There is something distinctively relaxing when you go to the cinemas. You grab your drinks and snacks, and then you sit comfortably in your chosen seat watching the adverts and trailers in a lightly dimmed room preparing yourself for the full feature. Then, the lights dim more, and this is it. The film is about to start, and what lies now is just you and the big screen. The audience falls silent, and you watch a narrative unfold in front of you.
At least that’s how I used to remember the cinemas, especially when I was younger, where theatre staff held torches so they could investigate an issue or if someone was anti-social so they were removed from the viewing. Now, frankly nobody gives a **** – cinema courtesy is dead, and having a distraction-free trip is now the luck of the draw.
The cinema used to be a place where a film was appreciated, and now it has become a playground for overindulgent snacking, smartphones and inconsiderate chatting. This behaviour has become more apparent since my cinema trips have become regular. In the past when I used to go on the odd occasion and this type of behaviour occurred, I put it down to a one-off. Now it has become the norm. I expect disrupted viewings and not being able to focus on the film provided.
The day that confirmed cinema courtesy is dead was when I went to watch Independence Day: Resurgence. Now granted it’s not a great movie, so I’ll live, but you wouldn’t believe some distractions I had to deal with. At the time I went with my partner, who is usually very patient and understanding, and this tipped even her over the edge. There was a couple right behind us talking ALL the way through the film, and not just whispering, but talking like they were at a bar getting to know each other. With each giggle, I could feel the strain of my partner’s patience withering. It was like the couple behind us completely forgot where they were. I’m 100% convinced they were not watching the film.
Another occasion was when I went to watch Central Intelligence. Again, not a movie to cry about if ruined by distractions, but two situations tipped me over the edge. Firstly, a guy on my row had his headphones in – you could hear his music. Why? Just why? Have you ever been to a nightclub and seen someone wearing headphones, and you can only assume they do not like the music? Solution: do not go to the nightclub, and the same applies to the cinema. At the same film, I suddenly heard a baby cry two rows down. Yes, I kid you not. A newly born baby was at a viewing for Central Intelligence. The baby was hidden under the mother’s clothes. Now a part of me thought maybe they arranged a babysitter and last minute they sold them out. Which is fine. What is not fine is sneaking your newborn into a 15 rated film. Just don’t go to the cinemas. Rearrange it. Do not ruin it for the rest of us. I expect it on public transportation and in public spaces, but not in the cinema with a film starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson.
At first, I thought maybe it’s the type of films that attract that kind of audiences, and I felt guilty for being so snobby and discriminative. That opinion changed when I went to watch Anthropoid, and there was a guy three seats away from me completely drunk off his face belching and making weird noises every two minutes. He eventually fell asleep and proceeded to snore for the rest of the film and the alcohol smell lingered under my nose for the next two hours.
I’m not trying to change things by writing this rant. I know we can’t change the current generation, where people feel it is necessary to Instagram their popcorn on their smartphone midway through a film. I am just questioning why? Is the cinema more about divulging snacks, swilling it down with soft drinks, and distracting other audiences from the purpose which is to watch the film? When did the cinema become a dumping ground for rude behaviour?
Fortunately, this has not deterred me from going to the cinemas because I love films, and maybe movie lovers should do more to stop this behaviour and make them aware of what they are doing, because they may not realise they are doing it. Maybe cinema companies should do what they used to do and have a set of strict rules and employ people to monitor the audience on odd occasions to see if the rules are followed.
Cinema courtesy is dead for now. All we can hope for is that it will become what it used to be.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.