Modern Movie-Going Punishments

Today is the second Sunday in May. Mother’s Day. As I’ve had the Sunday shift for several years now I’ve already been able to write on the ways my mom contributed to my passion for cinema during my early years. (For further Mother’s Day homages look no further than R.H. Smith’s recent post.) Mother’s Day is also an important date for gardeners in my midwest region because it marks the official start of when you can finally plant various seeds without having to worry too much about a vicious cold snap freezing the seedlings dead. With that in mind, I’ve decided to plant a few seeds of my own that chronicle the Modern Movie-Going Punishments of our day. I do this with the hope that it might help nip bad behavior in the bud, allow more pleasant movie-going experiences to flourish and, in general, make a trip to the movies less punishing. (Tip of the hat to my friend John Adams for providing the accompanying illustrations.)


“Listen, kid, we’re all in it together.” – Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro), Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)

When it comes to the pitfalls and downsides to the modern-day movie-going experience, the fact remains that, as Tuttle says, “we’re all in it together.” To engage in a shared cinematic experience is pure alchemy and all of us compose an essential element to the big stew in question. In this case “we” are the movie-makers, the studio and producers who play king-makers to the movie-makers, the distributors who help push the stories out there, the exhibitors that host the venue for those stories, the staff that run the venue, and then finally: the customers. Together, when we’re all doing our best, we make magic. But, along that long and winding road, should anyone falter, well… things can get ugly. Let’s start at the beginning.

BAD MOVIES

Look…. it’s all subjective, so this is dangerous ground already. That being said, it’s safe to say that there was a time when movies were made by older people who’d had more experiences in the real world before they started cutting their teeth either in front-of or behind-the-camera. If you’ve actually fought in wars, had a family, been divorced, held a variety of jobs, been a hobo, or simply had an extra decade past your college years to feel loss and pain, however that may translate itself, all of these paths give you some experience that will help add depth to the story you’re trying to share. When it comes to how we express ourselves, a lot can happen in a decade: Sam Fuller hit his stride in his early ’40′s, and his movies still pack punch and provide startling insights into the human condition. Michael Bay exploded into Hollywood with Bad Boys when he was 30, but while his action-movie formulas self-replicate and continue on and on, like the Energizer Bunny, they don’t reward repeat viewings.

Spielberg, of course, was still in his twenties when he completely transformed the cinematic landscape with Jaws, but in its chase to find the next whiz-kid the Hollywood business model keeps pushing the bar ever lower as the directors keep getting younger, along with the prized demographic. As a result, adults have been pushed to the side in favor of teenagers with expendable income. So here we are: with most of the tent-poles features being overtaken by comic book heroes and video game concepts. Both are on steroids. File this under the tri-fecta of movie-makers, studios, and distributors who chase the all-mighty dollar regardless of content. This video clip by The Onion sums it up perfectly:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIY5b1JMvGs

EXHIBITORS

Full disclosure: I am an exhibitor, albeit a very small one running an independent and non-profit arthouse calendar series devoted to international and independent cinema. Still, I love going out to the movies and checking out the latest offerings in the multiplex. Or, at least, I used to. Here are the three things multiplexes are doing wrong, in my opinion, that are really pissing me off:

PLATTER DAMAGE

This will soon be a moot point. Why? Because everyone’s going digital within the next two years. But for those keeping score, here’s the deal: Most multiplexes run on automated platter systems. The quaint notion of an actual human being (aka: “the projectionist”) with eyes on your screen is a myth. Yes, there might be a projectionist somewhere in the building, but their main job is to thread the many automated machines that run the length of the booth, and then break the prints down afterward to ship out. “Reel” projectionists who take pride in their work, do regular equipment maintenance, know how to run old-school reel-to-reel systems, and who fill out detailed inspection reports, are a dying breed.

As a result of this, a lot of film prints are being fed through dirty and unkempt machines that are literally pulling off the emulsion from the films, usually in vertical scratches that cause horrible damage to the prints. Guess where these prints go to next? Yup: to those “lower-tier” exhibition homes that might actually have an attentive projectionist on hand for a  reel-to-reel system that is ready to handle every print with precision and care. Platter damage may not seem like such a scourge to those who see the new print at the ‘plex, but for small exhibitors such as myself (who often get stuck showing prints that have been worn down by unattended machines) it remains a brutal travesty.

