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In his defense, anything that interrupts Transformers by not being Transformers improves the film.

[ 174 ] August 8, 2013 |

But that’s about the only item worth defending in Anil Dash’s anti-shushing manifesto. To Matt Zoller Seitz’s excellent demolition of Dash’s argument I will add this: the idea that behaving like an asshole justifies the normalization of said behavior is preposterous. Just because you can’t put down the iPhone and concentrate on something other than yourself for two hours doesn’t mean I’m similarly defective.

I’m not going to ask you to turn of your iPhone during a film because it’s distracting, but because your narcissism is fucking with my head. Your tiny light is making my dilated eyes constrict, which means I can’t see the movie the director — otherwise known as the person I paid good money to fuck with my head — intended me to. Your vanity transforms the film I wanted to see into one co-directed by you, and while I understand that that likely thrills you, know that I have no idea who you are and no interest in anything about you. I am reducing the complex social construct that is you to its essence which is asshole.

Your body is asshole.

Your mind is asshole.

Your life is asshole.

If you cured cancer, then the cure for cancer is asshole.

If you stopped war, then peace is asshole.

You are assholes all the way down.

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  • JustMe

    I think as norms of middle class propriety fall to the wayside, particularly as the economy continues to hollow out the middle class, it will become socially unacceptable to do this sort of social policing at the movie theater. Talking during the film and using cell phones will become more common.

    For those who lived in Boston in the 1990s, you may remember the Copley Place movie theater which attracted a crowd that engaged in a lot of talking and yelling at the films. The solution to this was to change the theater over into a place which screened mostly art-house films, and the “yelling at the screen” crowd went elsewhere because they weren’t interested in those kinds of movies.

    • nixnutz

      For my part I’m much happier watching a movie in the more relaxed atmosphere, shushing bugs me more than many other behaviors, with the major caveat that it isn’t generally chronic the way some others are.

      The thing that makes me crazy though is the Alamo; those are two fine ideas–a theater with servers who serve alcohol and a theater that’s strict about interruptions–but they just don’t mix, I just seems like the perfect setup for never-ending fights and pissiness.

      • David Hunt

        I happen to have been in the Alamo Drafthouse about a month ago for a showing of Much Ado About Nothing. It seemed to work fine. There was no phoning/texting and the audience didn’t engage in extraneous conversation. We laughed at funny stuff, but it’s a comedy. That’s expected. The layout is set up for the servers to be able to move among rows hunched over and the seats have little tables in front of them sort of like desks at a high school so that food and drinks can be set there. No one in the audience did anything even slightly annoying. Perhaps this is related to the fact that a recall their “We’ll throw you out if you text/etc.” message struck me as far more convincing than the one in the theater that I normally attend.

        Sidenote: I had no idea what the Alamo Drafthouse was like before I walked in. I live a hundred miles away approximately equidistant between Austin and Houston, but I wanted to see Much Ado and quickly decided that I didn’t want to deal with Houston traffic. The film was excellent and the place was a pleasant surprise, which is good as I’ve never driven more than a tenth of that distance to see a movie before.

        • Karen

          Which location?

          • David Hunt

            It was in Austin, at the Slaughter Lane location IIRC. I live in Bryan and that’s roughly a hundred miles away. I just went their because it was one of two locations that Fandango.com listed as showing the film in Austin, and the other looked to be closer to downtown and I wanted to avoid driving through there on a tight schedule as I’m not used to driving in a real city.

            • David Hunt

              Arrgh! I went THERE because it was one of two…

              I hate making that type of silly mistake!

            • Karen

              Cool! That one is about three miles from my house!

      • JMP

        It seems to me that the best use of a theater with alcohol would be to show bad movies and encourage talking back to the screen, MST3K-style. Using it for a serious film you’re supposed to watch quietly just seems to be asking for trouble.

        • nixnutz

          And a quiet theater is also a good idea, I guess it’s just that I’m surprised that the combination of the two has been so successful.

      • Hodor

        It works so poorly that they keep being forced to open new locations!

      • Jean-Michel

        “Strict about interruptions” by anyone except their own staff, of course.

      • InnerPartisan

        Is the idea of a “theater with alcohol” really that foreign in America? Because here in Germany, you can buy beer in absolutely every single cinema, including those god-forsaken “cineplex” chains.
        There are no servers, though. You have to buy it at the booth, with the popcorn.

        • NewishLaywe

          It seems so. Most of the large cineplexes do not have alcohol. I’ve only seen alcohol at two chains:

          1. The Sundance chain (owned by Robert Redford) and this is only for the 21 and over showings or balcony.

          2. Alamo Drafthouse

          Other arty and independent chains or stand alones do not serve alcohol like Landmark. Landmark is generally a chain that I associate with foreign and indie cinema.

          • Joseph, A Bank!

            Paragon has alcohol (single serving wine bottles, beer). They’re not like the Alamo drafthouse, but they do have a decent restaurant (separate from the theaters but within the building) and you select your seats when you pay. They renovated some really dumpy AMC by me a few years ago. Went from theater of last resort to theater of choice. I dunno if paragon is owned by AMC or they’re their own thing.

      • TribalistMeathead

        They don’t. I’ve only been to the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse, and not for a film, but it definitely doesn’t seem like the place where you’d go if you wanted to see a movie without interruptions. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why they only show second- and third-run movies.

      • NewishLaywe

        The 21 and overshowings at Sundance are very well-behaved and have alcohol they show a lot of big special effects type movies.

