25 January 2009

From the Complaint Department


I hate extraneous and unnecessary noise. In some cases this is a function of my hyper vigilance, as when I'm bothered by someone sniffling, or chewing gum (vulgar habit) or talking outside my house. At other times I am either reacting to people being inconsiderate or to a culture which can't shut up.

Let us take a look at instances of the former as they relate to the movie-going experience.

When I saw Revolutionary Road I wondered if perhaps director Sam Mendes had decided to have numerous unseen characters chomping away on popcorn. This would have been a deviation from Richard Yates' book in which, to the best of my recollection, there was no one eating pop corn.

I eventually realized that the sound of people eating was not in the movie at all but the product of my fellow patrons. I was thereafter mightily distracted. Such a cacophony of munching!

While watching Frost/Nixon someones mobile phone commenced ringing during a climactic scene. The offender did not answer the phone. Nor did this lout turn the bloody thing off. It just rang and rang.

During my viewing of Slumdog Millionaire, several people seated in my vicinity found it necessary to visit the "facilities" during the course of the movie. Really, you haven't learned to hold it yet, or "go" before the movie?

Here are some questions I have: are people so addle-brained that they don't realize that movie theater food is a) bad for you and b) expensive? Don't they consider having a bite to eat immediately preceding or following the film? Maybe if people didn't spend hundreds of dollars on an extra large diet coke just before the movie started they wouldn't need to relieve themselves during the movie.

And seriously now, is it that hard to turn of your f*cking phone before a movie starts?

Ya know what though? I haven't even gotten to the people who are the worst offenders of all, those folks for whom summary executions are in order: I refer of course to the god awful heathens who talk during a movie. You don't want to get me started on those morons....

Next time you go to a movie, have a look around. Do you see what is occupying some of the other seats? Those are other people. You've no right to violate their experience. Ambient noise takes people out of the moment. It is a reminder that we are not actually experiencing the story on the screen. It is an interruption of the reverie that is at the very core of enjoying a film.

Thank God there are places like the Pacific Film Archives which does not allow eating in its theater. Patrons there tend to be serious film aficionados and watch a movie with eyes and ears open and mouth closed. On the rare occasion when someone talks at the PFA they are loudly shushed back to the Stone Age.

Bliss.

That other form of noise to which I alluded is at different type of public venue altogether. I refer to sports events. I have never believed in paranoid theories of worldwide conspiracies by powerful and unseen international forces bent on control of the world. But if someone put forth one regarding this annoyance I'd likely buy it.

Time was that between innings of baseball game or during a time out a basketball game you could turn to your neighbor and talk. No more. The second the action stops the music blares. It's usually inoffensive popular rock music. Also, wherever there is a big screen fans are subjected to contrived games or candid camera-type shows or highlights or short player bios. They tend to be as hard to ignore as a head cold and can be just as annoying.

Enough already.

Is some super secret force trying to keep us sedated? Is it so bad if we have time to talk or heaven forbid, think? Leave us alone already. It's too much and it is everywhere. It's one thing for the pep band to blast away, that's a long standing tradition at high school and college sports, but we really don't need piped in music to boot. Some of us don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or computer or iphone or video game. Many of us have been known to read newspapers and books and to sit at home or a coffee shop and chat. Sometimes we even sit by ourselves and THINK. Something much harder to do wherever there are constant external stimuli.

Noise, noise, everywhere all the time. Oh for a little peace and quiet.

Three Dot Blogging: Currently at the PFA there is a Joseph Von Sternberg retrospective that I am much enjoying. So far have seen two of his silents...I was at a movie a few years back and late in the film a gentleman across the aisle got up and left, he returned about three or four minutes later with a huge barrel of popcorn, just as the closing credits began to roll...One thing's for sure, on my death bed I will NOT regret having eaten too many pancakes, indeed I'm likely to regret not having had enough. Pancakes are delicious and not all that bad for you...Watched a beloved film today that ends with a picketer outside a restaurant owned, operated and named for Buljanoff, Iranoff and Koplalski. A nickel if you can name the film...For eight years I read the news with dread wondering what kind of nonsense this country was up to now (defiling the Constitution, pushing abstinence only programs) since last Tuesday I look at the news with hopeful anticipation of a wrong righted (Gitmo closing or government transparency).

