Pet Peeves from the Movie Theater

Originally published December 26, 2014

As a regular movie goer, there are many things that I find trip my trigger while I am trying to enjoy my cinema experience.  I come across this a lot, especially since it has been rarer this year for me to see only one movie on the weekend than not.  Every time I go to a theater, and it does not matter which one it may be, I find these same items happening.

Now, before I go any further with my rant, I want to stress that this does not have to do with any employee of the theaters that I attend.  The ticket takers, the cleaning crew, the concessions people, the various managers and such have always been professional.  Sure some are friendlier than others, some are smarter than others, and some are chattier than others, but you’ll find that in any business that you go to.  In the past 3-4 years of my movie reviewing, I cannot think of anything consistently problematic with the service that I have received.

No, it is not the theaters that irritate me.  It is the viewing public at large.  Some of you who are regular readers of my reviews know that I love it when I am the only person in the theater.  It is such a treat, and a big part of the reason is that I do not have to deal with the others and these things that tick me off.

I am speaking of three specific items.  I could write for a month on many of the traits that irritate me.  Fact is that I am not a fan of crowds and when people get too close, my feathers are ruffled.  That is my own issue.  I am not talking about things like that.  Things such as people walking in front of me without an “excuse me” or sitting directly behind me and chomping on their popcorn do not make this list.  Even those people who feel it necessary to discuss the movie at length as it is going on doe snot make the cut.  All of those things are rude and do annoy me, but there are three things…my true theater pet peeves that bother me.

First, there is an obvious one.  Cell phones.  I hate it when people have to check their cell phones during the film.  What exactly is so important that you have to be checking that damn thing during the film?  And if you cannot take two hours out of your life to not be looking at your phone, then you shouldn’t be going to a movie.  Just today, I was at a very crowded showing of “Into the Woods” (so I was already a little twitchy) and there was a lady on her cell phone during the last 20 minutes of the movie.  There were several young children with her.  They weren’t on their phones.  It was the adult who couldn’t get through without it.  And she wasn’t just checking a text or seeing what time it was…no, no, no… she was scrolling through different screens.  I know because her little light distracted me.  Later that day when I was at “Big Eyes” another person kept turning on their phone, which lit up in my peripheral vision, causing me to look each time.

I don’t know how many times I wanted to yell out “Put the $%#%^& phone away”, but I can remember my mom telling me that “if you can’t say anything nice…” etc etc.  So I bite my tongue and try to refocus back on the movie.  I don’t understand why I have to do that.

Now, for years I did not have a cell phone of my own.  Now I do and I do understand the pull of it.  And I do spend time on my phone in the theater.  However, I set myself a time limit.  As soon as the trailers start, I want to make sure that the phone is safely tucked away in my pocket, on silent.  If I need to look at it, I would not do it in the theater, trying to cover it up.  I would step out into the lobby.  That is how a courteous person does it.  Unfortunately, there are not that many courteous people any more.

Second big pet peeve for me deals with people bringing their own snacks and drinks to the movie theater.  I don’t know how many times I am at the theater and I hear the pop top on a soda can open.  I know that the movie theater does not have a can of soda available so these people have sneaked it into the theater.

I know people who do this.  I would even venture to say that I am related to some of them.  I, however, will never do this.  In fact, I always try to purchase something at concessions.  The movie theater needs to make their money, and they do not make a lot on the actual movies.  In order for the theaters to continue to provide me with movies, they need to be making a profit.

Now, the argument that people make for why they are smuggling their own snacks into the theater is that the movie theater concessions stands are overpriced.  They are too expensive.  I understand that most movie theaters do charge a lot of money for popcorn, pop, candy etc and it is certainly a viable excuse that some families that are already spending a good amount of their weekly income buying tickets cannot afford to partake in the concessions.  Well, guess what people…. if you cannot afford to buy popcorn or a bag of M & Ms, then you shouldn’t be having anything.

This is how I think about it.  If I am going to a restaurant and I can’t afford to have dessert with my meal, I am not sneaking a piece of pie into the restaurant to eat.  I just go without.  It is arrogant that people seem to have an attitude that they are proud of sneaking their own snacks into the theater.  I have even heard people claim that they are doing it in form of protest against the higher prices.  Let me explain something to you Gandhi.  If you are feeling like you are needing to protest high prices, then why don’t you just stay at home and not purchase the tickets.  That would be more effective than you breaking a rule of the theater.  Plus, it can’t be a protest unless you let people know that you are doing it.

In the end, no one is protesting anything.  Instead, people are cheap, and have a feeling of entitlement.

Which brings me to pet peeve number three, and it is connected to that last one.  I don’t know why people think it is acceptable to buy concessions at the movie theater and just leave them on the floor or in the cup holder for someone else to pick up.  This is the height of arrogance.  It’s as if they are too good to clean up after themselves.

The picture at the beginning of this blog post was one that I took myself at Cinemark in Davenport.  The woman was sitting behind me, heard the bottle drop to the ground, stood up, and just left it.  The theater only had a handful of people in it, but you could see from my spot in the front row, several pop cups and popcorn containers remaining as the theater emptied.

I see this attitude at the middle school that I work at as well.  I’ve had students tell me that there are people hired to clean up the school.  They don’t understand why they should do it when the custodians are there.  “That’s their job” I have heard.  I imagine that this is the same thought process that goes through these lazy people who cannot take two minutes to look on the floor beneath their seats and help out by picking up their nachos containers.

Now, I understand that popcorn can be messy to eat.  I have had kernels fly from my container, from my hand, from my mouth and bounce down to the ground.  I know spills happen.  I am not even talking about that.  I am referring to the wonted ignoring of obvious garbage left behind, a problem for someone else.  Seeing those wrappers, pop cups and containers on the ground, I can hear those middle schoolers saying “It’s not my job.”

Whew… that was a load to get off my chest.  Looking back, I know that there are plenty of good, honest people who clean up after themselves and respect the other theater goers experience.  I just wish there were more of those kind of people.

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