    • Origami Isopod

      I think as norms of middle class propriety fall to the wayside, particularly as the economy continues to hollow out the middle class, it will become socially unacceptable to do this sort of social policing at the movie theater.

      I seriously question whether this has anything to do with “the norms of middle class propriety.” Because I’ve seen/heard people talking in all kinds of movie theatres, including arthouse ones, and this went on looooong before the current recession. Before Bush II, for that matter.

  • Random

    Thanks for the chortle.

    But seriously, is this actually a Growing Societal Problem? I thought the movie theater was the one place a person could still escape the phone.

    • sparks

      A friend of mine recounted an episode online where he couldn’t escape a couple having sex in a mainstream movie theater. I’m in no position to know, I stopped going to theaters some time ago.

      • Couldn’t escape?

        • Lee Rudolph

          Lucky Pierre, always in the middle!

        • sparks

          He did complain and got them thrown out. I stopped going to theaters years ago, so I don’t know how rare sex in a theater behavior is. As I remember it, the film wasn’t even close to porn.

          • ChrisTS

            One of my daughter’s jobs is in an art-house theater. They frequently have to ‘escort out’ people who think the theater is their bedroom/local bar. Interestingly, they get very few idiots using phones or other electronic devices. It’s mostly straight-up dirty stuff. :-)

            • What bars do you go to?

              No, seriously.

    • Fighting Words

      I watch a lot of movies at the cinema. I am a loner and a workaholic, and going to the cinema is one of the few activities I can do. I also like to watch films at the theatre. I make a conscinetious effort to go to showings with as few people as possible – mainly matinees, late night, watching movies not on their opening weekend.

      Every time I watch a movie at a movie theatre, someone is using their mobile phone during the film. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. In addition to being distracting, it is the sense of entitlement that the cellphone in movie theatre using person has that really upsets me.

      Maybe I am part of the problem, because I don’t tell anyone to stop talking or to turn their cellphone off. Shushing or telling someone to stop looking at their mobile is completely ineffective. Often, it makes the situation worse because then they become more distractive. It’s sad that for alot of people in our society, “shushing” or telling someone to turn their cellphones in movie theatres is actually worse then doing the activity that they were told, repeatedly, not to engage in.

      I should also add that going to see movies at the cinema is one of the many reasons that I am not a libertarian. Before every film, there are several adverts urging moviegoers to be quiet and turn off their cellphones. And every single time, there are people who talk or use their cellphones in the theatre. There is just no punishment for them, and they continue doing it.

      Anyway, I am sorry about the rant. It is not directed at anyone. This is just a bit of a sore subject for me.

      • Gareth Wilson

        I once saw an actual advertisement for libertarianism on a cinema screen. I’m still wondering whether that was a good choice of medium.

        • Fighting Words

          Not to mention how well both “Atlas Shrugged” movies performed at the box office.

  • Oh goody. Someone has resurrected the “Being polite is for conservative fuddy duddies therefore I should get to do anything that isn’t specifically prohibited by law,” argument.

    It will be fun to watch that thing lurch around a bit before it falls apart again.

    • Karen

      There are few liberal arguments that actual make me blind with anger, but that’s one that does. I adopted good manners as much to prove to the Propertied Classes that people without trust funds can manage forks in public, and now these lowlifes think that ruining the movie, or having gross table manners, or other easily avoided obnoxious behavior is somehow Sticking It To The Man. Clue, Ass: the Man can afford to Watch first run movies in places without you. You’re just ruining things for the rest of us.

      • Karen

        And please note, my rant is in agreement with Shakezulu.

      • ChrisTS

        I don’ think that is a ‘liberal’ argument. Does liberalism commit one to the view that there are no reasons to be considerate of others??

        • ChrisTS

          ETA: In fact, whether one turns to a rights-based or a utility-based form of liberalism, I would think the conclusion would have to be that this kind of me-onlyism would fail.

        • Karen

          It isn’t an argument that arises from any consistent liberal philosophy. The people who make it tend to call themselves liberal or progressive, however. They also wear weaponized patchouli oil.

          • I think it is a radical argument with a liberal candy shell. If he were conservative he’d be using the same arguments to wail about the P.C. police.

            • Also, weaponized patchouli oil is high test brilliant.

          • ChrisTS

            I am, perhaps, too old to know such persons. On the other hand, I recently learned – on this site – that patchouli is a faux-hippie thing.

        • NewishLaywer

          On another internet sight, there was an epic debate about Public Displays of Affection and to what to extent their were permissible or not. Specifically it involved a 24/7 D/s couple.

          Allegedly Dan Savage received a call about the ethics of a 24/7 D/s couple at a gym. The D would work out and then the sub would wipe the equipment off and even tie the D’s shoes when the laces became undone. Dan Savage was of the opinion that this was not okay because it brought non-participants into their relationship. I remember a similar Dan Savage episode where he told a woman that her family had a right to be icked out by seeing her D/s relationship (she was the sub).

          The fight was with those who thought that such behavior was for consenting adults in private and those who thought we were being prudes and it said more about us because we got bugged by seeing D/s relationships in the park, gym, whereever.

        • Pseudonym

          It’s a free country!!!

      • Heron

        Yeah. It’s somewhat similar to the anarchist argument about shop-lifting. The one making it presents petty theft as a way to fight the system, but all they’re really doing is picking the pockets of the floor staff indirectly.

  • Rhino

    I used to see twenty or thirty films a year in theatres.

    Now I see one or two, and the main reason is that when people talk during movies, I want to choke them to death. I have come close to doing violence over the issue, and would have, had the cretinous troglodyte not backed down.

