Friday, January 21, 2011

Movie- Going Rules

I am a bit of a regular at the movie theaters. That may be putting it lightly. I'm the type who has a Regal card and is continually racking up points for free movies and free small drinks. I purposely go to the movies on Tuesdays for dollar popcorn days. (for card-carrying folk only) I'm the type who often goes to the movies by myself and sometimes even prefer to be alone. I love to feel like I'm actually IN the story and if my chatty Kathy friend is giving me her running commentary, I cannot fully engage. Plus, sometimes none of my friends or family will enjoy the weird movies I want to see. And there are the other times I'm just plain ashamed to admit I want to see a movie. (I saw The Hangover and laughed myself silly at very inappropriate jokes and felt no judgment from the strangers I was surrounded by) I'm also the type who usually sees a double feature and occasionally will hop to three or four movies in one day (like I did with my dad on Christmas day. Our goal is to one day see five).

I have countless fond memories inside these full-screen wonderlands. In high school, while other kids were dancing at cool parties, I donned my pajamas and brought a pillow to the theaters. In college, I found a group of fellow Westmont students who also loved Harry Potter and we all saw the first midnight showing together though we had never previously met. (It was a magical night until my coach found out I was at the movies until 3 AM the night before a game and ripped me a new one. Totally worth it.) I went to the movies in Mozambique by myself even when I didn't understand a word and there were no subtitles. I planned my trip to visit Jenny in New York based on the weekend Eragon was first released in theaters. (don't judge- those dragon books are delightful) I made Trent go to the movies with me when we were in Ireland and we missed the infamous match between Federer and Nadal that was supposedly "the best tennis match of all time." He was beyond livid when he realized we missed it because we were at the movies and said, "Katie, we will admit this to no one. We will watch the replay and go to our graves claiming to have seen this match live." Sorry sucker. Wasn't Hancock worth it though?

I've sat in midnight showings and midday showings, waited in countless bathroom lines, and snack lines and of course the infamous Twilight premier lines. (We waited 8 hours. Worth every butt cramp and vampire-crazed, teeny bopper scream) I love everything about the theaters and clearly, I've spent a lot of time inside them. I feel this wealth of experience gives me some authority in matters pertaining to rules for the theaters.

Of course, the theaters have their own set of rules, several of which are made to be broken. However, there is a set of unwritten rules that is now, for the first time to my knowledge, being written. I confess, that I have broken several of these rules. However, I felt the necessary amout of guilt and shame that I fear many oblivious movie-goers do not feel when they break them. So here is my public service announcement, my attempt to make the world a better least for the easily annoyed such as myself.

Movie-Going Rules

1) Make yourself invisible. I am not an anti-social hermit. I like people. I really do. I like people watching in long lines and I like packed theaters because of the ambiance it creates. However, for me to completely engage in a movie and reach maximum levels of movie-going enjoyment, there are several moments when I need to forget that you exist. I don't mind hearing you laugh as long as it is in appropriate moments and isn't too loud or obnoxious. I don't mind hearing you gasp if the movie warrants a gasp. I don't even mind hearing you cry softly or even sniffle- especially in movies like Marley and Me, but don't get carried away. (All I remember about I Am Sam is my friend Lori sobbing uncontrollably. It was funny because she's my friend and we all were crying but sobs are typically highly frowned upon. Sorry Lor) Basically, I want to forget that you are next to me. I need you to disappear. You're in your bubble. I'm in mine. We're all happy.

This becomes quite tricky though when you are forced to sit a few inches from me. In such a case, here are some guidelines for disappearing: Don't put your arm on our shared barrier. If the cupholder between you and your friend is available, don't you dare use the one between us. Don't cross your leg over into my space. Don't laugh louder or longer than everyone else. Don't even think about talking to the characters. And don't share opinions of the previews loudly enough so I hear them. By all means, form opinions on previews and share them with whomever you came with. This is one of my favorite parts about the movie-going experience. How can you see the trailer for The Roommate and not have a comment? However, these comments must be made at the volume of a hushed whisper as you lean into the receiver's bubble. I don't want to hear your comments unless I came with your or they are really funny.