OUT-OF-FOCUS PRINTS

There’s really not much more to add to this. If you read the above paragraph you already know that most of the time that you’re watching a film at the multiplex there’s really no one “in charge.” If you look to the back of the room you’ll see a shining light coming out of the booth, but nobody is actually next to that projector. You might as well be alone. At this point, unless you complain loudly to the usher, who then needs to find the usher manager, who then needs to find the projectionist (who is probably on a smoke break), nothing will happen.

DIGITAL UPCHARGES

Okay, so granted: digital projection is easier to automate in such a way that it’ll be in focus. But, really? You’re going to charge me MORE for watching a digital print which, yeah, is “clean” and “crisp” but lacks the full range of color and depth offered by celluloid? This already happened with music when recording studios made the shift from vinyl to CD’s. When the recording studios made the transition they paid LESS for packaging, content, and pretty much everything else. Instead of charging less, they charged more. Do you think the musicians got any of that extra-profit? Nope. Same thing now. When studios phase out celluloid prints they are saving money in transportation and production of film prints. While the studios have made a few concessions to big exhibitors who traffic in first-release screenings (in the way of small start-up subsidies for purchasing digital equipment), everyone else has been left out in the cold and told that unless they buy a bunch of $100,000 dollar digital projectors they will be dead within a couple years.

Sorry, I don’t care how you feel about those “clean” digital prints: they are sub-par to celluloid and whenever you pay more for that sterile experience I want to be the lone voice in the wilderness to remind you that you are actually paying more for less.

ADVERTISEMENTS

Yeah, I know. Tough times. We all gotta make a buck somehow to stay alive. But forcing me to watch a slew of &%&$&%#% advertisements BEFORE the trailers (which are ALREADY advertisements, hellooooooooo….) is really not cool. I’m the kind of film nerd that likes to come early. It used to be nice to have a choice of preferred seats and then sit in a comfortable environment with a date or friend to, y’know: talk. But I can’t do that anymore. Why? Because to show up early means being blasted by LOUD adverts for stupid TV shows, or car ads, etc. The result? More and more people are, by Darwinian principles of evolution, showing up later to avoid the damn ads. This means they also avoid the clever little Public Service Announcements that try to encourage courteous behavior. And this DEFINITELY does not help with the following:

THE A.D.D. GENERATION

I used to sometimes check my watch during a movie. I don’t anymore. Why? Because I don’t have a watch. I have an iphone. I’m pretty sure that’s the case nowadays with many others out there who find that their smart phones make watches an unnecessary accessory. The problem is that it seems most people have no problem with turning on their glowing smart-phones in a darkened theater. Maybe it starts out as a simple quest to check the time, but while they’re at it, why not check out what emails they might have too? And if the movies kinda slow, why not respond to the emails? And so it goes.  A slippery slope of bad behavior that boils down to this: if you’re operating a glowing device in a darkened room shared by others you are a selfish cretin who doesn’t think twice about the distractions you are causing everyone else who can see you playing with your lil’ gadget. You are a child. A child who deserves to be spanked, and spanked repeatedly.

MORE BAD CELL PHONE ETIQUETTE

Just about every single person on the planet now has a cell phone. You’d think its ubiquitous nature would somehow inculcate a growing sense of proper decorum with how and when to use them. But quite the opposite is the case. Hardly anyone turns them off completely when they enter a movie theater. Most just turn the ringer off, which might be okay if people also turned off their vibrate function – otherwise anyone nearby can still hear (and/or feel) them vibrating away. And why is it that the people who are most likely to not turn off their ringers at all are the same ones who have selected ring tones that sound like old car horns or worse? And these same people seem to never be able to even find their phones until its finally dumped the call to voice mail. In this subset, there is a particular fiend that towers above them all: the jackass who not only has his phone and ringer on, but also takes the call and starts talking away! There is an especially warm place in hell for such trolls.

TALKERS

Aright… at this point we’re getting to core punishments for film lovers throughout the ages, never mind the cell phones or other stuff. Talkers. There are quite a few versions of ‘em, but they all belong to that group of folks that are 100% oblivious to the fact that they are no longer in their living room watching TV and, furthermore, seem to relish what should be a punishable act of exhibitionism. Personally, I think that if it’s illegal to shout “FIRE” in a crowded movie theater, it should also be illegal to talk out-loud in a crowded movie-theater where the rest of us are trying to submerge ourselves in the story that is unspooling before our eyes.

