I love the movies. Everything about them, from the marquis lit up with the promise of escape to the unmistakable scent of cinema popcorn. You could condition your hair with that molten golden butter. The feelings of joy and pathos, fear and laughter, or, if you’re really lucky, all of those. Even the theater itself: plush, bouncy seats, cup holder at the ready, because it is physiologically impossible to watch a movie without popcorn and a Diet Coke. The immense screen and silent space sing a dimmed lullaby.
But therein, at times, lies the problem.
It seems not everyone is aware of proper etiquette, and transgressions threaten the very fabric of the theater-going experience. So, for the uninitiated or those who have strayed from the flock of faithful film aficionados, here are the Ten Commandments of Movie Going (just as Cecile B DeMille would have had Charlton Heston hand them down from the mountain):
1. Arrive on Time. This means early. When I lived in Los Angeles, ever-tangled traffic and parking wars required that you devote at least a half-day to movie going. Movies often sold out hours in advance, so it was de rigueur to buy tickets eons prior to show time. And then immediately to queue up for admittance to avoid neck strain from being stuck in a front row seat. These habits die hard, but they serve me well. I don’t get shut out of movies or my preferred seats; nor should you.
2. Know What You Want to See, and Have Your Money Ready. There is no mystery to what movies are showing at a given theater at a specific time. Both are listed in life-sized letters outside, and blindingly brightly inside, as well as on your desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, and even in that archaic deliverer of information, the newspaper. There is no reason in the world to walk into the lobby, stand in the ticket line, and then gape at the pixilated listings as if you’ve just dropped out of the sky like Dorothy’s house.
“What are we seeing?”
“You know, the one about the thing and the person.”
“Right. What’s it called?”
Be like the Boy Scouts. Be prepared.
3. Food Choices. See item two above. A limited number of selections are prominently displayed in well-lit cases and on colorful, illuminated signs, and they have changed little in 50 or more years. Pick your poison quickly and have your money ready. If you are the adult responsible for a gaggle of kids, conference and collect orders before you step up to the plate. And please do not bring in your own aromatic aluminum-foil wrapped tuna sub and pop-top soda. Theaters survive on the sale of popcorn so overpriced that you could likely buy several acres of farmland to grow your own for the price of a refillable large tub.
4. Select a Seat. Quickly. Particularly if the trailers have begun. Please do not stand in the aisle slack-jawed and amazed that the theater is not vacant having this exchange:
“Where do you want to sit?”
“Where do YOU want to sit?”
“I don’t care”
“OK, how about over there.”
“No, too close.”
“I don’t care,” and then plop down right in front of me. Especially if you are 6’8”.
5. Pee and Open Your Cellophane-Sealed Food Before the Movie Starts. The former, preferably not in the theater. Enough said.
6. Wrangle your children and their friends. Discourage, by force if necessary, food throwing, shrieking, and wrestling matches. The obvious corollary is do not bring infants to see movies, particularly, say, to “Apocalypse Now.” Yes, that happened. Pay, barter, or beg to get a babysitter. I know you need to get out. Leave the baby at home.
7. Don’t Talk. Even during the previews. At all. For any reason.
8. Turn Off Your Cell Phone. For real. Completely off. Not on vibrate. Don’t surreptitiously sneak peeks at it either, unleashing light saber-like beams into the darkened theater.
9. Eat. It’s part of the movie experience. But quietly, please. You should do this anyway. Chew with your mouth closed like your mother told you. The quiet theater is no place for slurping, chomping, and crunching, especially during those silent sentimental scenes. Snack strategically during the cover of car chases and explosions.
10. Don’t Leave During the Credits. People worked hard to make the movie you just enjoyed. Also, you might miss some really cool outtakes. If your kids made the movie you’d want the audience to stay and see their names up on the big screen.
Now discuss. The movie. After you leave the theater!