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The Geek Life: Take Back the Theater

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The Geek Life: Take Back the Theater

The Time has Come!

By Robert T. Trate     December 19, 2012


The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week, the Geek Life knows it is time to Take Back the Theater. 

It has now happened one too many times in a row. So, forgive me if the Geek Life gets a tad nasty this week. I, like you, love to go to the movies. I have probably surpassed many “normal people” ten or twenty times over in the number of times which I go to the movies. It is sacred to me. Like the way a religious person attends church, that is how I go to the movies. I pay it the proper respect. However, I am starting to notice that so few others do. 

A couple of the writers on this site and I are curators of film for The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. The theater is the exact same one featured in The Blob (1958). Our duties encompass planning out the Horror and Cult Cinema screenings for the year. We try and give you that first cinematic experience of a film you probably watched a hundred times on TV. We introduce the film and talk about why we chose it. Lately, we have had to add both: Turn off your cell phone and please, don’t talk. These two simple courtesies should never have to be mentioned. Yet, now we have to watch people like hawks who find it necessary to text, Facebook, and talk about something other than the movie. We fail to see why people, who pay good money to go out and watch a movie, would ruin it by being on their phones. We’ve been making strides, but it has been getting worse and not just for our theater, either. 



Incident 1: 

Recently, we had a screening of Death Rides a Horse (1967), featuring Lee Van Cleef and John Philip Law. Around twenty minutes into the film, a young woman in front of me whips out her phone and starts texting. She not only blinded me by her phone, but kept checking it again and again. I ran up to her and told her how much I appreciated her ruining my night and politely asked her to turn off the phone. As a host, I can’t get violently mad and swear, but my point was made and she didn’t touch her phone again.



Incident 2:

I invited a few friends to see a holiday screening of The Bishop’s Wife (1947) starring Cary Grant. Imagine my surprise when my buddy’s wife took out her phone and started checking her text messages. Figuring this would be only a one time thing, I didn’t make a remark or even a grunt. Lo and behold, she did it throughout the entire movie. I took the brunt of the attack as my girlfriend was sitting to my right. That light was so bright that my left eye started to water. When I held up my hand like a horse blind, I thought she would get the hint. Nope.




Incident 3:

Since I live in the Philadelphia area, I ventured out to see Silver Linings Playbook (2012), which was shot here. Everyone is talking about it so I thought I had better see what all the fuss is about. At the one hour mark, I had to get up and leave. In my right ear, a man and his wife were talking the entire time at normal volume. At first it was if there was a TV set playing a different movie behind me. What really set me off was that almost in perfect unison when the characters on screen took a pause, these jackasses talked. 

At the Colonial, we are starting to police ourselves, but how far can we really go? I complained to the manager at the Silver Linings Playbook incident and he supplied me with a few free passes. However, I was so disinterested in the plot (because of the talking) that I now feel as if the film is tainted. I didn’t say a word to my friend or his wife at The Bishop’s Wife, knowing full well I didn’t want to sacrifice twenty years of friendship over it.




Justice is Coming or, at Least, the Start of it.



I once worked with a gaffer on a movie and he told me the following story: He and his wife had ventured out to see The Matrix (1999). This was going to be their last grown up movie as his wife was expecting. All throughout the beginning of the movie, a man was talking over the film. The wife promptly stood up, turned around, and told the man to shut up or she was going to dump her drink on him. The gaffer told me the talker was terrified and didn’t make a peep for the rest of the film. 

That story has stuck with me and really gets my ideas flowing on payback for these jerks. Obviously, I can’t bring a raging pregnant woman with me every time I go to the movies. So what else can we do, besides get a manager and have our evening/ experience ruined?

Here is what my vengeful mind has come up with: 

Dumping water on the three seats in front of you, the three seats behind you, and on either side. No one is going to sit there. 

I have often debated sacrificing my $10 soda and dumping it on someone’s cell phone or, at the the very least, slam dunking it into it. 

The flying Reece’s Pieces attack. Every get hit by one? They do sting. From this point on, any jackass on his phone deserves one in the back of the head. 

The hidden water pistol. Get a good one, with pump action, and aim it right at their phone. Smart phones are expensive, perhaps they’ll get the idea.

We could ask the theaters to actually use ushers and ask people to leave. Give them a free pass and ask them to come back later. On the west coast, I saw ushers walk the theater with orange flashlights. It was annoying, but it worked. Since I’ve moved back east, I have seen very little of this.

Perhaps it is time for total movie interruption? Maybe it might just take a trip to jail and a court hearing to illustrate the point that those of us who really love the movies are willing to go to the extreme to take back the theater. Imagine the headline, “Man dumps soda on movie talker”. 


Now, don’t post that you don’t go to movies anymore for these reasons. The cinematic experience is unmatched and many films deserve being experienced in this way. If you prefer to stay at home, then do so. If you can’t sacrifice two hours off your phone, then, by all means, don’t go. There are still many of us that want our theatrical experience. So, what say you, Maniacs? Are you ready to join me and take back the movie theaters? 

Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Mania Box Office Report, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.


