After months and months of waiting, I finally got to the press screening of The Hunger Games here in Cape Town. While the movie was absolutely freaking incredible and all I could have wanted in a big-budget, big-studio, PG-version of the books, I spent most of it trying not to shriek at the audience… other so-called film reviewers and entertainment journalists.
I was appalled at the behaviour of these people – arriving 15 minutes late (why did you bother, then?!), checking their cellphones, talking to the person sitting next to them…. WTF?! Anyway, this got me on to a topic I’m extremely passionate about (strangely) – cinema etiquette.
Going to the cinema is as close to a religious/churchy experience as I suspect I’ll ever get. It’s a sacred time for me, and I have my own set of “rituals” that I adhere to. All I ask of other people is that they don’t be a damned asshole.
And – behold! Tips on how not to be an asshole at the cinema.
Don’t talk through the movie
One of my favourite lines from Firefly – and from television of all time, I guess – comes in Our Mrs Reynolds. Shepherd Book tells Mal that if he takes advantage of his new “wife” “Saffron”, that Mal will “burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater”.
That’s pretty much my level of feeling for people who natter through a film. Damnit, if you want to chat – why are you watching a movie? And then, if you want to discuss the film while it’s playing (I hope that’s what you’re talking about, by the way) then just download the thing off The Pirate Bay or something and chat at home in front of your laptop where you can stop/start/rewind to your heart’s content. If you must talk, then whisper. Sparingly.
Don’t fiddle with your phone
This includes but is not limited to: Checking the time, making or taking a phone call, responding to or composing a text message or – and yes, I’ve actually seen this – playing Angry Birds.
See, while texting itself is relatively quiet, and I’m sure that you can turn the volume down on Angry Birds, it’s that damned light off your super-phone that can also serve as the Bat Signal that is the problem. There is nothing more irritating than somebody’s flashing phone light in front of you in a darkened cinema.
And if common decency isn’t enough to put you off texting in the cinema, maybe this will: We can, and I will, read what you’re texting.
If you must take the call, leave the cinema as quickly as possible. Don’t sit in your seat and chat away. Seriously.
Arrive on time
Look, I get it. Sometimes traffic sucks. Or the line to get your popcorn and slushie is quite long. Or you need the bathroom and there’s only one working stall. It happens. In fact, it happened to me – twenty minutes ago, when I arrived in time to catch all the trailers and the start of the movie! (I know it must be a weird thought, but filmmakers actually do have a “beginning” of the film). You don’t have to be seated for the trailers – that’s a personal choice – but you had better be sitting as the movie starts. It’s disruptive for the rest of us – especially if you arrive 15 minutes late as we’re getting into it.
Sit in the seats assigned to you
Those little numbers on your ticket aren’t just for decoration, you know. In fact, there’s actually a meaning to them! Okay, I know this might be hard to follow so I’m going to go slowly. Right. Look at your ticket. See how there is the letter “C” and then the numbers “4-5”? Right, you see – no, move your thumb – there! Right, now look down the aisle. See, along the aisle, there are those little letters? “A, B, C, D…?” Right, go to “C”. Now, if you look on the seats themselves there are little numbers? “1, 2, 3, 4” – see, that’s you! and “5”! That’s you too!” Now, sit. Stay. Don’t move.
If the cinema has unreserved seating, it’s relatively empty, and there’s a blonde woman in glasses sitting near the end of the row, don’t sit next to her. That’s me. I will growl at you. There’s plenty of space, why do you need to sit on my lap? If the cinema fills up, I’ll happily sit next to somebody else – but only then.
Keep noisy eating to a minimum
Look, I love my movie sweets. The tip is simple – open the packet before the movie starts (see why it can be helpful to arrive on time?!) or wait for a super noisy part to open it. Hint: While the main character’s love interest is dying is not an appropriate time.
Think smart with your luggage
I am known for my giant handbags. It’s a thing. They need to be able to cart books around, you see. So if I can keep my luggage under control, so can you. Either keep your bag on your lap, on the empty seat next to you or under your chair. Not in the aisle, not in front of your feet where other cinemagoers can trip over it when they need the bathroom or have to take an (urgent) call.
Extra bonus tips, suggestions and pointers!
Kick my seat and die.
If your child can’t sit through an episode of Barney, they’re not going to make it through two-and-a-half hours of film. Don’t bring her. (Oh, and if your child is so young that the noise and lights in the cinema make her cry and you have to leave to change her nappy, then you have Failed at Parenting. Another true story)
Don’t sing. I’m very pleased you know the song. Just don’t sing.
Oh, and try and refrain from throwing food around the cinema. That’s just common.