54 comments:

Laura said...

I like your blog, very insightful. I thought I was the only one who doesn't like being bombarded with noise and pictures unrelated to the event I am attending.
I added your blog to my blog list.

Richard Hourula said...

Thanks!

Mr Smile said...

Great one! And thank you!

I have to disallow my closest friends to attend films with me, because they chat and chat the whole time.

"Iain I wanna sit next to you so we can talk!"

"Sorry, dude, then I can't watch this movie."

Some people....

Anonymous said...

Although I feel you pain about the talkers and the idiots with the phone in the movie theatre, I do not agree with the rest. Going to see a movie in a theatre is a communal experience. You should expect some noise, some munching, and god forbid there will even be a few people that need the loo halfway through the movie.

With sporting events, you are also paying for an experience. You should expect to be bombarded with noise. If you don't want a noisy baseball game, stay home and read in the quiet of your own home.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

WOW! I absolutely love your blog.
I agree with you on every point.
I absolutely hate those morons who talk during the movie and are constantly needing the loo! But chewing gum? oh god dont get me started on THAT! my mum on occasion feels the need to chew on gum,it is disgusting!

I'm under 20, so my friends tend to think I'm a bit of a snob because I refuse to go the pictures with them.

Anonymous said...

And I thought I was uptight about cinema going! Always reassuring to know I'm not alone...

I agree on most points bar going to the bathroom - if you gotta go, you gotta go!

But could someone please tell me why the hell they sell crunchy nacho chips in a loud plastic container at the pictures? Anyone? Humph.

Clockwork Rob said...

I agree with some of the above commenters- there's no point giving out about people eating popcorn etc. at the movies, because that's ultimately part of the cinema going experience. For some (myself included) it's an essential part of the experience!

That said I completely agree with the talking/mobile phones sentiment. My advice is to shush people to your hearts content. I frequently shush people at the movies. It's not a place for talking, and if they natter they deserve to be shamed into shutting up. I also never hesitate to report persistant talkers to cinema staff.

So basically what I suggest is to be more assertive, and don't be afraid to give these f*ckers hell.

Jason said...

What's sad is just how many people have the table manners of a pig. The sound of popcorn is annoying enough but why do they compound it by shuffling their hand deep into it and rattling it around as if to extract some sort of "magic popcorn" from the bag? Just grab the first piece your fingers touch. Also, don't grab a huge handful. The popcorn will still be there, no need to be greedy.

When you do eat it, put the popcorn in your mouth, close your mouth and then begin chewing. Don't immediately begin chewing the second you've brought your handful of popcorn to your mouth. It's rude and creates a lot more noise and makes you little less than a pig (apologies to pigs everywhere). And didn't your mother teach you not to chew with your mouth open? If not, shame on her for doing such a poor job raising you.

As for the bathroom, it's like traveling; go before you go. Don't drink a 32 oz soda seconds before the film. And if you're "thirsty" from all the popcorn, that's because you're a mindless idiot who succumbed to Coca-Cola's plan to get you to buy their drink (selling salty popcorn in theatres was their idea to increase drink sales). Realize you've been played and don't fall for it again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. If you're too stupid to realize the connection between all that popcorn and soda you consumed and your need to rush off to relieve yourself, you're probably not intelligent enough to understand the film anyway.

Cell phones? Cell phones that go off should be comfiscated and destroyed. Period. Enter with one at your own risk.

Talking? If you're so out of touch with any sense of courtesy and respect for others that you talk during a movie, you should be euthanized on the spot for lack of a functioning brain and/or conscience. There's no excuse for this. Theatres are for watching films. That's why they turn down the lights and project moving images on one of the walls. If they were supposed to be filled with the sounds one finds on a sidewalk, they'd build sidewalks right through them. If they wanted you to carry on a conversation, they'd turn the lights up so you could see the person you're talking to and read all the visual cues in their face as to how they're reacting to the drivel you're likely spurting. That and you'd see the look of horror on their faces when you eat like a pig.

If you want to do any of the above, I have one acronym for you: DVD. Watch the movie at your own pen where you can revel in eating whatever you want, pause the movie when you need to, talk so loud you can't even hear the explosions in the film and engage in any other behavior which would otherwise label you unfit for polite society. Let those of us who go to theatres to watch movies do so in peace.

