Confused Views: Confessions of a cinema snack eater

Matt Edwards has a few words to say on cinema etiquette. You might want to sit down first, for as usual, it's not for the easily offended!

So I have an idea I would like to propose…If there are any educators out there reading this, I beg you, I need you, I am enlisting your help…Please help me get a class on Movie etiquette. We need to teach our kids now… Before it’s too late…Math, Social Studies, Science, Movie Etiquette.” – Darren Lynn Bousman

And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.” – Kent Brockman, The Simpsons

Blockbuster season is here. Hoorah!

Multiplexes across the world are bracing themselves for the impending onslaught of big summer movies. We’ll, no doubt, once again be seeing a mix of the good, the bad and the Bruckheimer.

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We’ll also be running into all sorts of movie opinions from all sorts of people. There’ll be the guy who has only ever seen four films complaining that Inception isn’t as good as Avatar because it’s not in 3D. You’ll have to put up with people who think that they know what the best movie of the summer is and that the best way to get you to agree is to talk over everything you say.

Chances are their favourite movie will be Sex And The City 2 or Knight And Day or Transformers 7: The Refartening.

We go through this every year. Seems that about this time every year we also like to get back into complaining about multiplex audiences. To be fair to us, we do have a point. If you could attribute one action to the average summer movie-goer, it would be the ‘wiping my snotty nose on my sleeve’ manoeuvre. They’re a noisy, unwashed bunch and they’re incredibly unpleasant to be around.

However, if there’s a goal for this week’s column (which seems unlikely), it’s to achieve peace and empathy. I’ve previously advocated swift and brutal retribution against cinema nuisances. However, in attempt to avoid diluting the valid complaints we have against the nacho-scoffing masses, today I’m going to be looking at whether some of the things that drive us all into furious rages might actually be, you know, not actually all that bad.

It’s a kind of idiot’s guide to cinema etiquette. Sort of.

Let’s start with the popcorn situation. It’s something I seem to read about regularly and I kind of get it. Popcorn is crunchy, messy and smells. However, I think this complaint has to be written off as a loser. Popcorn is part of the cinema experience. It has a history of being associated with cinema (I have no idea how far back it goes or how they became linked together as I haven’t done any research. That’s just not my way.) and it seems mean spirited to try to remove it now.

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Personally, I like to eat popcorn at the cinema. I think it’s delicious and, as a fidgety person, it gives me something to do with my hands. The only alternative I can see is masturbating, but when I’m seeing something like Toy Story 3 that’s not an ideal solution. People are so arrogant, too. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve had to explain to the self-righteous people sitting in front of me that I wasn’t masturbating because of them, I was masturbating in spite of them.

Eating popcorn already comes with consequences. In order to get popcorn I have to pay a ridiculous price (which is where a decent chunk of cinema revenue comes from, incidentally. So, kick popcorn out and watch what happens to ticket prices). Then, throw in the discomfort of popcorn shells in the teeth. On top of that, and this might come as a shock to some of our younger readers, past the age of about 25, you’ll start to find that consuming popcorn will interfere with and disrupt your bowel movements for up to a week after you’ve eaten it. And after all that I should have to put up with your complaining because the little crunch noises ruined the quiet minute and half of Prince Of Persia? No deal.

Ever heard anyone moan about people disrupting their row to go to the toilet during a film? That’s a complaint I just can’t get behind. I do agree that it’s annoying when you have to stand up to let someone out of your row. But if someone needs to use the toilets during a film, then it’s alright for them to do that. That isn’t an unreasonable thing for someone to do. That’s an instance of something you need to deal with.

Should people whisper during a film? This is something that annoys me when I see it, but also something that I do. I like to apply the rule ‘if no one else can hear it, its fine’. Occasionally whispering to the person you’re with is not an outrageous discourtesy to everyone else in the cinema. Constant yammering or not adjusting the level of your voice is. If seeing someone else whispering bothers you, you aren’t paying attention to the film.

Now into a grey area: talking during the trailers. I don’t do it and I don’t like it. That being said, I think it’s acceptable. I’m personally interested in seeing movie trailers, but to a lot of people they’re a nonsense that they’ve been tricked into watching after paying to see another film.

Whenever I see a road safety or anti-piracy advertisement on a cinema screen (collectively about seven or eight times per cinema visit), the only thing that prevents me from over-flowing with rage and going on a kill spree (the ultimate cinema etiquette faux-pas) is the sheer boredom of having to watch the same thing again and again. Then I use empathy to imagine that I’m one of these trailer-chatterers feeling the same thing, as Platinum Dunes is pitching me its latest soulless horror remake. Then I understand why they talk.

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You know who else might seem annoying that I don’t mind? Late arrivers. People who turn up just as the film is starting (or even slightly after, so long as they’re quiet) are not the enemy. The reason they are turning up so late and distracting you is because they, quite rightly, do not want to pay between eight and fifteen pounds to see a film, only to be subjected to 20 minutes + of advertisements beforehand. It’s the cinema’s fault. There shouldn’t be so many ads. If they really need to have that many ads, most of them should be for films. It’s a swizz and you shouldn’t be upset with people trying to beat the system.

There’s no way you could want any more, is there? Well, how about people laughing at inappropriate times? It’s not the end of the world if it’s only once. It happens. Sometimes people find something funny when they shouldn’t.

If you take me to see something like Valentine’s Day, I’ll probably laugh at the wrong moments. I laughed during Avatar at some of the dialogue. It was funny. What can you do?

Sighing when something is particularly bad or frustrating is also okay. The chances are that, if this annoys you, what you’re actually perturbed about is the film affecting someone else in a different way to how it affects you. Such is life.

Some of you may remember the ‘Snipers for Cinemas’ initiative I suggested last year (the gist being that snipers are placed in cinemas, that a warning about appropriate behaviour is issued before the start of the film, and that any infractions be treated with zero tolerance. This would be particularly amusing now that 3D films are so popular, because people wouldn’t know whether the bullet flying towards them was real or not). I still very much stand by that initiative.

The point of this column is to make my intentions clear. I am not a monster. I merely want anyone who uses their mobile phone in a cinema to lose the top of their skull.

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By clarifying this policy I think I’m demonstrating that I will make a fair and just world leader and when my plan to take over the Earth is complete, you will have nothing to worry about. So long as you comply.