The main fiend in this group is The Loudmouth. They just blurt out whatever is on their mind regardless of the people around them. Most of them probably have a narcissistic bent and need to hear themselves in order to function. I’m guessing this might go back to their early developmental periods as babies. Back then, they would poop in their diapers, feel uncomfortable, and they would then scream or cry until a parent attended to their needs. Not much has changed for them as adults who talk away during the film; they experience stimuli and open their mouths to let the world know what they are experiencing.

The Play-By-Play Commentator is one of the worst within the Talker sub-species. Unlike The Loudmouth, they are not just blurting out half-thoughts and feelings, they are actually parroting out the action on the screen as if though they were interpreting the whole damn thing to a blind companion. “He just arrived at the trailer park. He is walking through the door. That’s a gun in his hand. He’s going to fire it.” etc. The Play-By-Play Commentator is also usually the same person who blurts out the obvious. As one friend told me: “People talking and stating the obvious drives me up the wall, like in The Fountain when an old couple right behind me remarked: ‘It’s a tree.’”

Just for the record, I’ve personally experienced the Play-By-Play Commentator at no less an auspicious place than the Telluride Film Festival itself. So, be warned, they are not just in shopping mall embedded multiplexes, they can also be right behind you at a prestigious film festival.

The Whispering Couple. Okay. I get it. You’re “whispering,” and “whispering” isn’t the same as “talking.” But, guess what? I can still hear you, and when you do it all the way throughout the friggin’ film it still constitutes a huge distraction from what is actually happening ONSCREEN because you are making me feel like I’m in a deep, dark, pit that is filled with hissing snakes. Has it ever occurred to you that you might actually have MORE to talk about AFTER the film if you leave SOME of the discussion for later?

We’ve all been around The Riddler. The Riddler falls somewhere below The Loudmouth but between The Play-by-Play Commentator and The Whispering Couple. The Riddler simply doesn’t know what is going on, and rather than waiting for the story to play itself out, they can’t help but ask a companion: “Why is he walking into a trailer park? Why is he walking through that door? Why does he have a gun in his hand?” The crazy thing is that, most of the time, if The Riddler would simply WATCH the film unfold, they would get MOST of the answers to their question. You’d think The Riddler would fall into the same subset of A.D.D. smart-phone addicts, but (alarmingly) they are their own subset, which is to say the A.D.D. Generation skews younger, while The Riddler, in my personal experience, often skews older.

NOISY EATERS

I hereby replace the see-hear-speak no evil monkeys with their cinematic counterparts: The Crinkler, The Open-Mouthed Muncher, and The Slurper.

The Crinkler will torture various forms of candy wrap long past the expiration date of your delicate sensibilities. You can, in part, blame the exhibitor here for choosing various forms of concessions that have been wrapped in both cardboard and plastic so as to ensure that The Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to grow.

Ah… The Open-Mouthed-Muncher. Here we get to a little detail that will surely draw me some fire. It involves popcorn. And, yes, I enjoy eating popcorn at a movie as much as the next person. Still: isn’t it a bit strange that we have, as a society, fixated on popcorn (even the name itself is noisy) as the premiere snack-food for what should be the quiet reception of visual entertainment? Let’s let that slide for now, as I simply point a finger at those who were never told by an attendant parent figure that they had the option to eat with a closed mouth.

Not much be said about The Slurper except; really? You are going to suck on that straw for the next two hours as the ice melts in your bucket of preferred sugar-enhanced water to make your wanton needs known to all? The answer usually being: yup! (& Slurrrrrrrrrrrrp. Slrp. Sllllllrrrrrp. slrp. SSSLLrp.)

FAMILIES THAT SHOULD (REALLY) BE PAYING THE EXTRA BUCKS FOR A BABYSITTER

Really? You’re going to bring your baby and 4th-Grade child in to watch SAW 3D: THE FINAL CHAPTER? Okay, I understand, babysitters can be expensive. It’s been a while since you and the missus had a nice night out. But, really? Here? Now? For SAW 3-D: THE FINAL CHAPTER you’ve decided to make this a family event? Tell you what: I won’t call social services as long as your baby never whimpers once, and that impressionable 4th-grade kid of yours doesn’t eventually fit me into a diabolical death-trap that will smash my skull to smithereens.