    I would like to see public canings for those who answer their phones in a movie theatre.

    • Ann Outhouse

      And to compensate, many theaters have turned the sound up to dangerous decibel levels.

      I just don’t go any more. We have a nice home theater system, and everything becomes available on the internet eventually for a lot less than it costs us to go put up with this shit.

      • medrawt

        I almost never go to the movies, and the ones I do go to tend to be the kind with fights and explosions; I don’t remember if this is a recent trend, but I often find that the sound has literally been turned up too loud not only for human comfort but for the infrastructure; the walls of the theater rattle when a BOOM hits the right frequency and I can hear the speakers hissing with distortion at the very loudest points.

        • ChrisTS

          And if one is attending a ‘quiet’ film, the booming from the theater next door comes through.

        • SEK

          When I noted that The Dark Knight Rises was so loud I couldn’t even hear it, this is partly what I meant.

          • Hey, at least you *heard* Bane! I waited until it came out on cable and damned if, even with a surround sound system and the volume turned way up, I didn’t have to watch it three or four times to see if I missed any important dialogue.

            Luckily, no.

            • SEK

              I didn’t, though. I can’t find the link — apparently someone has written about The Dark Knight too often — but as I noted at the time, I couldn’t understand a damn word he said. His voice rattled unintelligibly and, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t read his lips.

            • Philip

              The theater I went to in Irvine managed to blow out their sound system on opening night, right before the stadium scene. Then they took half an hour to acknowledge that the sound system wasn’t working. Then they spent an hour and a half trying and failing to fix it. The Dark Knight Rises without any mid-range was…interesting.

            • Heron

              I think this might be a tuning issue as well. Something I’ve noticed since cable providers started offering high def is the volume of shows in HD(commercials don’t seem to be affected) seems to be much softer than normal programming, shows in general seem to have been tuned down, and both in such a way that no amount of volume-upping can solve. Maybe they just aren’t including the proper signals in their broadcasts?

      • ChrisTS

        I have a genuine (physiological) problem with the volume. It tends to keep me out of theaters.

      • Part of why they turn the volume so high is to make it impossible to hear the person on the other end of the line, it would strike me.

      • efgoldman

        And to compensate, many theaters have turned the sound up to dangerous decibel levels.

        I’m not sure that’s the [primary] reason. The people who make movies and exhibit them grew up going to rock concerts and learning that louder is better.
        Its also possible that, having grown up like that, they’re also suffering signs of creeping deafness.

      • Richard Hershberger

        I more or less stopped going to movie theaters several years ago. It wasn’t any sort of formal declaration. It’s just that I found that movie theaters can’t replicate the Netflix experience, despite costing considerably more.

        As it happens, though, I have gone twice within the past year. The first was for the new Star Trek film. It was a noisy eye candy sort of film, such that outside sensory input had trouble competing. But damn, it was loud! This was very distracting. Add to this that the seats weren’t really good for two hours of sitting, and I have lost the touch on estimating how late to arrive to miss the preliminary ads, and it generally was not an enticing experience, even before we discuss the quality of the film.

        The second was Much Ado About Nothing. This was in an art house theater. The audience was well behaved, and the padding on the seats better. That I would be willing to go back to, for the rare film I want to see now rather than waiting for it to come onto Netflix.

  • Barry Freed

    My shushing is a courtesy I do before my fist meets face.

    [not really ever but that’s how fuck I feel. Fuckers.]

  • JMP

    But Transformers is a great, classic movie, and some asshole interrupting it would be awful!

    You’re talking about the 1986 animated film which includes Orson Welles’ final role, right?

  • john

    Simple solution to people using their smartphones during movies is to report them to management for recording the film. Why else would they have their camera out during the show?

  • Davis

    I confess: In Skyfall, when James Bond pulled the cover off the DB5, I let out an audible “aaah”. Otherwise, I’m with you. “…assholes all the way down.” Priceless.

    • SEK

      I’m absolutely fine with people responding in ways that are a function of the film. Laughing when something’s funny or screaming when something’s shocking are perfectly acceptable behaviors.

      • sparks

        Is it okay to drop one’s head and groan when one realizes they’ve figured out exactly what’s going to happen in the film and are disappointed? That one I did some years back.

        • Ann Outhouse

          Back when I still went to movies and Robert Redford was still gorgeous, my boyfriend and I went to see Three Days of the Condor. At some point, before the other 100 or so people in the theater had figured out what was going on, some dufus yelled “Oil!”. For this he was rewarded with a hail of stale popcorn and ice-laden drink cups.

      • Rarely Posts

        Was mocking the movie Armageddon (1998) a function of the film? Because, as a general matter, I completely agree that people should be quiet during films, but when I saw that with my friends in high school, we ended up joking and talking (in relatively hushed voices) much more than would have been acceptable in any other circumstance. I honestly perceived it as a compulsion resulting from the film; the film didn’t give us a choice (and we were completely capable of remaining silent during Deep Impact (1998), so it’s not like we were picky).

        On this note — there were certain types of trashy, horror films (Bride of Chucky, Dawn of the Dead, etc.) that I always used to go see to see on deep discount in theaters that were identified as “urban” by their own advertisers. The talking in the audience was actually acceptable in these circumstances, and indeed, added value.

        Despite all of the above, I agree that people should be silent and turn off their phones in theaters. Nonetheless, thinking back on it, I do think that talking may be permissible for certain types of films in certain contexts (clearly, Rocky Horror, for example). In contrast, I can’t see the use of iPhones as ever acceptable because it’s entirely distracting and not even interacting with the film.

