People who can't seem to shut up at the movies
March 10, 2005 5:23 PM   Subscribe

You're at the movies trying to enjoy a show, when much to your dismay, you discover you're sitting right in front of a couple of very noisy moviegoers (the annoying kind that don't even bother to whisper & feel the need to comment after every scene). You turn around and politely ask them to keep it down. Unfortunately, ten minutes later they're at it again. Short of getting up and moving to another seat, what do you do?
posted by invisible ink to Human Relations (59 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it gets really annoying, get up and go get a theatre employee. They usually come in quietly, stand at the sidelines and see if you're right. If there's someone talking repeatedly, they (in my experience, anyways) usually either ask them to quiet down by threat of expulsion, or they simply kick them out. The big chains, at least in Canada, will also offer you a ticket coupon for the bother.
posted by ori at 5:28 PM on March 10, 2005

This topic should be divided into two clear catagories:

A. People who don't realize how loud they are
B. People who don't care.

For the A. Group, I have an elaborate "Skunk-Eye" routine. First offense, a quick glance over my shoulder. Second offense, a slow look and perhaps a sigh for effect. Third offense, I turn around and give a long, hard stare (the kind that makes people go, "What?"). And for the RARE fourth offense, I stand up and turn around, hands on hips and say, "Please would you shut up?" I've done this before and shamed people into leaving the theater (to the applause of other people who wanted to speak up, but didn't).

For the B. Group, you're gonna lose no matter what, so you should just move. If you give them the skunk eye, they're just going to get beligerant and kick your seat or throw crap at you. You go get the manager and you've missed a chunk of the movie (and ruined the whole movie experience, in my opinion.) Best to move. If you're upset enough, you can also complain to the management afterwards, and get free passes.

If I'm by myself, I'll big deal. If I'm with my wife and the theater is really noisy, we'll just leave and get a refund on our way out. Because I can tune out chatty punks, but I can't tune out her complaints.
posted by ColdChef at 5:41 PM on March 10, 2005

Also, consider that on the rare occasion I've seen rowdy punks forcibly removed from a theater (by off duty state troopers) the commotion and hubbub were enough to ruin the entire film. Movie theaters will rarely stop the film and they'll NEVER rewind to where the commotion started.

(I was once in a theater full of teenagers seeing some big blockbuster opening weekend, and they actually stopped the film, turned up the houselights and asked, "Who is smoking reefer in here? Someone is smoking weed and we can smell it." And, of course, after five minutes of booing and derisive laughter, when the house lights went back down and the movie started again, EVERYONE lit up.)
posted by ColdChef at 5:48 PM on March 10, 2005

For the A. Group, I have an elaborate "Skunk-Eye" routine. First offense, a quick glance over my shoulder. Second offense, a slow look and perhaps a sigh for effect. Third offense, I turn around and give a long, hard stare (the kind that makes people go, "What?"). And for the RARE fourth offense, I stand up and turn around, hands on hips and say, "Please would you shut up?" I've done this before and shamed people into leaving the theater (to the applause of other people who wanted to speak up, but didn't).

No offence, but if they don't 'realize' how loud they are, couldn't you cut straight to the chase and ask them to quit talking? Seems like a lot to go through while your missing the movie. Or do you enjoy this little game?
posted by justgary at 5:49 PM on March 10, 2005

I politely and slightly embarassedly inform them that I have a hearing problem, and that I'm having trouble hearing the film.

I don't have a hearing problem, and I'm probably going to hell for doing this, but it works every time.
posted by jennyjenny at 5:50 PM on March 10, 2005

If it's bugging you, chances are it's bugging your neighbors, too. If you take the initiative, often your neighbors will back you up. Try not to cause too big of a scene, though, as some people tend to get really defensive.
posted by pmbuko at 5:50 PM on March 10, 2005

This can be divided into two groups:

A) People who realise what they pay for when they purchase a cinema ticket.

B) People who spend the duration of a movie asking other people to be quiet.

