Shut Up Back There: A Movie Etiquette Guide

Shut Up Back There: A Movie Etiquette Guide

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I rarely go to movies anymore. My wife and I go about once a year, and take the kids a second time, but that's about it. Part of it's the prices of the tickets and concessions, part of it is the general schlock they put out, but mostly, it's the rude and obnoxious people who sit near me.

I can't stand movie talkers. The annoying people who yammer on with a running narrative of the film, or something they forgot to do.

"Ooh, jeez, I can't look. I think this is where he gets shot! Marnie said he gets shot here."

"Does he die?"

"She didn't say. By the way, that reminds me, we have to get Marnie a birthday card before we get home."

"And some milk. We're out of milk. You know what sounds good right now? Pancakes. I'll make pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. But I'll need some eggs and—"

"Oh God, she shot him! I can't believe she shot him."

"Probably because he was talking during the freaking movie!" I want to shout. But I don't, because I know somehow, I'll end up looking like the jerk..

I remember several years ago, before my wife and I were married, we went to a movie that was nearly sold out. In the row behind us, two women were whispering loudly after the movie started. Not the previews, the actual movie.

I can tolerate whispering during the previews, because they don't count. It's like going to the bathroom during commercials. But when the opening dialog comes, that's when you're supposed to be quiet out of consideration for those around you.

I turned around. "Excuse me, I'm trying to watch the movie," I said to the two gabbers.

"Well, go ahead," one of them said, snottily.

"Well then, shut up," I said, more snottily.

"No!" retorted the woman childishly, looking at me like I had just picked my nose and stuck my hand in her popcorn. But they never said another word during the entire show.

Erik 1, movie talkers 0.

I'm not advocating telling people to shut up during a movie. After all, there's a right way and a wrong way to handle things. And with the overdeveloped sense of righteous outrage in this country, there are bound to be fights that break out just because someone is whispering to their seat mate "where have I seen that woman before? Was she in a toothpaste commercial?"

Still, there's a time when you should be allowed to talk in the theater, and a time when it's strictly forbidden. And when there is nothing going on, you should be allowed to talk.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was at a movie with a girlfriend, and we were talking and laughing in the nearly empty theater. I say "nearly empty," because two rows and several seats away was another couple. There were no previews, no commercials (this was the day before movie theaters realized they could charge for all that dead air before a movie). Just a dark screen in a well-lit room.

As we joked around, the guy — who was 30 feet away — turns to us and said, "Are you going to do that all night long? Keep it down."

"Why, are you afraid you're going to miss something?" I answered, pointing at the still-dark screen.

The guy looked at the empty screen and turned away a little embarrassed. We toned it down, but didn't stop completely. We weren't going to let some whiny twit spoil our fun. We were quiet for the movie however, and when it was all over, Captain No-Fun scurried off after his wife, not wanting to meet our gaze.

Erik 1, movie whiners 0.

Movies are meant to be an escape for us, a brief respite from all the garbage going on in the real world. For just 90 minutes (or three days, if it's a James Cameron movie), we get to forget what's going on around us, in real life. We don't watch movies about having to pay bills, work for a boss we hate, or the long-running argument we're having with the company that completely screwed us over on that thing we had to do. We want to forget that, and watch someone else's life for a while.

So it really harshes our movie buzz when some clueless nitwit is talking to another clueless nitwit in our ears, just at the most important moment of the movie.

"The father of my baby is—"

"Crest! She was in that Crest commercial. You know, that year Trevor had to go to the doctor about his eczema?"

By the way, please vote for me for the Hoosier Hullabaloo 2010 Award. My good friend Doug Karr is currently winning, 98 votes to my 4. But I know with my readers, I can beat him.

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  1. Dude!! I am with you! I have actually taken to walking over to the people and grumbling my "petitions" for quiet right in their ear. It seems to have a very calming effect on the talking. I do the same thing to movie "texters". GRRRR! Great post!

  2. Thanks Dave and Spuds. I appreciate it. I've never had a problem with texters. I suppose if I'm trying to watch a movie in a dark room, and a cell phone is flashing and beeping in my range of vision, I would be annoyed.

  3. Erik,

    I ALWAYS tell movie talkers to be quiet. I don't hesitate one minute. I paid for the film and I'm going to enjoy myself. I've never had anyone freak out or keep talking - they've all shut up.

    One time a guy behind me was on a date and he tried to joke after every line. It lasted about 3 lines and I turned around and asked him to leave his narration until after the show. I swear I looked in his date's eyes and saw her say 'thank-you'. Hopefully for her, he was as quiet on the way home.

    Here's my other one... whenever I hear a cell phone ring in a movie theater, I yell "Idiot!" really loud. Most of the time, people cheer and clap.


  4. Doug,

    We need to go to a movie together one of these days. We would either have a great time, or totally get our asses kicked.


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