        • sparks

          Re: your second paragraph, I have visited theaters like that and it was for me exactly as you describe. The management seems to encourage it in those theaters and the tickets were cheap so the house was always filled. Projector breakdowns were a special treat with much yelling and tossing stuff at the booth. I’d hate to have to clean such a theater, there was a lot of trash.

      • Tristan

        On laughing: Am I the only person who sometimes seems to be the only one to get the joke in a crowded theatre?

    • Tristan

      “Skyfall” was self-pity porn for baby boomers, so it should easily fall under SEK’s “Transformers” exception.

  • brad

    I don’t even see where there’s room for debate. To me it’s like that one pair at a concert who apparently came to have a conversation, as opposed to listening to the fucking performers. Our freedom to do some things we can do any other time without impacting the experience of others is constricted for the period of the performance, and we agree to that, implicitly if not explicitly, by entering a performance space.
    That said, the audience around me today is one of many reasons I prefer seeing almost everything possible at home.

    • nixnutz

      The debate is, IMO, that a confrontation is a completely different kind of disruption from talking or texting. I’m not bothered by phones or even the occasional joke or whispered comment but if a fight broke out next to me I would be upset.

      Not that there’s never a place for shushing but escalating things to a much more emotionally charged level is at best risking making the situation considerably worse.

      • ChrisTS

        But, there would be neither shushing nor a possible confrontation if asshats did not disrupt the experience for others.

        • nixnutz

          Yes, that’s definitely true. And shushing someone who talks more than once is probably worthwhile. But with the phone thing, it doesn’t actually bother me if someone discretely looks at their phone, not really at all, whereas someone starting a fight over it will bother me a whole lot.

          And so we have a conflict that’s hard to resolve because different folks are bothered by different things in different measures. The fact is that asshat wasn’t ruining my experience, if he was ruining yours does that give you the right to ruin mine? I don’t know.

          There are plenty of things that make me feel that way, mostly subway-related, phones in theaters don’t happen to be one.

          • ChrisTS

            Perhaps the distinguishing points are (a) whether the ‘phone-checking’ involves bright lights and noises, (b)why anyone ‘needs’ to check their messages while in a theater, and (c) whether your personal disruption level ought to apply to everyone else.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      Not to mention how irritating it can be for the performers. My jazz trio used to play at a Houston’s affiliate bar that was quite boisterous when the crowd was full and drinking. We basically had to scrap any ballads that we wanted to play*. It wasn’t that big of a deal to us because that was just the vibe of the place, but I can only imagine when a real master musician is playing Cry Me A River at a swanky theater and somebody’s phone rings.

      *Ironically, the management was constantly telling US to lower our volume despite being un-amplified and playing with brushes.

      • Katya

        I saw Karrin Allyson perform and someone’s phone went off and she stopped singing and gave them the what-for. That table was already proving awful–talking loudly, texting, etc.–and I really think she was tempted to get up and leave the stage.

        Of course, when the server dropped a huge pile of trays with a giant loud clatter and crash, she broke into “Smile” without missing a beat, which was pretty awesome.

  • ChrisTS

    He certainly seems to be taking it on the chin in his comments.

    This actually makes me sort of splutteringly angry. He thinks that if others want to watch a film without disruptions, they should stay home. Why the hell doesn’t he stay home and make all the noise he wants?

    • sparks

      Obviously one reason is the film he wants to see is in theaters now and not in his home. Desire for instant gratification I calls it. He just won’t change his behavior for the sake of satisfying that desire.

      • ChrisTS

        Right. So the rest of us should wait until we can see it at home, so he can text/talk in the theater when it first comes out. Jeebus.

  • Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb

    anything that interrupts Transformers by not being Transformers improves the film.

    This is true, which is why I spent the third act of Transformers shining my shoes.

  • Mike

    His explanation is that in India, people are always talking and yelling and running back and forth and eating and doing vibrant ethnic things in the movie theater, and it works great. And that entropy will inevitably bring this about in the USA as well.

    Of course, in Shakespearean times people were always yelling and talking and having social calls during live theater performances. That doesn’t mean that’s the natural order of things.

    • medrawt

      My extraordinarily superficial impression of Indian cinema leads me to suggest that this might be less disruptive of the material onscreen than it might be in many American films.

      • The Dark Avenger

        Having sat through a typical Bollywood production some three decades ago, I can verify your impression, along with the observation that the kids I saw running through the aisles were doing so during a pitch for building a cultural center for expatriate Indians. This was in 1970s St Louis.

    • Royko

      And the crazy part is that he isn’t even arguing for a broader, freewheeling, more active social experience (akin to, say, Rocky Horror.) The guy just wants to freaking text.

      Put. The. Phone. Down.

  • Royko

    His argument boils down to:
    I want to punch you in the face.
    You don’t want to be punched in the face.
    What makes your wishes more important than mine? Why does everything have to be your way, fascist?!

    What an odd piece of writing!

    • Uncle Kvetch

      What an odd piece of writing!

      Truly. I’m pretty much gobsmacked by this.

      I see far fewer movies in the theatre than I used to, and it’s not a reaction against anything in particular…it’s just turned out that way. The one exception is the Met Opera’s live HD screenings, which I attend 6 or 8 times a season. The audience tends to be well-behaved…there’s the occasional talky couple or wrapper-crinkler, but one good “SHHH!” always seems to do the trick.

