For those who enjoy a good night out at the flickers, here’s a list of things you should keep in mind when going out to your local cineplex to enjoy yourself. It’s essentially a stream of consciousness effort to put into words what I (and others) have often thought annoying about the cinema experience of today. Oh, and if you want to add anything to this, or feel I’ve missed something essential, please feel free to add a comment at the bottom!
- Arrive with plenty of time to spare. Unless you’ve purchased your tickets online, then you may have to queue for them, especially if you expect to rock up five minutes before a screening is due to start and just walk right in. If the film is a big new release, forget about it. Allow at least fifteen minutes line up time just at the ticket counter, to be safe. If you get there and your session is sold out, then don’t start complaining. Other people have obviously thought about it a lot longer than you, and planned accordingly.
- Be prepared to line up to go into the cinema. Unfortunately, cineplex’s are getting larger and larger these days as they seek to accommodate as many people into their auditoriums as possible. This means that there will always be people queuing up outside the cinema door waiting to attend the next screening. Join the line and don’t complain. People who walk past the start of a line that goes up and around the corner are always the same people who arrive late to parties, and should simply be ignored. if you want to get a good seat, get to the cinema early. For those keeping score, I’d recommend a minimum of about 30 minutes for a minor new release, and at least 45-60 minutes for a major motion picture.
- Never, ever, give away plot points to a film you’ve seen, in a lineup. Just because you have an opinion on the latest Shyamalan film doesn’t mean everybody around you has, so don’t ruin a plot twist by mouthing off loudly in a queue, it’s a sure fire way to get you bashed by those who haven’t seen it yet. Come to think of it, perhaps not spouting off all your supposed knowledge about film in a lineup anyway… after all, how often have you heard people talking about a film, and getting things completely wrong? All the time? I know I have. I don’t pretend to know everything about film, but I know enough to keep my mouth shut. People don’t want to hear other people’s opinions about films then and there…. they might read a blog or two (hint hint) but generally, when you’re in a line and the guy next to you keeps rabbiting on about the film you’re about to see, it gets kind of annoying. Trust me, nobody wants to hear what your dubiously high and mighty opinion is, especially at the top of your voice. that said, there is something to be said for striking up a conversation with a fellow patron about a certain film topic that you might want to talk about: this is only in the most exceptional circumstance, however. Like a Star Wars premiere, or the next Lord of The Rings flick. Films that get talked about anyway. The latest film crapfest from the guy who made Swamp Thing is perhaps not the line you want to try edifying others with your exorbitant knowledge. I would imagine a lineup to a film like that would be pretty much redundant on film lore regardless.
- Where’s the best spot in the cinema to sit? Well, contrary to most people’s belief, to get the best view and sound mix, my advice would be to locate yourself in the centre of a row, about 2/3rds of the way back from the front. Sitting in the dead centre of the cinema is next to useless for an accurate soundtrack experience. Most multiplex cinema’s I’ve been in have incorrectly calibrated audio half the time, with really loud front channels and softer rears, so sitting about 65% towards the rear, central of the screen, is going to give you the best chance to hear the film the way the director intended. After years of experience in various positions in cinemas, this is the best advice I can give you.
- Don’t talk during the film. It’s a cardinal cinema sin, but most people seem to ignore this. For some reason, people seem content to spend their $15 on a ticket to watch a film, then proceed to annoy others throughout the film with inane conversation about what they did during the week. If you are one of those people who cannot keep their big trap shut, get the hell out of the cinema and let others enjoy the film. If you must talk, do it it in the line earlier, not during the film. During the ads and trailers is fine, but once those lights go right off, and the movie starts, you’d better shut up or else!
- Conversely to point 5, don’t be afraid to turn around and tell people to shut up during a film. It’s your right as a paying customer to have a chance to watch the film without chatter around you, so stand firm and ask noisy patrons to shut up. If they don’t, don’t be embarrassed to go get the cinema staff to ask them to leave. You’ll also earn respect from your surrounding patrons, and they might even help you. After all, you (and the others) paid your money to watch a film, not listen to drivel.
- Conversely to point 5 & 6, if you are going to a film that’s rated G for children, and there are children there, do not think for one second they’ll watch a film in complete silence. One of the greatest cinema experiences I ever had was seeing Stuart Little during the school holidays, in a cinema packed with kids and their parents. I spent more time listening to the kids asking about the film (and laughing at them) than watching the film itself: and thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you don’t want to be bothered by kids in a kids film, attend a later session when those kids are sure to be in bed. Asking kids to shut up during a kids film is going to get you into trouble.
- Mobile Phones: unless you’re an emergency services worker on call, like a doctor, there’s absolutely no requirement for your phone to be on during a film. Even set to silent/vibrate and checking it during the film is enough to annoy people: that little SMS screen looks like a bright sunflare in a darkened cinema, and it’s certainly distracting. Just turn your phone off, for God’s sake. There’s nothing that important that you can’t miss for an hour or two. And if there is, why are you in a darkened cinema for God’s sake?!
- The loud lolly bag. Sweets and popcorn are a staple diet for any cinema-goer. However, there’s nothing more frustrating to patrons than you sitting there trying to open your lolly bag in the dark, rustling and mumbling and generally making a noise. Open your damn lollies before the film starts, it’s not that difficult. And when you do, open the bag right up, not just make a small hole to get one finger in to try and scrape out a low flying M&M. Make sure your access is good, otherwise you’ll incur the wrath of fellow patrons in your quest for that elusive treat.
- One of the most controversial thing about attending cinemas is the seat saving, space leaving patrons who hog a whole row of chairs for people who have yet to arrive at the cinema anyway. Look, my whole philosophy about reserving seats (in unreserved seating cinema’s) is: if you ain’t in the cinema, and you ain’t in your seat, it’s free for the taking. Reserving for somebody whose just ducked off to the toilet is fine, but three people trying to reserve a whole row for 10+ people is ludicrous. If they aren’t smart enough to get to the cinema in time, then they’ll just have to sit where they can. That’s what those nosebleed seats at the very front left of the cinema were designed for; to teach stupid latecomers that they should plan ahead a little more. The other related issue I have is people who attend a sell out session and don’t bunch up the seating, leaving a seat free between themselves and another patron, just because they don’t want to sit close to anybody. Stupid people, that just means somebody has to come along and ask you to move anyway, toolbag! And don’t roll your eyes, sunshine, I know you’ve done it. If you’re in the middle of a row, then you might as well get it over with, and forget about leaving that single seat spare so you can spread out. You won’t get a chance in a full cinema at a blockbuster film premiere.
There you go. hopefully, you’ll have nodded wisely to yourself while reading this diatribe, wondering why people are so stupid to think they don’t do any of these things. If people simply followed basic common courtesy throughout, things would be simpler. There’d be less angst and frustration, and the cinematic experience a more enjoyable one. Now, if only we could get those cinema complexes to lower their candy bar prices.