By Frank Paiva
Special to MSN Movies
Frank Paiva has been writing about movies since he was 12. He will attend New York University as a freshman in the fall.
Most people think going to the movies involves just buying a ticket, eating some popcorn, and sitting in the dark to watch a show. If only things were that simple. There are actually a huge number of unwritten social rules surrounding moviegoing that cover everything from smuggling outside food into the theater to talking during previews. The problem is that not everyone follows these rules, making the already expensive night out at the multiplex emotionally, in addition to financially, draining. And we're not talking about the content on the screen.
Here are my suggestions for basic behavior that should be expected from anyone attending a movie. It's easily split into four basic sections for convenience: Talking, Food, Children and Miscellaneous Problems. Follow them -- or meet the wrath of your fellow moviegoers.
My Golden Rule: The only time talking is permitted during a film screening is at a midnight showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," because everyone's seen the movie a million times already and most people are too drunk/crazy to control themselves. To elaborate:
— Annoying pre-film ads and trailers are in "no talking" territory in
addition to the feature itself. While this may sound harsh, consider that anyone
who's spent the first 20 minutes of their theater experience talking isn't
likely to stop once a Dreamworks or Warner Bros. logo comes on the
— If you've seen the movie before, shut up. I don't care about your opinion. For that matter, if you haven't seen the movie, I don't care what your mother or your roommate thought of it either.
— The moment the final credits begin to roll is not the time for you to begin discussing your opinion of the movie. Wait at least until you're outside the auditorium.
— Never ever discuss the endings to other movies before the screening. I can't tell you how often this happens.
— Do not discuss the film you just saw in between stalls in the bathroom. It could spoil it for someone headed into an upcoming screening; plus no film is important enough to be loudly discussed in a public restroom.
— If there are only a few people in the theater, talk very quietly. Talking loudly will force other people to eavesdrop on your conversation in lieu of listening to that horrible theater radio network music.
My Golden Rule: If it smells like anything or is larger than a chicken, you don't need to bring it into the movie with you.
— If you bring soda from home, at least have the decency to open it
before the movie starts. I'm tired of the opening-cans chorus that occurs in the
first minute of a movie, caused by sneaky people trying to cheat the
— If your food from home is wrapped in noisy bags or wrappers, remove it while there's still light available and the noise won't matter. This includes cough drops.
— If you drop a food item on the floor, don't eat it. That floor is disgusting. And don't try to get it back during the screening. It really doesn't matter that much.
— Napkins are key to keeping your seat and armrests from getting greasy. Be kind to the people who will come after you.
My Golden Rule: If the film doesn't feature talking animals or Hilary Duff, then it's probably not appropriate for children. Bad parenting is rampant at today's multiplex. Just remember that:
— Saying you couldn't find a babysitter and going to the movies anyway
is not an excuse. You can rent a movie and watch it at home if you're really so
concerned about the safety of your child.
— If the film starts after 7, it's not OK to bring your kids. I am shocked by the recent surge of children I'm seeing at movies beginning at 10 or 11 at night.
— Your child's comments during the film are not amusing. I don't care if you find them cute. Children are subject to the same non-talking rules as everyone else. All children. Not just everyone else's child. Your child is not that special.
— Bringing children to R-rated movies isn't just irresponsible, it's wrong. There's a reason films get these ratings. It's because these films contain things children shouldn't be exposed to or that they can't understand. I'll never forget seeing the Holocaust drama "The Pianist" and having the little boy in front of me remark two-thirds of the way into the movie, "Mommy, I don't understand why he's hiding." Just don't do it.
My Golden Rule: Watch out for the elderly. While this may sound ageist, I am consistently amazed by how many of my problems at the multiplex have nothing to do with the stereotypical rowdy teenager or antic child. Age may make you wiser, but that still doesn't mean I care about anything you have to say until after we leave the auditorium. Some other rules (for all ages):
— If you know the song being played in a movie, don't you dare sing
along to it. When did this become OK? This includes humming.
— If you're 20 or 25 minutes late for a movie's starting time and go anyway: Shame on you. You irresponsible people are the reason I'm glad movie tickets prices are so high. It's as if you're being fined for your stupidity and for being inconsiderate. I've never understood why people will pay good money to see 70 minutes of a 90-minute movie.
— Cell phones should always be off. Not on a low ring volume. Not on vibrate. It seems so simple, but apparently it's not. I don't care if you're a doctor on call. If you're on call, you can watch a movie at home.
— If a movie is playing at a second-run theater, that doesn't make it OK to ignore any of these rules. Just because tickets were only $3 or $4.50 doesn't mean we need to lose our respect for each other.
— If you're sick, don't go to the movies. I'm sitting too close to you.
Until next time, enjoy and behave yourself at the movies.
Have a few suggestions for rules not on this list? Know an effective way to get people to stop talking during a movie? Have a really awesome bad-movie-behavior story? Please let us know by e-mailing email@example.com.