      Unfortunately, as others here have noted, there’s always the issue of the subsonic booms leaking in from the neighboring theatre throughout…for some reason it’s always at the most hushed and poignant moments of the opera that President Goodguy and his band of loyal All-American Space Marines have to save the planet from hideous aliens from the planet Xgllthwyx next door.

      • Karen

        Somehow my neighborhood MultiMegaPlex can’t manage to put rom-coms on either side of the one screen with the opera.

  • Barry Freed

    BTW, Dash’s update seems to be directed towards this post.

    • LittlePig

      You get that impression, but the dumb son of a bitch can’t work a hyperlink, so what do you expect?

    • Murc

      The update is even more crazy than the original post, if that’s possible.

      It’s like, dude; if you want to make the case that bringing light and noise into the moviegoing experience should be okay and socially acceptable, you gotta make that case. That whole “lets offer screenings where anything goes” bullshit is deeply passive aggressive. Societal norms have to stand up to logical scrutiny; his whole “well, there’s no objective right way to behave, so the masses will decide!” schtick is postmodern BS.

    • ChrisTS

      No. It links to a follow up bit he did in which he assures us that he never engages in such conduct (at least in the US) and really only wanted to suggest that someone should create an alternative sort of theater for people who did not pay to see the film.

      Christ, what an asshole.

      • Ann Outhouse

        someone should create an alternative sort of theater for people who did not pay to see the film.

        Apparently he still does not get that the alternative is watch it at home.

        If this guy were any more self-absorbed he’d collapse into a singularity.

        • ChrisTS

          If this guy were any more self-absorbed he’d collapse into a singularity.

          I am so stealing this.

          • Cheap Wino

            Most excellent!

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    In theory a movie theater (or chain) could decide to take measures to enforce a “quiet please” policy. The biggest obstacles would be 1.) possible loss of asshole customers (which may be a substantial #) and 2.) logistical challenges of enforcement. But it absolutely can be done, on some level. When I go to see a jazz show at nice venue, they are very clear before the show that if you are talking or texting you will be asked to leave (at least temporarily.) They could even have a 3-strikes policy of some sort for repeat offenses (though that would be costly to administer.)

    It would be hard for a movie multi-plex to enforce such a policy with 10-20 screens showing films at the same time, but perhaps they could designate certain films, or certain show-times as quiet hours. I don’t mind so much in an action movie when people react, cheer etc., but especially during a drama or something with more subtlety and less bombs and such.

    • They could pay ushers like in the old days . . .

      • sparks

        If the ushers were like bouncers we might have something there.

        • Lee Rudolph

          An armed usher is a politeness-evoking usher!

    • Murc

      The Cinemark theaters around here have been running pre-movie PSA’s that basically say “If you’re disruptive, and we specifically mean disruptive with your phone, you will be asked to leave.” Coupled with signs in the hallways saying that people should ask ushers or attendants to solve any problems they have with their viewing experience.

      I’ve yet to see anyone thrown out, but apparently people where I live aren’t douchebags.

      • Mike McDermott

        Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the douchebag in the theater in the first half hour, then you ARE the douchebag.

    • Craigo

      Alamo Drafthouse theaters have a strict no disruptions policy, and relish tossing such patrons. They figure they attract a loyal clientele this way.

      • Karen

        I’ve seen them toss phone-addicts.

      • Murc

        Same principle behind places that enforce a strict “control your child” policy.

        (I will note in passing that I would pay a 25% premium, easy, to any movie theater, restaurant, or airline that just straight-up banned anybody below the age of 13. Yes, I’m aware that’s an enormous civil rights violation.)

        • sparks

          I wouldn’t ban children, only wailing, screeching babies and toddlers. Those sounds used to cut through me like a knife. Fortunately I’ve lost enough of my high-frequency hearing (rock and roll!) that it’s way less troubling today. Still bad but I can usually finish my meal. Why do people insist on bringing such little ones to non-family friendly restaurants, anyhow?

          • Murc

            Well, when I’m thinking rationally, I recognize that childrearing is pretty exhausting, and if you have particularly energetic children you may decide 1) that you’re not going to spend an entire decade either never going anywhere or paying a lot of money to babysitters, and 2) that as long as your kids aren’t causing property damage and are within line of sight, you’re gonna call that a win.

            That’s when I’m thinking rationally, which can be hard to do when I’m out and about the collection of siblings aged three, five, and seven have decided to raise just enough hell that I want to take their heads off, but not enough hell that their parental unit feels it’s worth expending the energy to attempt reigning them in.

            • sparks

              I don’t mind play and running at all. They could knock over my drink and I’m still fairly tolerant. It’s just when a child starts getting fussy or when the parent strikes them (seen many times) and they commence to wail. I really want to hurt the parents more than the child, but the sound was physically painful for me.

              • ChrisTS

                Sorry, but when our kids were either infants (no running) or toddlers, we believed we should not impose our lives on others.

                Want to eat out with baby? Fine, we alternated going out of the restaurant with cranky baby while the other parent ate. Baby is to disruptive? Fine, we apologize to everyone and leave.

                And, I’m sorry, we never let our young children run around in restaurants or anywhere else.

                Holy crap.

              • Katya

                Actually, I’m more tolerant of fussing than running. Unless the kid is full-on wailing or tantruming, and the parents aren’t trying to deal with it, it doesn’t bother me that much. Kids fuss, and most parents try hard to minimize the length of said fussing.

                Running around, on the other hand, is disruptive to patrons but dangerous to staff.

