this for park services if you had a picnic outside at a park?

When I bring this up to someone they always tell me, “that’s what the staff get paid for.” Sure it’s part of the job description, but they also have many other tasks aside from picking up your trash. It’s an area of concern that can be prevented if we all pitch in to throw away our own messes. If you leave tips for waiters or bartenders who pick up your leftovers and dishes in addition to serving you your food, should you start leaving tips for movie attendants as well?

Our parents teach us at an early age to pick up after ourselves, when did we stop doing it outside our homes? A movie theater is a common place where the public returns to time and again. Why leave a mess for staff to clean up or help depreciate the value of the venue?

Theaters make most of their money in concessions because studios take the bulk of the first few weekend ticket sales and leave the rest to them when they’ve been out for awhile. This is just one of the many causes to the rising concern of ticket prices. Theaters do not receive a big payday when you see box office results every weekend, and money has to go into paying people to pick up your trash that is left in theaters. It also goes into repairing damaged seat cushions or maintaining the cleanliness of the floors.

I’ve never worked at a movie theater in my life, but giving movie attendants less to clean up in theaters and more time to perform other duties, I could only assume would help the theater become more productive and possibly help lower costs for consumers. This is all speculative, I don’t want you to think that I believe this could help movie theaters slow down inflating costs, but what I really want you to takeaway from this last note is to be courteous and throw you trash away. Is that so much to ask?

Final Thoughts

So as we go in this week primed to fork over our hard earned cash, thirsty to see Marvel’s next big thing, let’s remember that these basic forms of etiquette can help everyone have a better time at the movies. Because that’s what where there for. We go to the movies to get away from all the BS and take our minds off the many diversions of everyday life. There is no need to bring any of that nonsense into a movie theater because it will only inconvenience others who just want to have just as good of a time as you do.

You can follow me on Twitter @TyRawrrnosaurus

Main Image Source: The Pre-Game

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