I'm sorry, if people disturb you, tell them to be quiet. If they aren't quiet summon an usher. If an usher cant silence them, leave and demand a refund. Under no circumstances wait for them to stop.
posted by fire&wings at 5:52 PM on March 10, 2005

Here's what you do:

Get their attention and ask them to keep it down so that you can hear the movie.

If they keep talking then go to management. From there it depends on how management deals with the problem.

There's no need to go through stages of irritation, or god help us all make up fake illnesses. I'm guessing being assertive is becoming a lost art.

They're either going to shutup or not. No need to waste time.
posted by justgary at 5:59 PM on March 10, 2005

I politely ask them to be quiet, making eye contact and waiting for them to acknowledge my request, as many times as necessary. Works like 90% of the time.
My pet peeve is the people who are constantly explaining the movie to each other ("Oh my god, they blew up the death star!") or asking moronic questions ("Wait, who's they guy in the black mask and breather again?"). And the ones who kick my seat. And the ones who eat popcorn right next to me.
I love the movies, just wish nobody else did.
posted by signal at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2005

This sort of thing always used to bug me before I started exclusively attending theaters with young, rambunctious boys. If the people in front of me get out of line, I just give up on telling my boys to stop kicking the seats in front of them. If the theater isn't crowded, end of problem.

Really, aside from the time or two, which I hate to admit may have occurred, of the above, the only real solution if you have asked politely is to move, and if that is not an option to seek help from the theater, ideally in the form of a credit to come back another day when the theater is not so crowded. Most theaters would rather issue you a credit if you are leaving early than be put in a position of having to ask someone to leave the theater against their will.
posted by caddis at 6:13 PM on March 10, 2005

This is why I avoid theatres Fridays through Sundays. I cannot recall ever having a 'loud neighbor' problem on a weekday.
posted by mischief at 6:17 PM on March 10, 2005

You might try switching theaters, if you can. I've started to go to the dumpy cheaper theater in town because the moviegoers there are just nicer and more polite. I have no idea why, but it's really cool.

Very occasionally disorderly people will actually add to the experience, like the drunk guy in the theater when I was watching Jackie Brown for the first time who would yell "THAT'S MY DAAAAAWG!" every time Samuel L. Jackson would enter a scene.

Mischief's idea is also a good one. I try to avoid big crowds except for comedies.
posted by selfnoise at 6:20 PM on March 10, 2005

people smoke weed in theaters?
posted by Espoo2 at 6:28 PM on March 10, 2005

people smoke weed in theaters?

Only at the best ones.

I would definitely suggest directly telling them to be quiet in a calm and polite fashion for the first two times, and then telling an usher if they're going to be more annoying than one scene of removal would be.

Furthermore: when I saw Dancer in the Dark there was a whole lot of oral going on in the two seats in front of me. Before they commenced, the very drunk girl kept muttering "oh my god...oh wow," and I'm pretty sure she was actually saying that in responsee to the movie.

posted by Sticherbeast at 6:38 PM on March 10, 2005

You could try these "Movie Manners Courtesy Cards". Or, if that doesn't work, the "Urban Asshole Notification Card."
posted by amarynth at 6:45 PM on March 10, 2005

A third of the way through Million Dollar Baby, it occurred to me that the two 40-ish women sitting on the other side of my fiancee had been talking almost nonstop through the film. They talked about the movie, they talked about their kids, they talked about everything. I leaned over and (as politely as possible) said, "You're very loud, could you please stop talking?"

They were at it again within five minutes, and I tried the same thing. They stopped, then said quietly, "Why don't they just move?"

I know I should have told management. If nothing else, I could have gotten my money back. But I wanted to see the movie, damn it, and I wasn't about to ruin it further.

I don't know what the point of this was. I guess I have to agree with ColdChef and say, you gotta recognize when you've got somebody from column B and decide how far you wanna take it.
posted by schustafa at 6:49 PM on March 10, 2005

I loath people talking during movies. The tiniest whisper can ruin 10 minutes of the movie for me. I love the big screen, but mostly nowadays my solution is to just wait and watch on the small screen. I get too upset in theatres.

