Shut the %&#$ Up!

Not long ago, a video clip from the Alamo Drafthouse began making its way around the internet. This PSA, which plays before the feature presentation, played the audio and showed a transcript from an angry voicemail that an irate customer left for the theater. Apparently the moviegoer was more than a little upset about being kicked out of the theater for texting. This film was a hit with almost anyone who watched it, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper spent several minutes praising the clip, while making fun of the woman.  Have things really gotten so bad at the movies as to justify theaters not only kicking out patrons, but ridiculing their complaints nightly? Yes, they have. I go to the movies more than the average American*, so I have more opportunities to have people disrupt my films. But while Ryan and I used to complain about the occasional disturbance, we now find ourselves surprised when the crowd manages to behave.  I don’t remember when things got so turned around, but I do remember some of the better examples of people behaving badly.

1. There is no explaining my buddy David’s man-crush on Tommy Lee Jones. It was his sick infatuation that led us to the Rules of Engagement. David and I noticed early on that things were going to go south in this particular viewing, when the gaggle of preteens came wondering in during the trailers. Certainly when I think of a military legal drama, I think preteens. Much to our surprise they immediately began to start talking, running around, and swapping seats during the movie. This was in my young, non-confrontational days, so I just sat there and tried to continue to watch the movie, but it was easy to find the people who were slowly getting fed up with the constant chatter from the back rows. There was a middle aged man, maybe 50, who was just down the row from David and I. Every few minutes he would turn around and glare at the kids several row back. The older gentlemen did this for the first half of the movie before leaving in search of an usher. Miraculously the kids were asked to leave the theater, and I settled in to enjoy Tommy Lee Jones eating up screen time. Of course the guy who got the kids kicked out decided to fill the void that he created. Anytime Tommy Lee Jones would ask a question in the movie, the older man would yell the answer back at the screen. This continued for the rest of the film. At least being an ass has nothing to do with age.

2. If you listen to the podcast “Coming Off the Reels”, you may have heard this story before. Early on, I was not very excited about X-Men: First Class, but as early reviews were overwhelmingly positive, I figured it was something that needed to be seen. Ryan and I arrived early, so it is was just a roll of the dice as to who would eventually sit around us. Snake Eyes! A couple in their late teens sat behind us, a twentysomething couple in front of us. The couple behind us were talking during the trailers, which while I don’t like, I understand that some people don’t care about previews like I do.  It was when the couple continued to talk well into the movie that I started to lose my patience. About 30 minutes into the movie, I finally turned around and asked them to be quiet. In their defense, the movie was pretty loud, so I suppose they might have thought I said, “Please speak louder than the characters in the movie.” So as I am sitting there thinking about sucker punching a couple of teenagers, the woman in front of me decides that this would be a good time to check her texts and her voicemail.  That was pretty much it for me, and I decided to try and find an employee who could maybe pop their head in and take a look from time to time. Being that it was an afternoon show, the staffing was pretty light, and no help could be found. I begrudgingly returned to my seat, defeated. After the next random outburst from the couple behind us, Ryan asked if we could just move seats. We ended up in the back row, but at least it seemed quieter. A few minutes go by and we hear an odd noise. Ryan and I look at each other and both share a deflated laugh as we realize that the people in front of us have brought their newborn to the theater. I don’t know much about kids, but I am pretty sure that babies who don’t even have the strength to hold up their own heads love crazy loud comic book movies.  At least the mother would take the baby out each time that it started fussing, but that too was a distraction.  Still, X-Men: First Class was pretty good movie and I can’t wait to watch it again…alone.

3. There is so much about this story that still feels weird to me. First, this was at a showing of Mystery Men. Yeah, some people actually paid money to see this one. Secondly, the showing of this movie was packed…Mystery Men! Even then I thought it was odd that so many people showed up, and I ended up having to sit in the back row again. A few rows in front of me was a group of teens, our usual suspects, and in front of them was an older man who kind of reminded me of Santa Clause…if Santa spent most of his life working in a coal mine. The kids talked and carried on, but what was really getting to Santa was that the kids kept putting their feet up on his seat, taking them off, and then putting them back up again. This went on for a while until Santa got up, moved to a seat behind the teenagers and sat there quietly…waiting. The next time the kids started to misbehave, Santa sprang into action. Saint Nick began kicking the back of the teen’s seats so hard that they were falling to the floor. Each time Santa’s foot found its mark he would shout “HOW…DO YOU…LIKE IT? HOW…DO YOU…LIKE IT?” Then Santa stood, kicked the seat one last time for good measure, and left. It was Mystery Men, so he really didn’t miss much.

The thing is, with the exception of the recently watched X-Men movie, I don’t remember much about the other two films mentioned above, and that is unusual for me. However, I vividly remember the people who ruined the movies.

Anyone who knows me, know how much I love going to the movies. In a time when the world seems to be getting worse every day, movies are a beautiful escape. Instead, I am forced to contend with a growing number of people who think you can act the same way at the movies as you do at bars. You pay your $10 cover, and come on in and talk to your friends, try and hook up with someone, make a fool of yourself, without caring if you are destroying the experience for someone else. Hmm, maybe if theaters had the same bouncers who work outside of nightclubs, I could get a little silence.

In the end, I will still pay my money and take my chances that people will shut up when the lights go out. If theaters want to make more of my money they could add a set of shows, maybe on Sunday morning, and tell people that during these shows, silence will be strictly enforced. I promise I will get up and go every week. Until then I would love to hear other stories of terrible trips to the movies. We can start a kind of support group. Together we can overcome, or at least find that Santa guy and have him start some shit.

*According to a survey done by the MPAA in 2007, the average American goes to the movies less than six times a year. I average closer to 35-40 visits to the movies each year.

Written by Drew Martin