      • nixnutz

        To me “relish” is the key word there. Someone getting thrown out is going to be more disruptive than well, anything I’ve ever experienced at the movies, so the idea that people like the Alamo because it’s quiet is a non-starter (and again, they have waitrons, you need to do a lot of texting to be more disruptive than that).

        People like it because it appeals to the authoritarian streak that’s reflected in all the violent posturing in these comments.

        To me the divisions between disruptions that are acceptable and those that aren’t seem largely arbitrary. People will go to the bathroom, they’ll eat the food and drink that the venue sells, they’ll arrive late, be tall, do all kinds of things that provide a sub-optimal experience. So why the obsession with phones?

        • Murc

          None of the things you mention even come close to someone firing up a bright light source in a crowded theater, unless someone is getting up and going to the bathroom every five minutes.

          • Uncle Ebeneezer

            But even that is in service of a serious biological need. So I can forgive someone who has a small bladder or an upset stomach. Being tall is unavoidable. People can eat and drink while watching a movie without any disruptive effects. Excessive rustling/crinkling of candy wrappers during a quiet scene IS something that should be Shshed, however.

            In the case of texting, talking on the phone, there’s almost no way to do those without causing distraction to others, and if somebody is engaged in those, they are not watching the movie. That’s what makes them far more inconsiderate, imo. If you’re in here to watch the movie then watch the movie. It all comes down to just being considerate to the other movie-goers.

            • Lee Rudolph

              In the case of texting, talking on the phone, there’s almost no way to do those without causing distraction to others, and if somebody is engaged in those, they are not watching the movie.

              Hey! They might be live-blogging the on-screen action, or simply sending it to their bedridden grannies!

            • Joey Maloney

              That’s why I always sit with my teeny-tiny bladder on the aisle.

              • Tristan

                I habitually arrive early to make sure the less height-endowed have a chance to not sit behind me.

                It’s amazing how simple behavioural choices can mitigate the potential assholishness of unalterable physiological realities, but putting your phone away is just tooooo haaarrrd.

        • Patrick Phelan

          I don’t think it’s an “authoritarian streak”. It’s more a streak of “I have had to suffer this behaviour for too long, and it has ruined too many outings, with no repercussions; it would be nice to see a case where this is not tolerated”.

          I mean, if I say “Man, it would be nice to see those fuckers who bet the entire North American economy on Powerball tickets and managed to ruin the world, even the few parts of the world that were not theirs, go to jail and be unable to reclaim their gambled assets – I would relish that”, that’s not because I secretly yearn for a police state; that’s because I’ve suffered from bad behaviour and I’d like to chalk up something in the Wins column.

      • Warren Terra

        Aren’t they the ones whose tossing-out-jerks policy resulted in a hilarious answering machine recording that went viral?

  • Kingfish

    The man has a goatee. We’re clearly living in the evil parallel universe.

    • firefall

      and you’ve only just worked this out? Wasn’t making a movie star the President a big tip-off?

  • Part of it is when and where you see movies. We usually go see movies after the initial buzz has died down. When possible we pay a bit more to go to the local arty farty theater that also plays many popular films after they’ve left the big theaters.

    Of course, it can be fun to see a movie with a crowd that is very reactive. Signs did not suck because of some people who gasped, squeaked and shouted at every “exciting” moment. The Mummy was vastly improved by people who scoffed and pointed out plot holes.

  • What if it’s a movie about assholes, like some grand Warholian experiment?

  • Admittedly it’s unfair that a middle aged woman should be prevented from making sure her date/husband knows she disapproves morally of what’s going on onscreen just because the person sitting next to her doesn’t want to hear it.

    • To be clear, this isn’t grunts and the occasional “hah!” This was an entire added evaluative narration for some scenes. That the movie was Gatsby meant that there was lots to criticize, but also that maybe she shouldn’t have been surprised.

      (Though I was shocked about a third of the way through the movie to realize that there were probably a good number of people in the theater who didn’t know who Gatsby was going to turn out to be.)

  • Halloween Jack

    There are much worse people among the quote-endquote digerati than Dash, but I was done with his little ha-ha-fuck-you-I-do-what-I-want screed right about here:

    This list of responses pops up all the time, whether it’s for arguing why women should not wear pants, or defending slavery

    Yep! He sure did go there!

    • Look at the tags on the post, they’re priceless. Included: “colonialism” and “imperialism”.

      • Barry Freed

        Wow, I jut don’t know what to say to that.

      • Ha ha ha ha ha!

        Is this tool still in college? That’s the only excuse for this “Waah, my freedumbs is bein’ impinged!” bullshit.

  • David Hunt

    If people will forgive my terrible lack of web-fu, this post by the great John Rogers still holds up seven years later.

    http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2006/03/how-to-save-theater-industry.html

    • Barry Freed

      That was great, thanks.

    • dimmsdale

      Thanks for citing the Rogers post; John Rogers is a national treasure. I’m lucky to belong to a performers union that has industry screenings, and the strictly enforced ethic is, cellphones OFF, NO talking, no eating, no standing up/putting your coat on during the credits (unless you get the hell out of peoples’ line of vision first), and folks, it’s just heaven. There’s a certain sense of community that the rules engender too; we’re all there to watch the damn movie, and READ the credits all the way through if we want, and that experience has kind of ruined me for commercial theaters (except for very early shows of movies that have been playing for a while). There should be a nuke button to teleport gabbers and cell phone goobers out into the parking lot, preferably in front of traffic. Mr. Rogers’ approach has a lot to recommend it.

      • Murc

        No eating seems like it might be a bridge too far.

