I love going to the movies because it’s so dramatic: The lights dim, the audience buzzes, and then images dance across a giant screen. Throw emotions into the mix and every visit offers a chance for us to become utterly entranced by human creativity.
That is if you can stifle your rage over the gabby douchebag seated next to you.
Enjoying a movie outside of your living room requires a lot to go right. If you follow these theatergoing rules, though, everyone will be able to sit back and enjoy the show.
1. If you’re sick, stay home. When I saw The Avengers, I sat next to a tyke with a perpetual cough that had the rich, rounded tones of a veteran chain-smoker. It was so bad that twice the kid’s father—or maybe it was a hospice-care worker—had to escort him outside.
Not only is such behavior distracting, you risk infecting everyone around you. Attendance is not mandatory. You will have multiple chances to see a miscast Cobie Smulders.
2. Leave the baby with a sitter. Forget that a baby isn’t going to appreciate anything, aside from perhaps Scarlett Johansson’s lunchtime assets. The little darling is a time bomb. What if he enters into an inconsolable crying jag? What if the strained peas from earlier don’t agree with her? What if he wants to take a nap but an enthusiastic audience or a noisy fight sequence won’t allow it?
Certain rites of adulthood mean that certain freedoms are relinquished. Parents: You don’t get to watch movies you want to see whenever you please.
3. Turn off all mobile devices. Setting it to silent will not do. In a darkened theater, the gleam from a smartphone is as distracting as a Peterbilt’s high beams. You can update your Facebook status or respond to that evite later. The world will remain intact.
4. Unless you’re 15 or need to stop at Hot Topic afterward, don’t go to a movie theater attached to a mall. There are exceptions, but there’s a 95 percent chance you will be surrounded by endlessly chatty teenagers high on freedom, faux maturity and sugary drinks. It’s like being in a more obnoxious remake of Juno, if that’s even possible.
5. When it comes to event movies, punctuality counts. If you want to see The Amazing Spider-Man on opening night, get there at least 20 minutes before show time so you can find a seat without giving every person in your row a free lapdance.
6. If you want to buy a compound bucket full of popcorn and a 90-ounce cola, make that 35 minutes. Otherwise, enjoy staring up Andrew Garfield’s nose.
7. Never wear any kind of open-toed footwear. If the sticky floors aren’t reason enough, then how about those reports of bed bugs a few years back? Perhaps it’s best that we dress for the movies like we’re going on a nature walk.
8. It’s OK to sneak food in—within reason. I do this frequently. A homemade chicken salad sandwich was the best part of John Carter. Something pocket-sized, like candy, is harmless. You’re pushing the line when you bring anything that requires multiple napkins or a place setting.
9. Keep the commenting to a minimum. There are few things more grating than some smarty-pants cinedweeb spouting not-so clever “observations.” Lean over to your companion and whisper those remarks. That way, only one person, usually my wife, is annoyed.
10. You have the right to enjoy yourself. If a fellow patron’s behavior is consistently annoying, ask that person to stop. Should the behavior continue, address that concern with a multiplex employee.
Of course, these annoyances shouldn’t happen every time you go out. Finding the right venue is paramount. Different theaters have different feels. When you see a movie also matters. A 10:30 a.m. screening has a completely different clientele than one at 10:30 p.m. Some movie theaters cater to families, some to art-house fans.
When it comes to enjoying a movie, we play the biggest role. Now, could you please stop kicking the back of my seat?