First person

Why can’t people behave at the cinema?

Turn the lights down and STFU

Weekend editor Anna-Marie Crowhurst just cannot understand why some people can’t keep their mouths shut and let everyone enjoy the film

I went to the cinema again last night. It’s one of my favourite things to do when the weather is filthy, and I can sink into the embrace of my seat clutching a box of popcorn (salt, always salt) and a generic red wine in a mini screw-top bottle (#wetjanuary Mwa a aaaa *glugs*). Last night I sipped my wine and snorted up my popcorn and enjoyed the on-screen spectacle that was Ryan Gosling playing jazz piano whilst showcasing his lovely burly forearms. WOOF.

I try to spend as much time as possible in the comforting twilight dream world that is the picture palace. I’ll see most things, if you ask me to, just because I love the cinema so. I’ll happily go alone, if I’ve a wet afternoon and need to take a break from working, thinking and things like that. I love old black and white movies, even if I’ve seen them before, because everything looks different when it’s up there on the big, flickering screen, especially if it’s a silent film and there’s a live accompaniment. *dances*

In the past few years, I’ve got a bit uptight about the cinema experience. Whether it’s my advanced age and increasing cantankerousness, or a modern phenomenon that is growing ever more prevalent, I am not sure – but it seems like people – mostly adult people – have forgotten what you do in the cinema, which is to say: they complete disregard the rules of cinema civility.

They talk – not just once, in a whisper, to say something essential to a friend, like “OMG look at his forearms, I’m dribbling,” – but openly and throughout, as if they’re in their own lounge, or alone in the screening room, without dozens of other cinemagoers around them silently gnashing their teeth and wishing hellfire and brimstone would rain down upon them (it can’t just be me?) and in many cases, even after they have politely been asked to be quiet (usually by me).

They check their phones, or type messages (WHAT CAN BE SO URGENT?), the blue light creating a bright beacon in the dark that distracts everyone’s eyes from the screen. They rustle food wrappers, repeatedly and, dare I say, flagrantly. They arrive late, disturbing everyone in their row. They traipse in and out. Did I mention they talk?

This litany of movie misbehaviour irritates me so that I can now only attend cinemas which are known to me as ‘safe spaces’. One of my favourites in this regard, is the BFI Southbank, who don’t admit cinemagoers more than ten minutes late, and employ lovely people known as ushers, who are on hand to hush or indeed eject cinema miscreants. This is a beautiful thing. Smaller or independent cinemas seem to be better for an uninterrupted viewing experience – in London, I have always had good experiences at The Phoenix, The Screen on the Green and the Curzon Mayfair.

What’s to be done? A set of ‘house rules’ might be good, but will anyone read them, and how would they enforce them, and doesn’t that seem a bit silly, telling people how to behave? There could be more ushers – but cinemas are closing all over the place and don’t have money to spare. I’ve had many sweet daydreams of a new technology that gives persistent chatters a mild electric shock. I’m hopeful that someday that could be a reality. Until then, I’ll sit in my cinema seat and dream. Quietly.

Subscribe modal