I've been wondering if there are any theatres that offer headphones for hearing impaired people -- ones where the soundtrack is piped into them. If so, I'd like to see what the experience is like with them. Maybe they would block out the sound of talkers. Has anyone enquired about this/tried it?
posted by grumblebee at 6:49 PM on March 10, 2005

Well, if they're having sex, Sticherbeast, don't seek council in Miss Manners; check with Penthouse Forum.
posted by squirrel at 6:49 PM on March 10, 2005

If you take the initiative, often your neighbors will back you up.

I wish that my experience echoed yours.

Yes, ask them politely to be quiet. And if they keep talking, ask an usher to intervene. Ushers are poorly paid and likely have no assertiveness training. They may be useless to you unless their management has empowered them to quickly turf jerks. Chances are, though, that the talker is just an asshole and will be pissed at you for ratting them out, and they may very well find another way to ruin your experience.

If there is a place to move to, move. If there is nowhere to move to, leave and get your money back. You will get far more satisfaction out of making a scene for your money, than making a scene and trying to enjoy the movie.

Personally, I go to fewer and fewer movies these days because I just hate paying for bad experiences with strangers.
posted by KS at 6:55 PM on March 10, 2005

You know, there's obviously a large minority of people who HATE talkers. Movie theatres should capitalize on that. They should have special "ABSOLUTE SILENCE" shows. They should post a guard in the theatre to kick out anyone on the first offense. Latecomers should not be seated. Popcorn should not be allowed.

I would gladly pay $25 for that experience, and I bet others would too. I might even pay more for the peace-of-mind of being about to totally relax and not worry about being disturbed.
posted by grumblebee at 7:00 PM on March 10, 2005

I've been wondering if there are any theatres that offer headphones for hearing impaired people

there are movie theaters with baby rooms. If they're not filled with babies they are small rooms with the sound piped in where you can see the movie but not be within hearing range of others. I haven't used them but I hear they're good for this sort of thing. We pretty much only go to drive-ins out here [when the weather's good] because not only can't we hear other people talking we can talk all we want [and eat, etc] without bothering anyone.
posted by jessamyn at 7:11 PM on March 10, 2005

I totally agree with you Grumblebee. Cinema for those who know what cinema should be like. No chatting. No mobile phone. No crinkly plastic bag, and no bastard behind me who thinks that eating popcorn involve taking each piece, placing it between his front teeth and crunching down on it.

I've always liked the idea of headphones powered by infra red or something, but the problem is the same in a cinema as it is in a library (I've seen it happen a few times). The person wearing them can't hear themselves over the soundtrack, so they yell to compensate, even if they think they are being quiet.

My partner quietened a group of teenage guys down a while ago by turning around and saying `would you guys shut the f*ck up' in a forceful tone, and then staring at them for a solid minute. They freaked out hearing this come from a woman.
posted by tomble at 7:17 PM on March 10, 2005

tomble, can I rent your friend?
posted by grumblebee at 7:19 PM on March 10, 2005

I'd second finding a theatre that is more likely to have the sort of "culture" you're looking for in the audience. In some neighborhoods, it's part of the movie-going experience that people respond to the screen and talk all the way through the movie. In other areas, the slightest sounds are met with simultaneous glares from all corners of the room.

I don't even like it when people talk in the living room during rented movies; I really want to get lost in the world of the movie, and any elements which distract that immersion are unpleasant to me. I find that smaller, slightly more 'arty' theatres tend to have audiences with similar sensibilities. If you go to a popular movie on a weekend in a brooklyn neighborhood, it is really a social event, not a solitary reception of an art form. If you go to a multiplex to see a generally mainstream flick, it's entertainment, which means there's commonly a lightness and casualness about the protocol, and people will not take your "skunk eye" all that seriously. If you go to an art house to see a movie with long pauses and subtle shifts, most of the audience will be on the same page as you.