DRUNKARDS

Sh*t happens. But with drunkards you’re more likely to encounter vomit. If you’re lucky, it’ll be something more benign that doesn’t require massive cleanup. Like, maybe, kicked over and (now) empty beer bottles that roll alllllllll the way down the auditorium before coming to a smashing stop.

CHAIRKICKERS

I sometimes have “restless-leg” syndrome. But I’m mindful to never let it bounce up against the chair in front of me if someone else is in it. I also try to keep a seat between myself and friends in case it acts up. Thing is: I’m guessing lots of other people have this condition based on how high this registered amongst the complaints of my friends in an informal FaceBook poll of things that drive them crazy when they watch films in theaters. Tightly-packed theater seats don’t help. But there’s also no excuse for being oblivious to rocking someone else’s chair throughout a film.

SMALL BLADDERS

(This one’s also a frequent subset of the DRUNKARDS above.) Okay, this one’s a relatively small offense. But depending on where you sit, and how many chairs are between you and the aisle, you might want to reconsider the size of that Big Gulp container you just ordered. I knew of one friend who slurped down a couple gallons while sitting in the middle of a huge Imax Theater and watching James Cameron’s The Abyss. Y’know, the movie that takes place under water, and that has weird creatures, made out of water, the ones that come out from the water and into these little submerged quarters that are all hundreds of feet under water to… long story short this friend of mine had to excuse himself past about 20-odd people to hit the men’s room. As The Abyss is like ten hours long (or so it seems when you’re having bladder issues) my friend had to cut back-and-forth repeatedly. It was as if though everyone in our aisle was (appropriately enough) doing “The Wave.”

HEAVY (NOSE) BREATHERS

I finish with one particular denizen of the movie-going environment that I can, thankfully, say is pretty rare (but there, nonetheless). Let me also say this: mouth-breathers get a bad rap. They are usually characterized as Neanderthals and primitives of the lowest order but, in my opinion, go ahead: breathe through your mouth. You have two ways of breathing. Though the mouth, and through the nose. Use ‘em both as needed. People who only breathe through their nose, and then sit right behind me and crouch forward so that their nose is just a few inches from my ear can drive me seriously crazy. Deep inhalations. Deep exhalations. It’s like somebody is doing yogic breath control Pranayama exercises on my shoulder, and it sends my blood pressure through the roof.

Father’s Day Bonus Addition (which is to say, two more miscreants we feel deserved illustrations, per your suggestion):

The Red Plague

By popular demand: many of you mentioned an all-too-common malady amidst us in the movie chairs – the germ-infested sicko who coughs, hacks, sneezes away with no regard to your health (or film enjoyment).

The Serial Yawner

All of us, at some point or another, have sat through a film while being either very tired or bored. But that’s certainly no excuse to yawn loudly and systematically throughout a film. Besides, yawns are contagious – it’s well documented. If you see someone yawning, good luck resisting the urge to join in. People who yawn loudly are the Debby Downers of the film world. Here’s a thought: if you’re tired, or bored, or both, go ahead and yawn – but try putting your hand over your mouth instead of stretching out both arms into the air like giant wings while you yodel out the full content of your deflating lungs.

This about does it for me. Did I miss any? Feel free to chime in with your “favorite” Modern Movie-Going Punishments if you feel like sharing. I’d like to again thank John Adams for his illustrations. He’s going to be gone for a few weeks, but when he returns perhaps we’ll work on a companion piece to this post that will remind you of why you should still go to the movies. It’ll be a list of Modern Movie-Going Rewards – and hopefully they will far outnumber the punishments listed above.

36 Responses Modern Movie-Going Punishments
Posted By dukeroberts : May 8, 2011 4:51 pm

These are all extremely valid complaints and concerns. You shouldn’t apologize for a single one.

Posted By dukeroberts : May 8, 2011 5:19 pm

I especially detest the current phone etiquette, or lack thereof.

Posted By keelsetter : May 8, 2011 5:42 pm

Blimey! Duke, you remind me that we’d actually put together a specific graphic for EXACTLY that subset and I’d forgotten to paste it in. It has now been added in as “More Bad Cell Phone Etiquette.” Thanks for refreshing my memory.