Becky said...

While I agree that at times, people can be annoying, you have to accept the fact that when you go to a public place, you are going to have to put up with people.

Annoying people at the movie theater? Well, it is the way it is. You'd probably feel a lot better if you just learn to deal. Learn to turn off those extraneous noises. If you can't deal, maybe it's best to just stay home and watch a DVD.

And if this is the worst problem you are facing today, consider yourself lucky. At least you have extra money to spend to a see a movie at a theater. Think about that next time you are getting annoyed.

Paul said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It must be a generational thing. I'm a Baby Boomer, and since we grew up in the pre-VCR, pre-cable era, we had to go to the theaters to see movies. (Unless we wanted to wait five or six years before a movie finally came to television.) Movies were a communal experience then, too; and yet everyone pretty much seemed to know enough to keep quiet and not interfere with our neighbor's viewing expperience. Doofuses who broke that unwritten contract were quickly tossed out of the theater by Ed Asner-like "matrons" with flashlights like billy clubs. Somewhere along the way from the Boomers to Gen X, Y and belond, the rules of the communal experience seemed to have changed from "community libertarianism" (you respect my rights and I'll respect yours) to a kind of Max Stiner-ish solipsism ("No one really exists or has any rights but me") or an Obama/Hillary-ish collectivism ("it's a community, so no one has any individual rights").

Brendt said...

If you want to do any of the above, I have one acronym for you: DVD.

Jason, please send me your address so I can have the bill sent to you for my new 50-foot TV (and the house I had to build to accommodate it).

Anonymous said...

I agree with you for the most part, but while I don't like hearing people eat (or maybe laugh a little too loudly) at movie theatres, I respect their right to do so, even if it is a little distracting at times. If I have a problem with that, I will change seats.

What I WILL NOT tolerate is talking. I've become obsessed with movie talkers. Once, I asked a guy who was sitting next to me at a crowded opening night to "please keep it down." He turned to me and said, "No, if you don't like it, go sit somewhere else!" To which I responded, in a yelling voice, "No, you shut the F*** up!" He then threatened to "settle it after the movie," to which I told him if he didn't shut up there wouldn't be an after the movie for him because I'd have his ass tossed from the theatre. Here's the crazy part: he and one of his girlfriends got up and returned five minutes later with the manager. They told him I was harassing them. I told the manager exactly what had happened, and he told the other two to be quiet. They sat through the remainder of the movie without even breathing.

And something you left out, although it isn't noise, and that's people text messaging. It's almost as irritating to have that glowing blue square in the corner of your vision as it is to listen to needless chitchat. Seriously, is it really that hard to just go two hours without communicating with the outside world?

I can almost promise that you will hear about someone who has had their cell phone jammed up their butt on the news, and that someone will likely have tangled with me.

Whatever happened to ushers anyway?

Donald said...
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Anonymous said...

Your comments on the film noise are very familiar. I actually gave up going to the theater about 5 years ago. Why pay money to have these people ruin a movie that I actually want to see? I'm sure I've saved my family thousands of dollars by not going, too.

Thank you, Blockbuster Online.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of your post. Especially about talkers. But to be so annoyed by people needing to use the bathroom, or eating popcorn, that actually makes you the inconsiderate one.

I'd rather have someone use the bathroom fives times than piss their pants. Maybe they have a condition...

And food, come on. Everyone knows that most movie theaters make the majority of the money in the concession stand. If everyone was like you and never purchased anything at the concession stand than movie theaters would close up, or have to charge $15 - $20 a ticket.

Like I said, I agree with a lot of what you are saying, especially people talking during a movie and cell phones, but it gets to the point where you are just being the inconsiderate one.

Stay home and watch a DVD. I'd hate for people's laughter to piss you off in a comedy.

Nate Anderson said...

I have to agree with everything said here. I have come up with a solution though. I sit towards the front. I get a better sense of the "big screen experience" and am usually not disrupted by noisy talkers all the time. I also generally remain oblivious to anyone having to go to the loo.

Never understood why people want to sit all the way in the back. Might as well watch it on T.V at home.

tommy salami said...