2) Choose your seat wisely. Breakage of this rule is a serious violation- enough to win you a glare from me, a scoff, and I might even get up and move in silent protest of your idiocracy. It is a tricky rule, however, because it changes depending upon the amount of people in the theater. Let me break down the scenarios:

a. Half- 3/4 full theater. Don't you dare sit right next to me. If there are plenty of seats available, the one seat buffer is the absolute minimum space requirement. If possible, make it two. Back to the bubble anaology- the farther away you are from me, the less chance I will have of noticing your existence. Women nation-wide are privy to this rule and have been putting their purse on the seat next to them for a reason. But if I don't put my purse there, please don't take it as an invitation to enter my space.

b. Packed theater. The rules completely change in this scenario. In this case, if you leave the one seat buffer and/or put your purse down to ensure a buffer, you are a grade A buffoon and selfish B. That's right. A "B." People will be floundering as they search for contiguous seats and they could have perfect seats but you, you went and tried to create the buffer. Not allowed, my friends. This is not allowed. This peeves me so greatly that I will sometimes purposefully find two people who have created a buffer in the same row, will ask if that seat is taken, and then ask the entire row to move over. Typically, I would hate "stepping on so many toes" but I'm so worked up by the indecency of the seat buffers, that I don't care. I actually did this on Christmas day which is part of the reason I didn't feel too badly about my neighbor smelling my smelly roast beef sandwich. (I'll explain in rule 6) She tried to create the buffer in a packed house. She got her just desserts and had to move and then sit next to me, the girl who not only brought in a smelly sandwich, but got a case of violent hiccups that shook all the seats close by.

c. Empty- 1/2 full theater. Don't come near me. Don't come in my row. Don't come right behind me. And don't you dare go right in front of me so I can't put up my feet. One moronic woman did this to me and I did the half snort/half "I can't believe you just did that" laugh and then moved up a row. I'm sure she felt the weight of my judgment and never did this again.

3) Go to the bathroom BEFORE the movie so you don't have to climb over me. The space between rows is ridiculously tiny. Even for the thinnest of movie-goers, walking past someone sitting in a theater is going to be a struggle. It's not as bad as on a plane, but inevitably will cause a bit of awkwardness. So I recommend that we all take preventative measures and buy snacks and go pee before the movie. And know your bladder size. If it's not very large, please don't get the very large coke.

4) Climb over me with caution. There will be times when this awkward manuever is completely unavoidable. In my perfect world, it wouldn't happen because everyone would sit in the middle first and then fan their way out to the aisles, but I realize these expectations are unrealistic. So when you do have to put your butt or crotch just a few inches from my face, please proceed with caution. First, make me aware of your presence and give me a moment to move my purse and scootch back as far as possible. (I confess I didn't always follow this rule and I once kicked over a rather large lady's coke. She was not happy. I honestly thought I was going to get punched.) Then, after you've made your presence known, get by me in one step. No use prolonging this awkward dance with you baby-steppin past me. It's your call if you prefer to put your butt or crotch in my face. I personally face the victim so I can give the apologetic look while I scoot by and because I'm clumsy and fear that I'll lose my balance and end up sitting on their lap.

5) Eat quietly and at correct times. Popcorn is delicious and should be had by all while at the theaters. (Try throwing in some junior mints- it's like a chocolaty, minty surprise in each bite.) However, that buttery goodness can be loud and I do not want to hear you chewing. Ever. Throughout most of the movie, it is loud enough for you to chomp away. So go ahead. Grab ridiculously giant handfuls of popcorn and go to town. Some stray kernels will inevitably stick somewhere on your clothes but don't be embarrassed; it happens to all of us. However, there are certain moments when you are not allowed to chew freely:

a. in between previews. There is that terrible 3 second delay between trailers when there must be complete silence in the theater. Complete silence. I've often held my breathe during this delay. This is NOT the time to munch on your popcorn. If you've already put at bite in your mouth, you must either wait it out or suck the crunch out of the bite and then swallow it soggy. Those are your only two options.

b. during tragic or sad scenes of the movie that are very quiet. If I'm crying as Woody, Buzz, Rex, and friends hold hands and prepare to die together, I do NOT want to hear you chewing your food. There was a long, quiet conversation in Country Strong in which I held a bite of taco in my mouth for 2 minutes. It was disgusting, but I am considerate. I recently brought an apple to the movies. Unconventional I know, but it was a three-movie day and popcorn and candy was not going to cut it. I needed some substance. Kevin James has some words for people like me in this clip but I don't care. (starts at minute 5) Sometimes a girl needs some fruit when watching a movie. However, I realized it was a risky move because of the loud crunch factor. So I only took bites during very loud moments and other than the core that I may or may not have thrown under my seat, no one had a clue that I had devoured an apple during the movie.