Posted By dukeroberts : May 8, 2011 5:50 pm

There is no greater troll than the “Movie? What movie? I’m taking this call” kind of troll. And very often they are not open to the not quite so subtle hints that they should leave the theater to speak.

Posted By Filmteknik : May 8, 2011 8:13 pm

It’s a pity that they are fooling the public into believing that film always means eventual scratches and dirt and that’s why we must switch to digital. That’s simply not true. Film run by incompetent people gets scratched and dirty.

And while platters make it easier for incompetents to run theatres it’s not axiomatic that they scratch film. Again, it’s who is running them. It wasn’t that long ago that a film like “Titanic” played for a full year in some theatres and often the original print was still in excellent condition at the end of the run because good people were handling it.

I really do not know why the several very big chains have agreed to go digital. They gain little and stand to lose in the end. Sure, Hollywood is subsidizing the initial conversion out of money they don’t have to spend on making prints. Virtual Print Fees they are called. But it’s a given that digital projection equipment will be obsolete within, say, 5 years. Either because of further technological advancement or simply because the manufacturers have moved on and will make older gear too costly to maintain. Replacement costs will have to be born by exhibitors.

Compare that to film projectors which run decades and can be overhauled to run decades more. That right…not years…but decades. I do not exaggerate. With a modern lens and the latest sound playback gear, a projector from the 1930′s can create a state of the art presentation. There are theatres out there proving this every day.

Oh sure, digital will eliminate the projectionists in favor of a manager setting up shows with a few mouse clicks. But the industry has already shaved labor costs to the bone so much that the savings are small compared to the huge equipment bills they will be paying from now on.

The little exhibitors and small chains have no say in the matter but companies like Cinemark, Regal and AMC could easily have said no. They could have said that they see no gain and major negatives from a switch to digital and declined to go along.

Even 3D, often touted as a reason to convert, can easily be done via film at much lower cost and with much brighter pictures and a dim picture is the one thing people always complain about.

I should also note that even film prints are not as good anymore because almost every movie goes through a digital intermediate stage that severely limits how good it can look.

I really think the industry has made a foolish decision here which may come back to haunt it.

Posted By dukeroberts : May 8, 2011 10:05 pm

It is a shame that this is taking place. Progress and change are not always good. This is one example. Digital does not convey the richness and nuances that are clearly apparent on celluloid film.

Posted By wilbur twinhorse : May 8, 2011 10:06 pm

you might get a chuckle from this tale of moviegoing bliss at, theoatmeal.com/story/water_buffalo

Posted By Holly The Celluloid Scholar : May 9, 2011 8:25 am

can I get a Amen?
Especially the ADD part. I stopped invited a friend out because she would jump on her phone every second. Instead of enjoying the film she paid $12.00 to see, she’d start reading about the movie (and then wikisurf from there).
I don’t mind paying for movies, but I hate throwing the dice as to what type of group will be in the theater.

Posted By Mike P : May 9, 2011 9:01 am

Seven of these have been present since the first celluloid ran through the first projector. Before 1960 you’d have to add “people who come in halfway through the movie and demand to know what’s going on” to your list, which could replace the cell-phone-related stuff. Sure, we think all the eating and talking are getting worse now, but that’s because we’re getting older and crankier.

Posted By Medusa Morlock : May 9, 2011 10:00 am

I will never forget the time my moviegoing companion and I dared to say something — I think it was “shhh!” — to a family with several small kids who were creating a ruckus. The father came over and stood over us in our seats and freaked out and started into a tirade. It was almost scary, and I think we left, reported him, changed theaters and saw something else. If this guy could be that aggressive we didn’t want to be anywhere near him when leaving the theater! Very unpleasant, and what a good example for his kids, right?

Hopefully your theater has a more reasonable clientele but with the cellphones and such, there really is no decent public behavior left. Good luck with your continued quest for more enjoyable theater experiences for all!

Posted By moirafinnie : May 9, 2011 11:51 am

This was wonderful, Keelsetter. The illustrations by your friend John Adams were also so apt. Please consider having this printed and selling it at the concession counter of your theater, (yeah, I know you are a non-profit, but this needs to be seen by more people).

I have heard absolutely glowing reports about everything connected with the recent TCM Film Festival–except that people consistently ignored the hosts’ polite requests for members of the audience to turn off their cell phones at several movies. Maybe this article could be sent to people before they arrived at the venues next year?