        That said, I can see how people wouldn’t want to have adjudicate a million petty “Why is his discreet package of gummy bears okay and my nacho hat isn’t?” cases and just go for the blanket ban.

        • Karate Bearfighter

          “No eating” isn’t going to work at local multiplexes, because that’s where they make the bulk of their money.

    • Halloween Jack

      Yes. And particularly with bringing kids to films that they should not be exposed to until they can sneak a peek when they’re tweens or something, at the very least; my viewing of Kill Bill Vol. 1 was frequently interrupted by the child, I’d guess about four years old, two rows behind me.

      • Richard Gadsden

        Sounds like a reason for fixing the rating system.

        Change R to prohibit anyone under (say) 12, while still requiring under-17s to be accompanied by an adult.

        Or have two different R ratings, the current “soft” R and a separate “hard” R as outlined above.

        While we do have the texting, etc, problem in Britain (indeed, the warnings we get tell us to put our phones on silent, not turn them off) our ratings system does mean no children in adult films (almost all R rated films get one of two ratings here; either 15 or 18)

        • Origami Isopod

          I’m not sure the ratings are the problem so much as lax enforcement thereof.

  • Aaron B.

    “Assholes all the way down” would be a pretty good National Review tagline.

    • efgoldman

      Or a punk garage band.

      • Andrew

        So The Human Centipede was cinema verite?

  • njorl

    I am so sick of you medieval snobs.
    “Please stop talking.”
    “Turn off your phone”
    “Use the restroom you idiot!”
    “Get the hell out of here with those road flares!”
    Why don’t you stop watching me and watch the movie.

    • Warren Terra

      I’ve paid for my ticket, I have every right to add my own soundtrack to the film. Who are you, my mother?

      • efgoldman

        Yes I am, Warren! Now off to bed without your supper, or your i-phone!

        • Warren Terra

          … mom?

        • Uncle Ebeneezer

          And hand over the flares, while you’re at it!

  • The Pale Scot

    The fact that others are agreeing with him (http://j.mp/1cOlgPK) only means that the asteroid MUST HURRY!

    • Origami Isopod

      Forget it, Jake, it’s Tumblr-town.

  • r

    Okay, that article is obvious overheated hyper-aggressive nonsense (and reading the author’s self-bio made me throw up in my mouth a little). But the basic idea that social norms are changing, and that there should be room for multiple incompatible practices, seems fine to me. Rocky Horror already got brought up; I think it’s great fun. And I don’t see what’s wrong with people who want to watch more movies in the way that Rocky Horror gets watched, aka with all sorts of audience interaction and participation (with the film and with each other). Of course, the flipside of this is that there should also be room for people who want to quietly appreciate films which call for a more focused viewing experience. And casual observation suggests that the people who want a quiet interruption-free experience are still in the majority, at least here and now, and as such the active-participation theaters would be the minority rather than vice-versa.

    • sparks

      My problem is if you go to the type of theater that’s going to show Rocky Horror, you know what you’re in for. There was one here which catered to the spiritual antecedents of MST3K, showing all sorts of snarkworthy entertainment. Video rentals killed that theater off.

      • r

        I agree; people should know what they’re in for, and be able to choose accordingly. And if there aren’t enough people who really want a chatty movie experience to support a theater like the one you mention (as I find eminently plausible), then I also agree that they’re out of luck.

        All I was trying to say is that there’s room for both kinds of cultural practice–even if not in the same theater, at the same time. I got the impression that some people were making stronger claims upstream, e.g. that it would be a terrible thing if the situation were reversed and talking in theaters took over the culture. I think these claims are wrong because although norms of politeness dictate that one not disturb others if the majority of people there want a quiet experience, norms of politeness also dictate that one not try to impose silence on others when the majority of the people there are expecting and enjoying a talk-y experience. Wanting to talk does not a fortiori make one an asshole, and a talk-y theater culture is not a fortiori a culture of assholes, imo; rather, it’s just a different way of participating in art and society. But I may have been misreading–perhaps no one actually thinks those things I object to.

        • r

          Looking back, I think where I got this was the OP: “the idea that behaving like an asshole justifies the normalization of said behavior is preposterous. Just because you can’t put down the iPhone and concentrate on something other than yourself for two hours doesn’t mean I’m similarly defective.”

          This strongly seems to imply that using one’s phone during a movie is wrong/rude/assholish absolutely regardless of cultural context–even in a cultural context where that’s the done thing. But that strikes me as pretty silly, for the foregoing reasons.

    • Yeah but the complaints aren’t about actual audience participation. They are about people being rude and loud and talking and texting and ignoring the movie while intruding in the space of people who do want to watch it.

      • A music teacher at my high school would walk around during assemblies and yell at people who clapped or sang along during songs, saying that was uninvited “audience participation.” He actually did the same thing when a local rock band played a benefit performance at the school. Grown-ups in the high-class world, according to him, didn’t dance in the aisles during music performances. (And we had to wear skirts and suits on field trips to Lincoln Center because everyone in New York dresses up.) But neither Dash nor Seitz nor Kaufman mentioned anything along these lines. I’ve never heard anyone censure Rocky Horror because talking back to the screen is NEVER acceptable.

        • sparks

          The answer to the music teacher should have been: Ellington at Newport, 1956.

      • (the other) Davis

        Yeah but the complaints aren’t about actual audience participation.

        This. I actually find in endearing when people get so caught up in the movie-going experience that they audibly react. What this asshat Anil is defending is ignoring the film–which is okay in and of itself–in a manner that denies everyone else the option of fulling engaging with the experience. That’s straight-up narcissism, bordering on downright solipsism.