Last year my roommate and I saw This Is It. I'm sure it was fabulous. I vaguely recall enjoying it. However, what I remember most clearly was the colleague we saw the movie with. He chomped at every quiet moment. I was appalled. Having no previous conversation about this unwritten rule, I was much relieved when my roommate said, "Gosh, did you hear him chewing? Doesn't he realize that no one eats right then?" (See, I'm not crazy. Or my roommate is too. Whatever.) We later informed our ignorant colleague of the moments when he is not allowed to chew his popcorn. He had no idea. This is why this announcement is so important.

6) Don't bring in smelly food. By all means, bring in your food. This is one of those "written rules that should be broken." Those prices are ridiculously exorbitant and I die a little every time I come unprepared and have to fork over 3 bucks for a box of MnMs. My college roommate and her husband have been known to sneak in family-size meals from Taco Bell which is acceptable because tacos don't smell too strongly. Beware of the hard shell crunch, though.

I don't feel badly about this little "rule-breaking" because the theaters don't offer much of a "food" selection. Hot dogs scare me in general and other than at ballparks, I feel it's taking a leap of faith to buy a hot dog from anywhere else. Nacho cheese and I have never gotten along and the other options look down right disgusting. 8 dollars of disgusting. No thank you. And sometimes popcorn just isn't enough- especially if you're pulling a 10 hour day at the theaters. So come prepared but don't you dare bring in something smelly. Egg rolls? Think again. Teriyaki chicken? I don't think so. Chinese food in general? Probably not. Again, you're in your bubble; I'm in mine. And I don't want the odor of your bubble to waft over into mine.

I confess that I recently broken this rule. I blame my selfish, sinful nature. It was Christmas and I wanted to enjoy good food on Christmas, even if I was in the theaters. So I packed my dad and I homemade roast beef sandwiches. I heated up the roast from Christmas Eve dinner and made one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. However, we were in a packed house watching True Grit when I opened my sandwich bag and the strong scent of roast beef filled the theater. I cringed a bit and noticed the lady next to me kept glancing at my sandwich. I felt the necessary amount of guilt and shame and then I savored every bite of that goodness. I tried to avoid all eye contact the lady next to me since I knew I had broken a rule and entered her bubble, but at the end of the movie, she said, "Where did you find that sandwich? It looked delicious." Apparently her glances my way were envious ones, not hateful. She is more gracious than I.

7) Put your phone away. This is one rule the theaters already have that I stand firmly behind. And occasionally even enforce. Your ringer had better be turned off. In fact, I don't even want to hear your phone vibrating. I saw Avatar with my parents and during the one awkward and quiet alien sex scene, suddenly "the voice of truth" was singing loudly from my mom's purse. She tried to pull the, "it's not mine" routine and stared straight ahead but she was sandwiched between my dad and me, two people who will not let that slide. We both elbowed her and she fumbled around until Casting Crowns had sung their chorus three times, and though it was probably excruciatingly obnoxious for the rest of the theater, I actually wasn't too bummed. Normally I'd be annoyed, but this time I wasn't because I momentarily forgot that I was sitting by my parents watching giant, blue aliens have sex so I was thankful for any distraction. When my mom later checked her missed calls, she discovered that the timely call had been from my dad. A good ol' fashioned pocket call. These two are going to be trouble in their sixties.

Oh and if you're going to try to sneak a text in during the movie, watch your head. I will throw junior mints at you. How have some people still not caught on to the fact that your phone lights up when you're reading or sending a text? And the theater is pitch black. I can see your stupid phone from 50 rows away if you're sitting lower than I am no matter how hard you try to cover the glare. And for some reason, I can't stop staring at that tiny little light until it goes away. So can you please stop? The world can spin on without you for 2 hours. Please people, put your phones away. Better yet, leave 'em at home.

