ADVICE: How to Shut the Fuck Up in the Cinema & Other Tenants to Help Us All Respect the Theater


Number One: The obvious stuff.

Don’t take a phone call in the theater.

Don’t carry on a conversation with someone in the theater.

Don’t put your feet on the chair in front of you when it’s occupied.

If there’re lots of seats open in a theater, don’t sit in front of the only other people there. They would like to put their feet up. Don’t be surprised when they break the previous tenant.

Don’t bring your toddler to a film rated anything above PG. If you bring your four-year-old to a PG-13/R movie, I’m bringing my prostitutes to Chuck-E-Cheese.

Number Two: Don’t bring in outside food.

Most of the money from your movie ticket doesn’t go to the theater. It goes to the movie distributers. This is how filmmakers make money. They have to eat too. The money the theater makes at the concessions is how the business stays afloat. If no one buys them, the theater goes out of business.

Yes, the concessions are over-priced. But the reason for this is people like you bringing in outside food. If everyone stopped, the prices would get better. Everyone would be able to afford more popcorn, and the theater would profit and be able to afford better screens and projectors and food and make your experience a lot better.

Also, most outside food is not designed for the theater. No one wants to hear your McDonalds wrappers crumpling, your beer cans popping, or your lobster shells cracking.

So buy yourself some popcorn and some M&Ms and dump the M&Ms into your popcorn and shake them up (before the movie starts, please) and slurp down some pop, and do it quietly.

Which brings me to …

Number Three: Respect the silence.

During a quiet moment in a movie, you’re meant to be quiet too. It reflects a tonal shift in the story-telling. If you’re in the moment, this should come naturally, but if you’re not enjoying the film, you may not realize that other people may be and would prefer to stay in that moment.

So if you’re a horror fan stuck in a rom-com and the two lovers are in bed and one is professing his/her love for the other for the first time and the other is taking too long to respond and you don’t get it, HUSH; there are other people in the theater that do get it. And they don’t want to hear you reach for your popcorn. They don’t want to hear you try to get the last of your soda from between the ice cubes. They want to hear the silence.

Number Four: Respect the dark.

Here’s something that should be obvious, but is surprisingly common: Don’t text in the theater. Sure, you’re not making noise. But we’re in the dark looking at forty-square-feet of light reflect from a canvas every other forty-eighth of a second. Aside from the unfortunate “exit” signs, your periphery is not supposed to be stimulated.

It is the epitome of rudeness to shine a bright light in people’s eyes when they’re trying to focus on the light they paid for. You are stealing from them every second you make them look away from that light. Don’t be surprised when they ask you for a portion of their ticket money back.

Number Five: Don’t be that guy.

That guy is the one that thinks he/she is the only one understanding what’s going on. The age of the Nickelodeon is gone. We’re all in the same theater as the Lumiére brothers intended and we’re all watching the same thing. If the filmmakers are doing their job right, everyone else is realizing what you’re realizing too.

Common example of that guy.

There’s an actress on screen. It’s a close up. Her face is 40 times the size of real life. A tear falls down her cheek. That guy yells out to the whole theater “She’s sad.”

No shit, she’s sad.

Real life example of that guy.

You’re watching Pulp Fiction in the theater. John Travolta opens a brief-case. There’s no shot of the inside of the brief-case. There’s only footage of Travolta’s big butt-cleft-chin face. That guy shouts out to the theater, “I wonder what’s in the case.”

So do I. So does everyone. Go write on a forum about it. The theater is not a forum. It’s a dark room where we are transported into another Universe. Saying things or making food noise above the audio level of the film brings us back to the shitty sticky-floor Universe we’re in.

Other things that don’t necessarily make you that guy but are just as unacceptable: going to the theater with a cold, cough, tendency to cough because you’re a smoker, strong odor because you’re a smoker, strong odor because you don’t bathe. If you are one of these, rain check. Save your money for a double feature next weekend.

If you’re that guy and you can’t help being that guy because you’re too stupid to understand that you’re not the only person in the theater paying attention, don’t go to the theater at all. Also. Kill yourself.

Number Six: Always give people the benefit of a doubt.

If someone is in the theater breaking any of these tenants, it may be because they don’t know just how inhuman they are being, even if they’re breaking an obvious tenant. Always be polite when you ask them to respect the theater. People don’t like being nagged, especially by peers.

If you act like an authority figure when you’ve paid the same price as them for a ticket and are sitting in the same seats, you’re bound not to get results even if you’re fifty years older than the perpetrators. When you approach the situation with grace, you often find that people respond to you with grace.

That said, if someone doesn’t stop being a nuisance, go get a manager. Get a full refund. And get the problem out of the theater. This is not only for your comfort and the value of your ticket, but the comfort of any and all patrons of the art that is filmmaking.

As long as you follow these tenants, you will make movie-going easier for everyone. And if I encounter you in the theater, I will most likely not hate you.