        • Bettencourt

          I can’t say yes to this strongly enough. Yes, yes, yes. (And I already posted on this topic at length at Glenn Kenny’s Some Came Running, so I won’t bother repeating myself). Yes.

  • SEK

    That’s “friend of the blog John Rogers,” whose Leverage would be the best thing Loomis has ever seen if he would just watch it already.

    • Hogan

      Loomis hasn’t . . . what the fuck, God?

    • Murc

      Well, at least the first couple of seasons.

      Leverage REALLY started reaching for variation the longer it went on. This isn’t to say the show ever became bad; every season has gems in it. But they plucked a lot of the low-hanging fruit in their first two years and the cons began getting less straightforward and more… ridiculous.

      That said… how the hell has Loomis not seen Leverage? It is literally a show about how our corporate masters suck and that it is not only justifiable, it is morally upright to knock them down, take their cash, humiliate them, and give said cash to their many victims.

      … I’m gonna go watch that episode where they make Eliot a country music star again. (I will watch anything that Jonathan Frakes directs.)

      • Warren Terra

        It’s not on Netflix so far as I know, which is why I haven’t seen it (I have seen Hustle, the inspiration for Leverage, on discs, back when I bothered with discs)

        • Bill Murray

          I quite liked both Hustle and Leverage, while I have yet to see all of Hustle, Leverage did start to get a little silly towards the last year or so.

  • MPAVictoria

    Okay, I seem to be in the minority here but texting in a theatre does not bother me at all. Talking on the phone yes but texting seems different some how.

    • Murc

      I will note that I would be perfectly okay with texting if you could do it without your phone lighting up like a searchlight when you do it. THAT’S the problem, not the texting itself.

      • Andrew

        Eyeglass phones will solve everything.

        • Warren Terra

          Well, no: as I understand it, you compose texts on your Google Glass (or similar, presumably) by voice recognition. That’s worse, until we have eyeglass screens and enter data by pupil orientation, or with a separate device.

          • njorl

            Tooth mounted keyboards will solved that. I just gotta figure out the shift key and I’m off to the patent office.

            • Breadbaker

              The shift is a burp. I’ll tell you where to send the royalty check.

            • elm

              No, no. The shift is touching your canines to each other. The keys are on the inside of you teeth. If your upper and lower teeth don’t touch each other, it’s lower case; if they do touch each other, it’s upper case.

  • Aaron B.

    I think the example of Rocky Horror that has been brought up is an interesting one; obviously there are different sets of movie-going “standards” that are mutually incompatible (if you view movie-watching as an interactive experience you don’t enjoy a quiet theater as much; if you view it as a solitary, quiet experience as noisy, bright theater will exasperate you.) It seems like this is basically a coordination problem – how do we get people in a place with others who share their preferences so we are trampling on as few others’ desires as possible? To some extent, venues may play a role – a bar/theater may be a bit more raucous while a classic theater is quieter – or events, where showings of cult films like Rocky place a premium on audience participation. But maybe Internet review services like Yelp can help too, allowing people to sort into “high-interaction” as “low-interaction” crowds by providing information about the crowds these venues tend to attract. I do tend to disagree that there is only one “legitimate” way to want to watch a film in a theater, but obviously a single high-interaction person in a crowd of more typical quiet moviegoers will be disruptive to a lot of people.

    • Richard Gadsden

      There were singalong showings of Mamma Mia!, advertised as such.

      • Hogan

        Anything to drown out Pierce Brosnan.

  • I don’t know how people are affording the type of tv and sound system that apparently makes it their home theaters comparable to a movie theater. But for the rest of us, nothing compares to the movie-going experience. So I thank SEK for attempting to knock down ridiculous arguments that people should allowed to be assholes in the theater. I also appreciate the use of the non-gendered term “asshole”.

    • Joseph, A Bank!

      Eh, it’s a discretionary income thing. I don’t have expensive tastes (books, biking, cooking, hiking) so I can put more money towards a nice setup. Doesn’t rival a theater, but unless it’s a summer blockbuster I don’t think I’m missing anything by watching at home. And at a summer blockbuster I don’t really care about audience shenanigans.

      • That’s a good point. I can completely understand watching non-action movies at home. You’re probably not losing anything. But as much as I understand not wanting to be around other people (I’m introverted. So it’s not my first choice), I can usually tolerate the risks and enjoy the theater experience.

        • Joseph, A Bank!

          Yeah people. I deal with (too many) people for a living. Nice to be at home.

          You know my wife actually dragged my ass out to Pacific Rim and I quite enjoyed it. I’m open to suggestions for new movies.

      • ChrisTS

        For those of us who live in ancient houses (1700’s) the physical limitations are as/more significant than the financial ones.

        Besides which, even if we set up a ‘movie room’ in the barn, we would have to wait for the films to come out on whatever.

        • ChrisTS

          sigh: as/than, something

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  • Ruby

    As a theater employee I can tell you that we DO NOT allow phone use of any kind in my theater. If caught on your phone, you will get one warning. After that, we will gleefully remove you and, depending on the whims of the manger on duty, you may or may not get a refund.

    On occasion, we will give a blanket warning to the whole audience before the show starts. Any further cell phoning will result in immediate ejection.

  • RobNYNY1957

    I was at the New York Philharmonic some years ago when a man was talking so loudly on his phone that the conductor, Kurt Masur, had to stop the performance and ask everyone to enjoy the show in silence. But, of course, he was a jack-booted thug from Communist East Germany.

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