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CyanideRush 12/19/2012 5:07:27 AM

Unfortunately Bob, I think the scale's already tipped too far to right (at least as far as normal chain theaters go). People think it's their right to do whatever they want, where ever they want, when ever they want, regardless of how it might effect other people.

When I saw Freddy Vs Jason in the theater, a couple brought an infant in a stroller with them. It cried nearly the whole time. They never left. People are so attached to their cell phone and it's data steam that it's become a real addiction. I guess your only hope is that contact lenses with their own HUD have just been pioneered (though the tech is still  years off). Once they can check their facebook, texts and such in their vision on their contacts, you won't see them whiping out the cell in a theater anymore.

I'm more bothered that the solution is to give the complaining party free passes. Why isn't the solution to make the offending party leave? That's the sort of thing that would stamp out this behavior.

Of course, the other more obvious solution is to madate the installation of cell phone signal jammers in theaters. Though they are currently banned by the FCC. You could build a short range one, Bob. Bring it with you to block the signal of those around you. But they'll problably still pull their phone out to try and figure out why it isn't working.

jedibanner 12/19/2012 5:09:20 AM

So true yet so annoying.

Courtesy and respect seems to vanish when people go to the theatre. But in some ways we have a responsability to act when these things happen. It's ok to tell someone ''do you mind turing it off'' or ''please stop talking''.

Once they don't listen, then it's time to open a can of wuppass!!

I always remember the episode of Seinfield when George starts to do the oppositite of what he would normally do and this type of situation happens and he just goes nuts...let's just say they listen and stop talking.

I love going to the movies and I also feel it is an experience so why not encourage to keep it that way.

Merry Christmas y'all.

decepticons2 12/19/2012 5:59:08 AM

I find its best to go to Friday openings. It seems to be a different crowd people who love movies. After a movie has been out awhile you get the knuckle draggers that don't seem to understand common courtesy.

I do give passes to pre 9 oclock showings of any kid related movie. You go see Wreck it Ralph or Harry Potter movie you are bound to get some kids that just cant sit that long. I do find if you avoid the 3D showings of such movies there are less kids. And since I hate that format its win, win.

karas1 12/19/2012 6:03:47 AM

It's symptomatic.  It's not just talking and texting in theaters.  It's everything.  People are just selfish and rude.  They leave shopping carts in the parking lot to inconvienience others, strew their trash around, and don't get me started about people leaving messes in public restrooms!  Nobody can be bothered to take one step out of their way or deny themselves any trifling pleasure in the name of making things better for others.

I've gotten really good at tuning out distractions.  A noise would have to be very loud to bother me in a theater.  But if somebody in front of me were talking I would have no scruples about asking them to shut up.

Since we usually see matinees the theater generally isn't crowded enough that we have to sit near enough others for them to bother us.

monkeyfoot 12/19/2012 7:37:03 AM

I'm soooo with you on this!

I think it comes down to two things:

1) A generation or so of people have grown up seeing movies at home on their big screens where they can talk and do whatever and they just assume it translates to a paid theater.

2) In another generational thing they believe they have to be multi-tasking at all times.

Going to the movies isn't as much of a special occasion to many. The darkening lights as the previews start doesn't signal to them to pipe down and just get hypnotized by the screen for awhile. And some of them are just not movie geeks like most of us. It's just a social recreational thing like going to the bar, being at a party where texting and multi-tasking can be more acceptable.

I don't know what to do about it.

monkeyfoot 12/19/2012 7:38:32 AM

I saw Quentin Tarentino on Leno last night and he said he has the rule of no phones allowed on the set at all. Not on silent. Not turned off. No cellphones period. It wasn't just phones ringing in the middle of a shoot but also people were mutli-tasking, updating facebook and texting and not devoting themselves to the work and to interacting with everybody on set. Most of his crews now thank him for this rule.

Wiseguy 12/19/2012 8:01:14 AM

Well at least now I have an idea why this site is always late with the news. That theater must require a lot of work

RobertTrate 12/19/2012 8:30:05 AM

 @monkeyfoot, Robert Rodriquez has a silmilar rule for his studio. 

@wiseguy you should come and hang out one of these days. We go thte Grindhouse and They Live coming up. 

6dra6on6 12/19/2012 10:09:40 AM

My solution is simple. I tell the offender(s) to knock it off or I will make them pay for my ticket(s). I've had a few scuffles and knocked some assh*les out, but always came out on top and usually received applause from other audience members. Simply put, I don't put up with disrespectful bullsh*t! One reason these people act like they do is because no one has ever called them out on it. The main reason is their parents never taught them the value of courtesy and respect.

spiderhero 12/19/2012 12:19:15 PM

I go to the movies on my day off. That's Monday. It's usually me and about 5 other people so I don't have these problems.

Last time I caught a weekend show it was for Avengers. Everyone was so engrossed by the awsomeness ofit all I don't think anyone pulled out a phone.

I'm cool with you shooting a phone with a water gun. I've thought about doing that to smokers for years. I figure if they have the right to fill my lungs with poison then I have a right to soak their cancer stick. One of these days...

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