(Movie) Theater Etiquette: Time for a Manners Revolution?

A couple of weeks ago, I and three amigos headed off to see Wicked, the musical.  Which is fabulous, and I definitely recommend it.  But that is not the point of this post.

Sitting before the four of us were five friends.  Five head bopping, head turning, CELL PHONE USING, talking twenty-somethings.

Our post-show discussion covered many of the fabulous moments of the show (“the ‘guh’ is silent”, “not everyone can travel by bubble”, songs that were catchy as hell) and an analysis of the lack of manners in kids today.  It is funny to note that our ages range from early thirties to early forties.  So we’re not that old.  lol  I had the same experience in New York, at the plays I went to, people texting and using their cell phones, people talking constantly.

What happened to respecting the community of fellow theater goers?  What happened to respecting the ART of the show?  Why the hell would you spend over a hundred dollars for a ticket and then watch your cell, not the show?

Time passes and last night I and two amigos went to see X-men:  First Class.  Sitting beside me was a group of three or more friends (yes, twenty-somethings).  Not that long into the movie (which was really good, btw), the chick beside me pulls out her cell phone.

I really hate cell phones in theaters.  I don’t care if you think you’re hiding the light from your screen.  You’re not.  I tell you now, I and many others can see it and it’s distracting and therefore offensive.

Without thinking I turn to her and state flatly, “no”.

She looks at me, startled, and covers the screen with her hand, not saying a word.

“I can still see it.”  My voice is quiet but I like to think there was a plank of steel in it.

She makes some odd jerky movement, turns it off, puts it in her purse, zippers that closed and puts it down.

During the movie she and her friends talked at regular 5-10 minute intervals, the third girl, farthest from me, was on her cell for so long I’m really surprised she bothered to spend the ten bucks for the movie.  What was the point?  She wasn’t watching it.  The talking continued, so did the texting or game playing.  At one point the girl beside me pulled out wet wipes and started giving herself an upper body bath (those things reek of citrus chemical smells).  She fidgeted; she was in and out of her purse constantly.  Towards the end she pulled out her cell phone again but she leaned far forward and covered it with her hair and body.  Since I really couldn’t see the light from it, I didn’t say anything.

Until the movie was over.

The lights came up and I turned to my neighbours and tell them very calmly that they needed to work on their movie etiquette.  That I’d been able to hear them talking throughout the movie, quite clearly.  That I could see their friend’s cell phone being used.  That it was all very distracting.

I was not rude.  I did not yell.  I commented on their actions, not them as people.

I felt like a parent.

They listened, they nodded and they apologized.

I nodded and turned back to my friends. My point was made.  There was no need to belabour it, to harp on them, or to work at making them feel bad (or wore, as the case may be).

What about you?  Do you feel like it is time for a manners revolution?  Is it time to speak up when people behave badly?  Instead of sitting there and trying to ignore the self-centered, immature, I-hope-to-gods-that-they-just-never-learned-better behaviours, why don’t we confront them, gently, with all of the communication grace of our maturity and work at teaching people what they’ve either never learned or have forgotten?

It’s not about fixing that moment in time.  It’s already been tarnished.  But by speaking up, by calling people on their actions, by being the consequence that bites them on the ass, maybe the next time they’ll behave better.  Maybe the next person sitting beside these girls at a movie theatre won’t even notice that they are there.

Maybe together we can help young souls come to a greater understanding of the consequences of their choices.

Are you with me?

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7 thoughts on “(Movie) Theater Etiquette: Time for a Manners Revolution?

  1. The interesting thing for me, here, is how they couldn’t stop.

    Just *stop*.

    Sit still, not fidget, not interact, not be connected.

    I understand, I feel it too. The flow of information, the feeling of being hooked in and connected, those things that come from having access to the online world which are addictive.

    Its addictive, and it shortens our attention span.

    I am a 20-something.

    Manners go a long way towards making me and my friends not wave cell-phones around in cinemas and not talking over films.

    But to be able to concentrate… there are several people I don’t watch films with because they cannot be quiet, they cannot sit still.

    I think perhaps there is something to the suggestion that the ability to be still and quiet and to concentrate is being eroded, or at least not taught.

    Are manners enough? Or do we need a revolution of concentration as well?

    I agree with you, and have hushed noisy teens in a cinema before… and I think perhaps there is something else alongside the disappearance of manners that is a factor here. Or maybe I’m projecting 🙂

    • I should say, I never meant to say the problem is just in today’s ‘youth’. As someone commented I think on facebook. Older adults, those there even with their own kids can act this way.

      I think you’re right, though, on the problem of attention. Was reading an blog post today on how this constant checking in with our infosphere is killing our productivity.