While I agree on talking and cell phones, eating and emptying the bladder will never go away, unless you go to theaters that do not serve food. I like what Hitchcock said, that movie length should be measured by the size of the human bladder. Too bad Intermissions are gone, I guess they can cram more showings in that way.

I await the day that I can watch movies at home by paying a fee, and then I will save the big screen for "popcorn" movies where the bombastic sound mix drowns out the slobs gobbling their nachos.

Chris said...

I agree 100%! Glad to hear I'm not the only one who HATES the morons that insist on munching on popcorn through a movie.

I particularly hate the idiots that have to read every word that shows up on the screen. For instance, if there are subtitles, some idiot will always have to read them out loud.

It should be legal to cut out these fools' larynx.

Anonymous said...

Got to agree with virtually everything you've written. I, too, stopped going to theaters COMPLETELY about seven years ago. My friends think I'm nuts because they know I'm a big film buff but I've never seen the films until they're out on DVD. I have easily paid for my HD projector and screen several times over with the money I've saved on tickets and refreshments. As an added bonus, I can see twice as many films in the same amount of time that it took to get to the theater, get tix, get seated, wait through the junk they show before the film, etc. Finally, I found that the quality of the projection and the size of the screens at theaters were so poor that my home system is simply a better visual experience. (And, of course, I can pause when I need to go tinkle.)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

People talking in the theater, cell phones ringing, are the reasons behind my absences and my increasing habitt of watching movies in home. Sad but true. I only attend cinemas twice a year...

Atrain said...

I agree with most of your movie annoyances. One new trend over the last decade that drives me absolutely bananas is the theater leaving the house lights up during the previews. As far as I'm concerned when the previews start, the movie has started. If you have to shuffle around the dark to find an empty seat, shame on you for not leaving the house five minutes earlier. Although I'm not stingy about people talking quietly through the previews, by leaving the lights up it's only encouraging theater-goers to talk into the first few moments of the actual movie. I've got no sympathy for declining box office receipts over the last few years. Consumers are voting with their dollars. Home theaters are improving. Until theater owners and Hollywood decide to address these issues, that gap will only continue to widen.

Anonymous said...

One of the stupidest interruptions of a movie ever inflicted on me was when I saw E. T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL in the theater. You may recall at the beginning, E.T. is walking alone in a forest, exploring the ecosystem. The forest has tall trees, and there is a hushed, cathedral-like ambience. The audience should be watching silently, filled with wonder and a sense of mystery.

And at that point, when a rabbit crosses the alien vistor's path, and the camera stays on the rabbit a second or two to show us it's a rabbit, some idiot behind me in the theater said aloud, "A rabbit."

If I weren't afraid of things escalating into an even bigger intrusion on my fellow moviegoers' viewing experience, I would have turned around and, Dennis Miller-like, said, "Well, thank you for that valuable commentary, Marlin Perkins! The rest of us would have never known that the cute, cotton-tailed creature with the floppy ears and who strongly resembles Bambi's friend Thumper was actually a rabbit! Now could you shut the @#$% up and let the rest of us watch the movie in peace, Beatrix Potter?"

Anonymous said...

bravo!i blame the home theater experience for the glut of movie theater talking.we used to treat the movies as an event, now it is very commonplace.interruptions at home are easily solved with a pause button (though no less maddening).as for chewing noises:table manners are sadly a thing of the past.i wish it were just children, but i know many adults fully 20 years my senior who chew loudly, mouths open, smacking their lips and (shudder)licking their fingers. no wonder the snacks in the theater are noisey!i want to add one more noise to your list. sports bars/pubs are no longer the only place t.v.s are present: family restaraunts have them now in EVERY CORNER! it is so maddening!we go out so seldom, and instead of a nice meal and friendly discussion we hear the tv blaring, and my hubby and children are completely distracted by that awful tube!sigh.

Georgette said...

I have no patience with rude cinema patrons and usually confront the offending party(ies). Here is something that is hugely annoying (and a subject that has not yet been mentioned): people kicking the back of your seat. While it is understandable that one must occasionally shift position and perhaps accidentally kick the seat in front, I refer to those that persist in this behavior throughout the film. It is excruciatingly distracting.

Anonymous said...