Thanks for posting this about all too familiar movie-going experiences.

Posted By Heidi : May 9, 2011 12:27 pm

Great post. I hesitate to admit this, but we rarely go to the theater anymore. We live in a college town, and maybe that adds to it, but the people here do not know how to watch a movie. We have just about everybody listed above at every movie experience. If you move to another theater, you get just another group doing the same thing. When we do get up the courage to go, we go weeks after it has been out and at the earliest time slot hoping that the back seat kickers and screaming children and cell phones won’t be in attendence. Of course, that also means we get stuck in the tiny theater with the screen not much bigger than our tv. Ok, it is bigger than our tv, but it is still not “the big screen”. Luckily (?) the choice of movies lately has not given us much to miss. The future doesn’t seem all that exciting, either. A couple of years ago they played The Philadelphia Story on screen. Seeing Cary Grant on film the way he was supposed to be seen, was thrilling. THe quality of the movie was iffy…exactly what you were commenting on. I would go agin, though. It was a nearly empty theater, with people that actually liked movies and behaved that way. Cheers to us cranky old timers!

Posted By joanne : May 9, 2011 1:42 pm

I told one of my friends if she ever brought out her cell again to email during a film that I would throw it against the wall- surprisingly has never been an issue again.

Posted By mutant009 : May 9, 2011 1:48 pm

I, too, avoid seeing movies in theaters for all of the reasons above, plus one you left out: the theater owners who under-crank the voltage on the projector bulb to make it last longer, making the picture darker, the colors dimmer, as well as reducing the contrast.

Posted By Peggy : May 9, 2011 1:52 pm

Coughers: Those that come to the theater knowing they’ve got a cold and proceed to hack, sneeze, cough, and wheeze throughout the entire film. Stay home if you’re sick. I don’t want to hear it or catch it, thank you very much.

Posted By DP : May 9, 2011 2:02 pm

Yesterday, the person behind me was snorting loudly as if they were ingesting several hundred gallons of their own snot. It would be disgusting anywhere, but during dialogue, it was downright irritating. Cinemas are not places to go when you are sick.

Posted By Njuul : May 9, 2011 2:06 pm

Terribly true! I hate to admit it, but I’m one of those annoying types who sit and make silly jokes to my friends during the movie. I know, it’s a bad habit, I need to get rid of it!

Posted By Kelly : May 9, 2011 2:10 pm

I think the one you missed that would resolve most of the rest is this: An Usher with the power to eject someone. If I could report one of these abuses to an usher or better yet, the usher has the sense to take it upon themselves to remove the punisher, that alone would make my moviegoing experience dramatically better.

Posted By RTF : May 9, 2011 2:21 pm

@mutant009 – The “lowering the voltage to make the bulb last longer” thing is a myth. Due to the nature of the arc lamps in traditional incandescent projectors, lowering the voltage would actually destabilize the arc and probably shorten the lifespan of the bulb.

Dim projections are often the result of the bulb being at the end of its operational lifespan, not a deliberate attempt to prolong it.

Posted By David : May 9, 2011 2:28 pm

I was recently back in my home town and went to the local multiplex with a few buddies on Saturday night. Ticket & concession queues took us more than 30 minutes, so we were late for the movie.

I really hated myself for that.

And that’s in Germany, where the scheduled time of a movie means that’s when the ads start rolling. You never know how long they go and when the movie really starts. Sometimes they don’t even show ads, so you can’t even count that in when timing your appearance.

Oh, and let’s not forget: Most German cinemas show movies in dubbed versions. Most of the times it’s extremely difficult to find a showing of even the latest blockbuster in its original language.

On the other hand, the theaters that do show original versions in Germany tend to have great audiences. Actually, since I moved away from my hometown and its crappy multiplexes, I can’t remember when I last witnessed ANY of the applicable offences you listed.

Posted By William D’Annucci : May 9, 2011 2:37 pm

I find people who talk during movies highly aggravating. Same goes for people who continually get up and sit down, bring noisy infants, check the bright glowing screens on their portable devices, make or receive phone calls, or are disruptive in any way to the moviegoing experience. This past weekend, I was incredibly distracted while trying to enjoy a new release in a cinema because of the mammoth scratches running through nearly the entire film. I’m fairly sure all these things irritate me more than for most others.

