It’s very sad that I have to write an article like this in our day and age. One would think that society has grown and matured over the years to the point where we wouldn’t have to be told how to act around other people. Well it would seem that courtesy has been thrown out the window and a new day is dawning where people couldn’t care less about others around them. Back in 2003, Screen Rant founder Vic Holtreman wrote a great rant about people talking during films. I’ve decided to expand on those thoughts.

We could talk for hours about how rude society has become and how we ultimately got to this point, but that is a discussion for a different time and place. I want to discuss some of the issues facing the modern day moviegoer and what they can do to make everyone’s movie watching experience more enjoyable. So, I will be discussing the 3 biggest problems in movie theaters today: cell phones, babies and talking during films.

Although technology has improved our lives, it sometimes degrades our theater going experience. Take cell phones for example: these are wonderful modern day gadgets that allow us to be in constant contact with everyone and everything around us. Car broke down? Use your cell phone to call a tow truck. Want to order a pizza and pick it up on your way home from work? You can do that too. Miss your mom, girlfriend or boyfriend and want to catch up with them? You can now do it from anywhere in the world. However, “anywhere” does NOT include the movie theater!

Cell phone interruptions has become such a problem in theaters that the original “Please refrain from talking during the movie” slides that used to be shown before a film have now been replaced with “Please silence your cell phone.” Unfortunately, people didn’t respond very well to that because it was still happening on a consistent basis; theater groups and studios then upped the ante by producing very elaborate fake movie “trailers” that grabbed the viewers attention. Some of them are so well done that I’ve often wanted to see an actual film based on those fake trailers.

The problem with cell phones (as I see it) is that people think they are the most important person in the world and therefore the “common” rules don’t apply to them. They think that their phone call is SO important that it just absolutely can’t be put off for two hours. Unless you are a doctor, detective or district attorney (it would seem those people are constantly getting phone calls that they just can’t ignore – at least in movies) then you don’t need your phone on. At the very least put it on vibrate; no one is impressed that you have the latest P. Diddy, Dixie Chicks or Adam Lambert song as your ring tone.

I can understand if it slips your mind and you forget to put it on mute or vibrate – accidents happen, but the sake of everything fuzzy, grab it and hit mute when it starts ringing! Don’t sit there and act as if you can’t hear it ringing. The people outside the theater can hear it ringing! And do not answer the phone and say “Hey bro/mom/honey. What’s up?” or “Hey, I can’t talk now.” Just mute the ringer, and let it go to voicemail – that’s what voicemail is for.

So be courteous please and remember to mute your ringer before going into the theater.  It shows how much you care about other people’s theater experience. After all, we paid to watch the film on the screen, not listen to your ringer jam out to MC Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit”.

Click to learn why babies and movie theaters don’t mix…

Scenario #2: You and your buddies, or budettes, all meet up at the local Cineplex, plop down your $10 for an 8 p.m. showing of the latest blockbuster, “Super Robots from Outer Space” and get a great seat midway up and close to the middle of the row. You didn’t bring any popcorn or candy, maybe just a drink (scratch that, no drink), the movie is two and half hours long and you don’t want to miss anything by getting up for a 45-second trip to the bathroom.

Just as the lights go down and the trailers start to play, you see two shadowy figures emerge from the side tunnel and they are pushing a large object. Oh man, it’s a stroller! There are empty seats to the left and right of you and you start thinking of a way to make it look like those seats are taken. You haven’t played the lotto in years because your luck is worse than that guy who’s been struck by lightning 7 times, so you just know they are going to sit next to you. Your fears are confirmed as they plop down in the seat right next to you. You take a brief glance at the stroller and don’t see any movement. Whew! Crisis adverted; the kid is asleep. Or is he?

Boom! The opening scene of the film blasts on the screen in full digital sound pumped out at 100 decibels. Now the slumbering rugrat is awake and he wants everyone to know it! You try to ignore the wailing and focus on the intense action on the screen but it’s like someone kicking your chair the entire time. That type of displeasure just can’t be ignored – at least not by everyone else in the theater (the parents have obviously learned the fine art of “parental ignoring” and are oblivious to the youngster’s cries for attention).

This is a scenario that is becoming far too familiar for movie audiences. If we were out watching a family-friendly film, like a Disney cartoon or talking dog flick, then we should fully expect to be overwhelmed with children talking, screaming or being generally loud. However, there is never a valid reason to bring a newborn baby into a rated-R movie, ever! Why do people think it’s appropriate to tote a child along to see Friday the 13th or Deep Blue Sea?

Most of the couples in a rated-R film – or any film for the matter – hired a sitter, forced their oldest offspring to watch the younger siblings or better yet, roped a family member into watching the youngster. When they finally do arrive at the movie they worked jumped so many hurdles to see, the last thing they want to hear is YOUR child scream throughout the entire first and second act of the film. And no, walking the baby into the side tunnel is not the appropriate response. The tunnel only serves to increase the volume of the cries exponentially by bouncing those infant sound waves (more like tsunami waves) around numerous times. In short, it makes the situation worse.

Parents of screaming babes: please just resign yourself to the fact that you shouldn’t have brought your child into the theater to begin with and take them out. A good rule to live by is, “If you have to carry your stroller up some stairs to find a seat, then you shouldn’t be in the theater.” Go home and rent a movie; you will enjoy the experience more, and everyone in theater will thank you for it.

Click to read about classic movie theater blabber-mouth syndrome…

Scenario #3: We’ve all sat in front of Captain Movie Know-It-All and had to sit through his ridiculous ramblings as he brags to all of his friends, at a volume just slightly lower than a jet plane taking off, that he already knows who the killer is, figured out the twist, or thought the comic book version was better, yadda, yadda. I used to be one of those guys – yes, even I am not immune to being the “ass” of the theater by spouting forth my Mentalist-like observations of a film. “Oh man they’re setting it up for the Phoenix!” was my most famous observation made at the end of X2. My friends still rib me to this day about it, and the embarrassing experience forever cured me of being “that guy” in movie theaters.

Still, just because I learned my lesson doesn’t mean other people have learned theirs. Believe it or not, people don’t go to theater to hear your insight on the film, director, writer, actor or so forth. No one cares what YOU think about the budget or special effects, so keep those comments to yourself or at least wait until the film is over and the credits are rolling to make your “observations.”

I understand that there are some times when it is absolutely necessary to talk to the person you are sitting with (to ask a question or make a comment). Maybe you lean over and ask your date if she wants some popcorn, or perhaps you didn’t understand what just happened and you ask your friend to explain. If those things MUST be done then please, do them at the volume of a whisper. Unless you want the entire theater to answer your question or you plan on buying us all popcorn, use your inside voice to communicate. Whispers are annoying but at least they aren’t distracting.

What does all this lead us up to? Common courtesy, folks, that’s it. Just good ol’ fashion common courtesy. We could spend all day talking about what irks us and detracts from our movie viewing pleasure and I hope you leave those remarks in the comments section. I, for one, am really annoyed when someone I don’t know sits in the seat directly next to me in a mostly empty theater. A crowded theater is fine but when there are 7 rows of empty seats all around me, you have no business making me share an arm rest!

Guys have an unwritten bathroom rule: never use the urinal next to another guy if there’s another one free two spaces away. Unless the bathroom is full, of course – in that case it’s eyes front until your business is done. Same rule applies in an empty theater.

If I’ve stopped one cell phone, removed one baby or quieted one loud-talker with this article then I have done the world a favor.

What annoys you during a film and what bad habits do you wish people would nix while watching a film?