Anyone ever see Mel Brooks' award-winning animated short, THE CRITIC? The whole source of the humor was how thoughtless of the unseen old man was commenting out loud by what was being viewed on the screen. I guess that anyone under 30, having grown up in a society where such behavior is normal, would wonder why THE CRITIC was once considered so funny.

The Scruffy One said...

While I despise being distracted from the movie I'm seeing by talking or a cell phone, I fail to see what the Bush administration has anything to do with that.

I've seen 2 movies since Obama took office, and they were 2 of the worst viewings I've had in a while. In one a nearly empty theater I've picked a decent seat far away from other patrons. I tend to be taller than those sitting behind me and if I can prevent that I will.

So there I am, all alone. Two rows of buffer between me and anyone else,when a family descends and sits directly behind me. Then another family sits one seat away from me. In my row.

I got up and moved to one of the side sections to isolate myself.

Two days later, a couple sits behind my friend and I, and proceed to gasp, and commentate throughout the movie. These were adults in their late 30s to early 40s.

One thing you missed, and perhaps you've never had to endure this inconsiderateness, flaming bright bluetooth headsets blinking at me for 2 hours at a time.

Why do you even have that thing in your ear? It's like saying, "I know it's rude to talk in here, but I'm going plan on doing it anyway." If it's an emergency and you can't miss the call...what are you doing at the movies anyway?

Disconnect people.

As far as food, I have no problem with people snacking on stuff at a movie. The way in which it is eaten however, is something else.

Anonymous said...

Years ago, I used to go to this multiplex theatre in Queens. Two of the screens each had this one spot to sit in that was just perfect, you could see the entirety of the screen without having to move your head or see only one angle.

One day, I was in that spot, and two rows behind me, were two yappers. They were talking from when they entered the room up until the trailers were about to start.

They only stopped talking because as the lights dimmed, I turned around and shouted "Hey, Siskel and Ebert, do you plan on talking through the ENTIRE movie? If you do, let me know now!"

They were silent for the rest of the time.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone say "Ninotchka" yet?

Richard Hourula said...

You win the nickel! Give it to you if we ever meet.

Anonymous said...

Any human being, especially an adult, should be able to sit quietly and still for two hours in order to enjoy a film. It's puzzling that anyone would pay money and promptly ruin their experience (and mine) through distraction. I agree with you on all points.

Anonymous said...

I agree with much of what was said; fortunately, I have been semi-lucky with a lot of the talkers and have not had any confrontations.

Someone did commment on the cell phones--why in God's name does someone need to check messages/texts. To me, that glow is almost more disruptive than anything audio!

Had to sit through a symphony performance with a woman's Bluetooth headset flashing blue every 5 seconds; about drove me to drink. Thankfully, the ushers to care of it...but, I digress.

Lastly, God love the elderly in our society, but can we teach a few them how to follow a plot and how to whisper? Oh yeah, and the unnecessary commentary? (Character enters with an umbrella. Senior boldly declares, "It must be raining outside!") Oy!

Anonymous said...

You missed two of my pet peeves, people that bring little kids to R rated movies and the light from the person in front of you texting on their cell phone through the whole movie.

Anonymous said...

I saw Che about 2 weeks ago and the people next to me wouldn't shut up. They were a couple in their late 50's. every two minutes they would be saying something, and usually something totally idiotic like "OOOH! It's a kitty!" "OOOOH, your right it is a kitty! AHHHH!" when a cat walked past in the background. Later during one of the more intense scenes they both started moaning and saying "Oh, I can't watch" I glanced over and noticed they were both sitting there with their eyes covered, asking "is it over?"
I can not understand who could sit in an audience of people who payed twice regular ticket price to see a 4+ hour long film and not have any consideration whatsoever for their moviegoing experience. If I hadn't been there with my father I would have gone over and said "I paid $20 for this ticket and if you don't shut the **** up right now I'm going to throw your sorry ass over this balcony, alright?"
I've decided against seeing any even reasonably popular movie in theaters, I only go to artier movies in independent theaters and film festivals where people are actually there to see a movie, not to text message or eat 8 gallons of artificial butter as loudly as possible (which is quickly becoming our national sport.)

CM said...
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Anonymous said...