And you want to know why? Because I have Attention Deficit Disorder. And I love movies. When I pay my ticket money and sit down in a dark cinema I want to focus my attention on all the many elements of a good film, whether they be performances, writing, cinematography, production design, costumes, music, you name it. But one moronic texting audience member can rip me right out of that.

Too many movie critics these days are taking the lazy tactic of throwing around “ADD” or “ADD Generation” labels to sum up everything they don’t like about movies or audience members. And when you do that, you are only coming off as uninformed and insensitive to both what ADD really is and to the people who deal with it on a daily basis.

Posted By keelsetter : May 9, 2011 2:55 pm

Thanks to everyone for their comments. William, you make an excellent point about the danger of painting with a lazy and wide-brush when it comes to A.D.D., and – moving forward – I’ll be more careful in my wording. For what it’s worth, all my friends make fun of me for various habits that are clearly signs of O.C.D. behavior. This behavior has its pitfalls as well as advantages. I find it helps to take it all with a grain of salt.

Posted By not_sure : May 9, 2011 2:56 pm

Don’t forget the jackass that comes in late from another screening at the multiplex and plops down right in front of you.

Posted By Craig Blamer : May 9, 2011 3:45 pm

Babies. What’s up with taking a baby to a movie theater.

Yeah, I know it costs money for a babysitter, but that’s your problem, not mine. Until it starts howling right when things get interesting. And you can’t turn off a baby like a cellphone. Only thing to do is go through the whole process of wading through the other patrons with the wailing bundle and exit the theater.

Be proactive. You carried the baby in your womb, that means you’ve got the patience to wait for the DVD.

Actually, a subset of that is the toddlers at R-rated movies. While my folks took young me to see horror movies at the drive-in, they sure as hell didn’t take me to the walk-ins. Just common sense, right?

Right.

Posted By Bob Gutowski : May 9, 2011 4:46 pm

What about the “I saw this already, ooh, I’ll point out the good parts” guy? It’s almost always a guy. I love his emphatic and loud “Watch this!!!” As if we all weren’t gazing up at the screen already! Actually, I no longer go to the movies unless it’s a documentary like “Ryan Reynolds: The Nudist Years” because I have so little tolerance for the anti-social behavior this article so charmingly explored!

Posted By Juana Maria : May 9, 2011 6:25 pm

Wow! I’ve encounted these annoying habits just at home watching TV with my family. Ugh. So annoying…and they wonder why I like to watch on a different set. Thanks for the article!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 9, 2011 11:17 pm

This is terrific! Love the illustrations. I’ve dealt with similar stuff so much that going to the movies has turned into a real crap game. You have no idea what you’ll encounter but chances are one of the things you mentioned will occur. At the recent Fellini screening I attended I had to deal with a “Loud Eater” that got on my nerves. Also agree with the people who complained about sick folks going to the movies. I can’t believe people are so inconsiderate but I dealt with a similar thing when I went and saw THE KING’S SPEECH a few months ago. I was coughed on and sneezed on. A few days later I ended up with a cold myself.

Another behavior that really irritates me is “pointless laughter” during serious dramas and complex art films. A lot of people tend to laugh inappropriately when they don’t understand what’s happening in a film and others will join in and suddenly your surrounded by a handful of annoying people laughing at nothing that’s actually happening on screen. It’s so strange and really annoying. Totally takes me out of the movie.

Posted By Greg Howard : May 10, 2011 12:54 am

Excellent, sir! But you left out a major complaint I have, as do many of my friends: The painful decision of the theater operator to set the volume at levels that can stun a gnat dead, right out of the air.

When even my 11yr-old daughter & her best friend request to leave a film halfway through (‘The Golden Compass’) because it hurts their ears, and Dad agrees even though he is wearing earplugs, something is seriously wrong.

Note to theater owners: Not everyone who ventures your overpriced fare is already deaf due to years of listening to stolen MP3′s at a volume guaranteed to sterilize frogs. Some of us can hear just fine, and would appreciate seeing (hearing) a film shown at relatively normal volume. If you really have that many deaf or hearing-impaired customers, then please offer (at extra cost, of course!) earplugs like the airlines do, so those poor souls can bump up the sound as loud as they like.

The rest of us would like to enjoy normal conversation on the way home from your fine establishment, rather than battle tinnitus.