      Our modern world rewards us for splitting our attention, never focusing on a single task, for being constantly distracted and shifting gears. I think younger people have an even harder time because they don’t have any other frame of reference. A lot of this, internet, smart phones, social networking, just didn’t exist for me and people my age or older when we were young. We were forced to deal with life without distractions and to entertain ourselves and how to be quiet, sit still, reflect. In other words, we should on at least some level know what it feels like to concentrate and how to do it. We came to it more naturally. Kids these days (I just had to put that in! lol) may not be getting that ‘it’s just life’ natural training. If that makes sense.

      I would love a revolution on concentration! 😀 I think pointing out manners may help encourage self-awareness which could lead to self-reflection which who knows, might encourage all of us to realize that many of the joys of our modern world are also harmful to a fuller, more spiritual, more aware life.

      This comment is brought to you by quick typing and no pondering. Take as you will (and forgive me if parts didn’t make sense, if you don’t mind lol)

  2. Today’s youth, which includes my two twentysomething kids, have grown up in a society where movies are readily shown at home via DVD. In the comfort of their house, or their friends’ houses, they can chat away as the movie rolls on. If need be, they can pause it, or back it up to catch something they missed.

    They tend to exhibit the same behavior at movie theaters. I don’t know whether or not they can help themselves, but they don’t seem to give a damn about the people around them. I used to love going to movies, but with the chair kicking, people bringing in food in noisy bags, cell phone use, and chronic chatter, I’ve stopped going. It’s just less stressful to wait until the movie comes out on DVD, where I can watch it at home in silence.

    • It’s an interesting question, whether or not they can help themselves, or even if they are aware of what they are doing. I tend to watch movies at home as well but it’s hard to miss out on the big screen for some of the crazy effect/action movies.

  3. Maybe instead it’s time for older people to realize that what’s polite and impolite changes and doesn’t hinge on them. Maybe young people aren’t being rude, maybe you just have an outdated opinion of what “rude” is now. I don’t find it rude when people are using their phone in a movie theater, or while they talk to me, or what have you. I don’t find it rude when a group talks quietly among themselves in a movie theater.

    And concerning the ‘concentration’ comment… I feel like the older generations are the ones that can’t focus or concentrate. You don’t have to choose between watching a movie and answering a text, it’s very easy to do both. And I can’t see why it would be so hard to tune out the faint glow of someone’s cell compared to the large, lit theater screen– why is that so distracting to you, anyway? I’m not saying it’s bad that older generations can’t seem to manage splitting their focus or tuning things out, but younger ones having that ability doesn’t make them ‘unfocused’ or flippant as it seems implied.

    Personally, I don’t like “sitting still” and watching a movie, just the movie alone. But not because I can’t concentrate or that I have a short attention span. I dislike it because it’s a waste of my damn time; if I watched the film at home I could take it in and actually be DOING something useful at the same time, like studying or crafting or cleaning. And doing so would not lessen my ability to pay attention to the movie.

    I know this blog isn’t being updated and no one will probably see this… I’m just tired of my generation being treated as ‘rude’, ‘unfocused’, ‘addicted to being wired in’, ‘fidgety’, ‘distracted’. It could just as easily be seen as ‘different, new’, ‘productive’, ‘efficient’, ‘multitasking’, ‘busy’, ‘energetic’.

    • (This blog doesn’t get updated because it’s moved to http://www.abysmalwitch.com. Plus, I’ve rarely posted the past two years due to life circumstances.)

      It’s true that there has been a bunch of Gen Y bashing, some of it unfair, some of it not. Were I to write this now I would likely focus on the behaviour and the only comment on age would be that I see it more in younger people.

      And what is considered polite behaviour, as with all social mores, does change over time.

      I find the bottom line for me is that going to the theater is a group experience, not a personal one. And as such, my expectation on my behaviour and on others is that we are adjusting our own personal move watching tendencies (working during them, doing laundry, etc) to something respectful of the others around us. By going into a public venue for an event, we are entering into a social contract; I apparently disagree with you on what currently and appropriately is included/excluded in that contract in this venue. We are all paying for the experience of watching a movie, not for listening to what one group of people did last week or seeing how well someone is doing at Pokemon Go. If it’s distracting and annoying to just me why does every movie start with a request to turn off your phone?

      Am I overly sensitive to notice the glaring light from a phone or have you gone numb to the experience (or have your nose too deep in your own phone to notice anyone else’s usage)?

      tl;dr I agree that it’s not just a generation thing, but I still consider these behaviours rude and inconsiderate, regardless of the age of the perpetrators.

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