BEST OF 2023: Cinema etiquette forgotten as patrons make themselves at home

Start the conversation
hands and box of popcorn

Just stop it. Somebody might want to hear what’s happening. Photo: File.

Year in Review: Region is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2023. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking this year. Today, Ian Bushnell takes us to the movies.

Have people forgotten how to behave in a public place like the cinema?

Blame it on COVID, streaming, mobile phones or the breakdown of modern civilisation in general but when the lights go down I expect to be able to listen to the dialogue and not have the screen obliterated by late arrivals who don’t wear a watch or have spent the previous half-hour quaffing wine.

READ ALSO APS agreement reached on many important conditions, but not yet on wages

And yes the flicks, pictures, movies – depending on your era – have always been a communal experience where we can laugh and cry together anonymously in the half-light.

But, apart from the very young and the restless, who we can pardon, what possesses some people to broadcast a conversation across the rows in the middle of a significantly poignant scene?

Extraordinarily, immediate social sanction does not necessarily happen. It usually takes a brave soul to speak up, all at the risk of sounding like a grinch or inviting God knows what kind of confrontation.

I can see it now: Man punched/strangled/shot in cinema fracas by traumatised patron.

Food has always been part of the total cinematic immersion, whether it be choctops or the ubiquitous popcorn. There is nothing worse than someone scrabbling around in the contemporary upsized bucket for two hours in a film without a symphonic score or explosions, but the full dread is reserved for those bringing in their takeaway lunch or the platter and several glasses of movie-length wine.

Inevitably there is spillage and emergency trips to relieve an alcohol-stimulated bladder, usually during a crucial scene.

Maybe we have gotten used to imbibing our entertainment at home in our tracky dacks close to the kitchen and fridge, where we can verbalise everything without censure and twiddle addictively with our phones.

Did COVID just accentuate this loss of occasion so that going to the movies is no longer a real outing, but merely an extension of our home, where many are also working in front of the small screen in the same kit?

Every session these days has a creative warning about conversation and switching off the phone, but it’s like a pop concert in there as people alternate between the big and tiny screens.

The other day there was even a child in there watching YouTube so the parent could enjoy the film.

Brilliant Barbie has been packing them and a mum even brought a baby in a pouch, making her feminist statement for all to see and, we feared, to hear. Miraculously, there was not a peep but the possibility set the nerves on edge.

It’s probably way too late to expect a return to some kind of cinema etiquette.

But here are a few things people could do to make their experience and those around them a little more enjoyable and less fraught:

  • Buy a watch and enjoy the trailers.
  • Don’t expect to drink a carafe of wine or a pint of beer and get through a feature of average length without having an accident or making a dash outside.
  • Turn off the phone, not just mute it. Be brave.
  • Have lunch beforehand not next to me.
  • Save the cinematic insights or reclaimed memories or trauma for after.

READ ALSO Lederhosen, beer and schnitzel! Oktoberfest set to bring best of German culture back to Canberra

The movie house could also try:

  • Banning meals from the cinema, especially platters that end up in laps or on the floor anyway.
  • Reducing the size of popcorn containers – that’s my concession to movie history.
  • Providing a toilet warning with the super-size glass they offer.
  • Embedding a staff member inside with a torch to shine and shame offending patrons.
  • Just screening action blockbusters with subtitles.

Or, and I’m sure many of you have already thought of it, I could just stay home, close the curtains, turn off the lights and suspend disbelief.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.