Posted By Gary : May 10, 2011 2:45 am

As I sit munching my popcorn I often wonder, hearing the sound in my head, if it bothers others. Then I listen and realize popcorn is fairly silent–it is the sounds of rustling around in the bag that is distracting. But Nachos, a very popular food in commercial cinemas, makes noise. Any kind of chips worth their salt make a loud crackling sound. And I am thankful that theaters searching for more healthful concession offerings have avoided apples. Now that makes is a distraction!

I also operate an independent theater and we try hard to make it a good experience. On cell phones we have a sign claiming “This theater uses ‘Destruct-O-Cell.’ If a phone is used during the show it will self destruct.” There is a framed cell phone which was treated to a few fire crackers, with a date and show where this system was “effectively used.” We get surprisingly few phones used. People aren’t sure if it is a joke or not but aren’t about to find out.

Please do create a similar piece on the joys of going out to the movies. The poster who suggested bad behavior in the home got it right. Where do you think people develop these insensitive habits?

And finally on digital: The studios are saving too much money for this to ever go back. And most of the public has been convinced it is better to the point where they will pay extra for it.

Posted By keelsetter : May 10, 2011 12:17 pm

Hi, Gary – I’ll definitely post a MODERN MOVIE-GOING REWARDS follow-up in June. All the good work that you and your fellow Telluride Film Festival peeps put into “the Show” will get a special mention. It remains one of the highlights of my year precisely because so much work is put into curating a film festival that cares about the rich legacy cinema has to offer, finding obscure archive prints, all the attention to detail that goes into the presentation, etc. Your email also reminds me that I am overdue to buy my pass (there – just did it: done!)… see you over Labor Day Weekend!

Posted By Mitchie Sea : May 10, 2011 12:59 pm

don’t forget those lovely folks who – walking into a near empty theatre – decide to sit RIGHT SMACK DAB IN FRONT of me. like there’s NOWHERE left to sit?! and since i am not very tall, i always have to up & move cuz i can’t see over their usually super-sized bodies. and, i realize that i have to move as far away as possible, in fact, because I just KNOW these “patrons” will proceed to commit many of the other vulgarities listed above! ugh. the WORST.

Posted By Mariah : May 10, 2011 4:11 pm

William, what an excellent post.

I especially hate when people bring their children to R-rated films. Once, when I went to see “American Wedding” some very heavyset woman brought her toddler to this film. When the kid got curious in one particular gross-out scene, this woman had the GALL to tell her kid to be quiet! I couldn’t even enjoy the movie, I was so angry!

Posted By dukeroberts : May 10, 2011 4:38 pm

Mariah- We must have been at the same theater. I swear the same scene occurred when I saw American Wedding as well. Of course, I’m always fine when kids shut up at movies, but the kid shouldn’t have been there.

Posted By Commander Adams : May 10, 2011 10:25 pm

There’s one particularly annoying type who shows up at art houses, repertory theaters and film classes-The Laughers, who think anything old or in black and white is automatically hilarious. These idiots even laughed all the way through a double bill of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

Posted By Commander Adams : May 12, 2011 3:43 pm

Ironically, it was MST3K’s Frank Coniff who said it best: “If you call yourself a film fan or an aspiring film maker, but won’t watch certain films just because they were made before a certain time or are in black in white, THEN YOU ARE A DOUCHEBAG. Period.”

Posted By Fantomex : June 19, 2011 9:50 pm

@David: Here’s to multiplexes with ads in them, then! I find that better because if I arrive late, I’m not worried that I’m going to miss the trailers or the movie, although I wouldn’t go to the washroom, or I would miss the movie and the trailer if I have a big bowel movement (I judge movies by trailers, not by critics.)

@keelsetter: So-called ‘bad’ movies are subjective. and the recent decades aren’t any more saturated with them than past eras were: you can choose to or not to go to them. (Strange thing about The Onion blurb: Half of those ‘crappy’movies’ become well-regarded in years to come [some people are now rethinking the Star Trek: TOS episode The Way To Eden] or the director goes on to other things which people like yourself find more to their taste [for example, many bloggers love the type of film similar to The Fast Five made in the past-at least the first two installments.])

As for one of the complaints: I find that sitting on the side seats near the aisle helps me when I want to make a quick entrance and getaway.

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