Conduct Unbecoming in a Movie Theater

(My newspaper column from The Beach Reporter 4/15/93.)

I have an idea for theater owners that might make life more pleasant for the average moviegoer and bring more patrons in. I think theater owners should hang a poster in their lobbies that lists acceptable conduct for moviegoers, similar to rules of conduct at swimming pools.

These rules of conduct would be for those people who view the theater as an extension of their family room, doing everything in the theater that they would do at home. They bring babies,they get in and out of their seats every ten minutes, they talk through the movie, etc.

When I have paid a small fortune for tickets and a babysitter, I do not need this aggravation. I could stay in my own family room, and get aggravated for free.Rule #1 – Do not bring children younger than twelve to see R-rated movies. They are supposed to be seventeen anyway, but I see a lot of pre-teens at R-rated movies. Last week at a 7:10 showing of Unforgiven, there was a couple in their mid-thirties with a tiny baby, and another couple with a toddler. Not too smart to bring kids to a long, violent movie with foul language, prostitution, beatings, and shootings.
Rule #2 – No one should be admitted after beginning credits begin to roll. Those of us who made it on time have to watch dark silhouettes weaving through the aisles looking for two seats together, and calling out to each other.
Rule #3 – Leave the movie reviewing to Siskel and Ebert. Most patrons don’t appreciate a running commentary on the movie they are seeing scene by scene as it progresses.
Rule # 4 – No singing or humming along with the soundtrack. Even if you can warble as beautifully as a Disney princess, save it for the shower. Once I sat next to a family who hummed and sang along to every song in The Little Mermaid. I found myself wishing that Flounder would turn into a real shark and come out of the screen and devour them all.
Rule #5 – Don’t pack in more food than you can eat in two hours. I always end up next to a guy who has a cardboard tray full of nachos, popcorn, candy, and soft drinks. He then crunches and snorts his way through the entire movie. Or there’s the guy with the jumbo bucket of popcorn, working his way through it like it’s his last meal on earth, flinging kernels every which way. I always end up with his popcorn in my purse and coat pockets.
Rule #6 – This goes along with yapping too much. Don’t announce surprise plot twists in the movie loudly enough to be heard ten rows on either side of you. As in, “Wait until you see what he does with that ice pick!” Or, “When you see this guy is really a woman, you’ll flip out!”
Rule #7 – Save sexual relations for home or the back seat of your car. Cozy togetherness is great, but I don’t need to see someone French-kissing while I’m watching the death scene in Steel Magnolias.
Rule #8 – This one is for parents. If you are going to drop your kids off alone while you go shopping, make sure they are old enough to not be totally obnoxious. Of course, if your kids are totally obnoxious, that’s probably why you dropped them off with twenty bucks each – so you could get a break from them.
Rule #9 – Limit the amount of times you get in and out of your seat to no more than once each. The previously-mentioned parents of the toddler were up and down like yo-yos. Once the dad even stumbled back in the dark with the kid in his arms, and landed in the lap of some other poor moviegoer.
No wonder video rental stores are doing a great business. It’s a lot cheaper to stay home and rent a video, and the only obnoxious annoying people you have to deal with are your own family members…

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