8) Clapping for a movie is allowed in extreme cases only. I've added an eighth rule because my friend Katie hates odd numbers and because while I sat in two movies last night, I realized another crucial rule. Clapping for a movie- when can you do it? I'm glad you asked.

a. Midnight showing of Harry Potter or Twilight? Go ahead and put your hands together before AND after the movie. When you've waited for months for a movie to be released and then waited for hours to see it, you should be pretty pumped and clapping is totally appropriate. Everyone is excited. However, keep your cat-calls to a minimum. Let's cheer together at the beginning but once the dialogue begins, zip it please.

b. The movie must be epic. Not just really good or great. It must be phenomenal. While my roommates saw The Black Swan last night, I saw The King's Speech. Since I had an extra half hour, I sat in the last part of The Dilemna. I typically love Kevin James and Vince Vaughn but I had just come from The King's Speech, a spectacular drama, so I felt dumb and disappointed watching the drivel that was this attempt at a comedy. It was truly awful in my opinion and I regretted not waiting in the lobby and reading my book. What's even worse is that people clapped at the end. Clapped for this waste of time. I think I may have subconsciously shot them a dirty look. You cannot clap for crap. Comedies rarely warrant claps. Laugh yourself silly but you can only clap if the movie was epic- which comedies rarely are.

c. There must be a packed houses, or at least 3/4 full theater. Lots of people is a necessary ingredient when deciding if you should clap or not. The mob mentality feeds this urge to clap. I think that is why those bozos in The Dilemna couldn't help themselves. Do you clap for an epic movie that you've rented? If you do, know that you're kinda weird. Most of us don't though, because we need the company of at least 50 others agreeing that this movie was indeed epic and did move us all. When you've laughed and cried and sighed together and been genuinely touched by a movie, clapping together seems appropriate. It's as if you are acknowledging as one body, "We just experienced a remarkable journey together and we are thankful for it." The King's Speech was indeed an epic movie- though perhaps I loved it so much because I'm a sucker for historical movies. It typically would warrant a clap but not on this night. Why not? There weren't many people in the theater. One person clapped at the end and I felt super awkward for them. I wanted to say, "I agree- awesome movie. But there's not enough of us on this journey to warrant a clap. Sorry guy."

I realize my list is a bit lengthy and I may sound a bit ridiculous, but if the world would follow these eight rules, life would be a little greater. Help me out if I forgot any rules. Do you agree with any of these or am I being completely inane?


  1. They jacked up the prices. It's 2 dollar popcorn Tuesdays now.

    (This is your former student, Paul Bakker, by the way. Not sure whether that makes this comment seem more or less creepy.)

  2. Hahaha I just laughed my Taco-Bell-loving self silly. Thank you for laying out the rules of movie theater life Katie. I'll keep them in mind next time I consider bringing a plate of Benny's taco wagon or Panda Express into the theater!

  3. This is amazing. You've printed this list right? And had it laminated? I feel like it may be appropriate to have a few copies to hand out as necessary. You make the call. Also, Lori bawling...hilarious!

  4. Paul- thanks for the heads up and that is ridiculous. Also, not creepy at all but now I will be reading your blog which might creep you out.

    Jenny- I had almost forgotten about the infamous "Benny's Taco Wagon"- the only Mexican food in Alaska. Also, I considered mentioning the theaters in AK that serve delicious meals and bring them to you but I figured most of the world would not understand. I think that's only an Alaska thing.

    Amy- I had not considered making hard copies but now I am seriously thinking about it. I don't know if I would post them in my theater beforehand or slip them to the rule-breakers afterwards though. I'll think on it.

  5. Katie I don't think I will ever go to the movies with you again.

  6. Christy,

    a- when do we ever see movies together? I think the last one might have been Titanic.

    b- I realize I portrayed myself to be an irritable "B" in this post but I offer grace freely. To my friends that is.

    c- I break these rules on occasion. Last night, I brought in a can of coke with a cup of ice and poured when it was loud but didn't time it right because the theater got dead silent while my coke was still fizzing really loudly.

  7. I am not a big movie goer, but should I darken the doors anytime soon, I now consider myself well versed in movie-going manners. I will do what I can to uphold and, if necessary, enforce ( with my family, it would be necessary ) these enlightened exhortations!