You are a baby. Grow up and quit taking movie-watching so seriously, it adds to the experience. You want silence, wait for it to come to video like the other grandmas in America.

Mr. Reel said...

For all the reasons that have been mentioned (I don't think laser pointers have been brought up), I quit going to movies at theaters nearly nine years ago except for a *very* *few* select offerings. Probably less than twice per year on average, and that's always toward end of the run when traffic slacks. The sad thing is that I've WORKED at a theater for the past 25 years (in positions ranging from projectionist to manager). The stories I could tell ...

And for Anonymous 2:43 PM above, I'm FAR from a grandma.

Saffron said...

I completely agree but I know it's never going to stop so I bring my MP3 player with me everywhere I go (besides the movies of course and I rarely go now because of all that infernal racket!).
Anyway ... If I'm going to have to listen to noise I'd at least like to pick it.

Midgard Dragon said...

"Going to see a movie in a theatre is a communal experience."

You may think this, but for many of us it just isn't true. Many of us feel going to see a movie is a *personal* experience, and just as *we* shut up in order to enjoy the experience, so should everyone else. Since when did people stop teaching that talking during a film is bad manners?

Midgard Dragon said...

"You are a baby. Grow up and quit taking movie-watching so seriously, it adds to the experience. You want silence, wait for it to come to video like the other grandmas in America."

I'm a 25 year old male, far from a grandma, and this blog writer is RIGHT ON. You're an idiot if you think otherwise. Movie-watching is about watching a movie, not chatting with your friends or texting on a phone. Perhaps it's time to grow up and realize the world doesn't revolve around you? Take the example of the man who got shot while talking during a movie, and REMEMBER it, because the rest of the world is sick of bad manners like these, we just don't usually carry guns. We do carry fists, though, and don't be surprised if some adult who's been at work all day and is wanting to enjoy a film and not hear your chatter decides to blow up and punch you in the face.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your blog. It's interesting that I happen to come across this today, as just yesterday I finally got the chance to see Kubrick's 2001 on a full-size theater screen, and everyone around me insisted on munching on popcorn as loudly as possible or talking, even during moments of the film where the theater would otherwise be absolutely silent! It's very frustrating to wait years for the chance to see a particular film at a theater and end up having portions of it totally ruined.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. Then there are those charming folks who keep kicking the back of your seat! Aarrgh!

Daniel said...

I'm not usually bothered by eating or laughter (unless they're excessive). But loud breathing (or, worse, snoring), crying babies, foul odors (too much perfume, too little deoderant) or soomeone continually kicking the back of your seat (or propping their feet up on the seat in front of them and leaning back into your knees) are just as bad as cell phones, texting, and talking.

Fortunately, I've found that most (and sometimes, even all) of these things can be avoided if you go to the earliest possible showing of the movie. If you go on a weekday, go a showing that starts before your local schools let out. If you go on a weekend, try to go to a morning showing (when all the college students are still sleeping off their hangovers). Also, never see a movie the day or weekend on which it premieres. Wait a couple weeks (or even a little longer, if the movie's a hit) for interest to die down a bit. It's worth the wait.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You know once people take your advice and stop buying from the concession stands, all your local theaters will go out of business. Or you'll be paying $20 per ticket.

Anonymous said...

Bit of an overreaction on the food and washrooms, I'd say. People generally need to do those things no matter where they are.

As for movie talking, as long as it's quiet and sporadic I usually don't mind it. If it's continual, like the woman behind me constantly (incorrectly grrr) explaining Return of the King to her six year old daughter instead of telling her to have some courtesy, it gets REALLY annoying.

Anonymous said...
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Mara said...
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Anonymous said...

Recently, at the local theater I frequent the most, theater workers/managers come in approximately twice during a film to walk up and down the isles and do a people count. Now, I understand why they might be doing this, but having someone walk in during the movie and meander up and down the isle is quite distracting.

On another note, when my sister and I went to see Pineapple Express, some lovely girl came into the movie 15 minutes late, sat down next to me, then preceded to text throughout the entire film. I actually scooted closer to my sister (much to her annoyance) to put some distance between myself and the disturbing bright cell phone screen.

People should show respect the other theater goers by having proper theater manners.

Pete said...
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