Cinema Etiquette: The Truly Rich Lady Reminds Us of What We Should Already Know
Because an important little film called Crazy Rich Asians is coming up in theaters very soon, now would be a good time to brush up on the etiquette of shared watching.
The important word to note here is “shared.” The cinema is not your home theater where you can do whatever you want. There are other people (a roomful of them!) trying to make sense of the twists and turns on the silver screen, so please be aware of your surroundings (mostly about your noise level).
When to arrive
As a Truly Rich Consumer of Movies, I am a completist. I like to take in the entire movie from opening credits to final scene (though I sometimes skip the post-credits scenes, because I have a tiny bladder). Therefore, I find it a terrible nuisance when a late party comes bumbling into the dark theater. Despite all effort to be as unobtrusive, their silhouettes, murmurs, and clatter detract from the very important things happening on the screen.
While it is acceptable to arrive on the dot or slightly late to most affairs, coming in before a movie starts is the kindest thing to do. Do not be the noisy ghost blocking half of the screen.
How to enter
Not many people think of this, but there is a proper way of entering a row to get to your seat. Should you slide into the row with your body facing the seats or the screen? Does this even matter?
Well, have you ever been confronted with a train of—please excuse me—crotches in your face? When entering a row, please turn your body toward the screen. While you’re at it, do your best to create space between my face and your moving mass. Also, mind my feet.
How to behave
Some time ago, I found myself seated beside a Truly Rich Grandmother and her brood of grandchildren. It was bad enough that they were a bundle of confusion (who gets to sit beside Grandma? I do! I do!) when they arrived minutes after the lights went out, but it was even worse when the Truly Rich Grandmother whipped out her iPhone and started browsing the Internet during the movie. She really had no interest in the blockbuster film onscreen.
I was aghast, and could not watch properly, because any source of light aside from the movie screen is utterly distracting. Thankfully, I did not have to intervene for her grandson whispered in Grandma's ear. Turn. It. Off.
When at the cinema, please do what people in cinemas do: Watch. Do not mind your phone, text on the phone, check e-mail on the phone, or take calls. Kindly return home if you need to.
How to ask and answer
I had the misfortune to accept an invitation to the private screening of the final episode of a popular series about a single gal living in New York. The conclusion of this story was highly anticipated and naturally, everyone in the room was excited. When one guest asked her seatmate about the plot, the superfan seatmate launched into a monologue about the nuances of the episode. She started annotating every scene. Needless to say, this was a distraction.
I cannot reiterate enough that, when watching a movie, play, or a performance, please limit the noise you make. We’re not saying you can never ask a question or answer questions while watching (we all get confused at some point or another), but please converse as if you were mice. Better yet, use telepathy.
How to watch with kids
Will I ruffle the feathers of Truly Rich Mothers if I remind the world once more that it is NOT okay to bring a mewling baby or an energetic toddler to the movies, no matter how cute you think they are? The only time this is fine is when they know how to behave in public, and sometimes this only happens when kids become full-grown adults.
How to eat
Another interesting quandary: Is it ever okay to eat crunchy food inside the cinema. There are soft things and hard things. The soft things you can nibble on, but the hard things require the full strength of a crunch, crackle, or pop. Sometimes the soft things come in noisy packaging, too. What to do?
I defer to the genre. For dramas or experimental movies with little dialogue, fat crunchy pork rinds are too much. For the non-stop ride of superhero movies, I don’t think people will even hear what you are eating. Then again, even these noisy movies have their quiet moments. Just be respectful and aware.
How to confront a rogue cinema watcher
I always give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the person behind me who has rudely positioned his feet near my face has been raised by idiots. I pray for him and his family. But when my kindness and patience runs out, I have no choice but to protect myself and assert my right as ticket-buying moviegoer who just wants two hours of escape.
I, with a kind voice touched with a bit of authority, will turn to the Feet Person, and inform him of his invasion. “Sir, I would greatly appreciate it if you didn't put your foot near my face.” After they have been called out, most people behave.