BAsically, know what to expect, and if you're going to see some fun, silly entertaining thing on a weekend, do your best to secure a spot without noisy folks nearby, but accept that it may happen, and getting obsessed with it will just make things worse. Sometimes you can tune out annoyances if you can let them go (a friend of mine got so stuck on the annoyance of red "exit" signs in her peripheral vision when she went to see movies that she stopped being able to enjoy watching films in theatres. It might be annoying, but she made it into an insurmountable issue by focusing on it).
posted by mdn at 7:34 PM on March 10, 2005

I only go to movies during matinees, when there are fewer (or few or no) people in the audience. My obsession with movie-time quiet has gone so far that I actually made a diagram.
posted by dbarefoot at 7:41 PM on March 10, 2005

Grumblebee is a genius. We should start a business. I bet LOTS of people would pay for a popcorn and nacho-free, talkers-will-be-eliminated-with-extreme-prejudice movie experience. I generally wait for netflix these days too for the same reasons.

My best movie experience of the last year: I was stuck in Bumfuck, Ohio for the day and went to a midafternoon screening of Return of the King in a mall in the middle of nowhere in a blinding snowstorm and I was the only person in this giant theatre. Pretty much couldn't get more ideal. Bonus: no one saw me cry like a widdle baby at all the endings.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:16 PM on March 10, 2005

For those of you who disdain a practiced routine or a fake illness to get people to shut up, I have never, ever gotten people to be quiet by just asking. You have to wear them down, maybe annoy them more than it is worth talking for. I commend those with roundabout tactics. Who would travel all the way to a theater only to leave it and miss possibly a good/crutial part of the movie? This is why I really only go to movies during the week; less people to deal with. And since most theaters preceed the movie with "silence, please" I think talking being a cultural issue is pretty rare.

There should be a guard in all theaters, like in museums (although I may get kicked out). grumblebee, your idea would be amazing. I would pay.
posted by scazza at 9:03 PM on March 10, 2005

Grumblebee, I'm sure she'd be available for hire :) She also has the physical advantage of being a six foot tall shotput thrower.

Another thing I was going to mention earlier - timing. I hate going to see a new release film the same week it came out, too crowded, too much noise. I like to wait until about a week before it closes, then go and see a morning session - say, 10 am. There are usually no more than two or three other people in the cinema. Bliss.
posted by tomble at 9:15 PM on March 10, 2005

My wife and I routinely travel an hour to Portland specifically for the reasons mentioned above - cultural issues tend to dictate crowd behavior. Here in a smaller community it's rare to not have a movie experience ruined by talking, or someone who just plain stinks of BO or cheap-ass perfume (old ladies are the worst). The difference between seeing a movie in the theatre and in my own home on a nice system is fast approaching a point where it isn't worth the agita.

By the way, I went to see Pooh's Heffalump with my five year old at 4:30 today. Theatre was empty. Now that's the way to go.
posted by docpops at 9:17 PM on March 10, 2005

As a large male, I fortunately don't get these problems often. If it does come up, I usually turn around in my seat, look the person in the eye and say "Would it be allright if you kept the noise down? Thanks." If it keeps happening I get up for a few seconds like i'm checking my watch, and sit back down. I can't tell you what I do after that, because i've never had anyone keep it up.
posted by Dean Keaton at 9:20 PM on March 10, 2005

They should have special "ABSOLUTE SILENCE" shows... I would gladly pay $25 for that experience

I hear ya brother. I've always said I'd pay the additional equivalent of popcorn, soda and a candy bar for a moviegoing experience completely devoid of same.

I hear that back in the old days there was an usher with a flashlight stationed in every theater, ready to shut up or eject noisy rabble. How much would they have to tack onto a ticket to bring back the ushers?
posted by Tubes at 9:50 PM on March 10, 2005

I'm tired of shushing, skunk eye, and polite requests that go nowhere, so I don't go to the movies anymore. What I've really always wanted to do is take a small recording device in with me, tape the offenders, then play back their conversation at full volume whenever they begin a new sentence.

(We're considering doing this with our loud neighbors, who sit on their porch until 3am on weeknights drinking and talking about their personal problems. We'd wait until their next gathering, stick the speakers in the window, wait for a suitable interval, and blast out "I don't know how I got CRABS...CRABS...CR-CR-CR-CR-CRABS!" Or maybe just wait till it looks like their parents are up for a visit. If we're feeling ambitious, we might even add a backbeat for a total Drunk Girl Angst remix.)
posted by melissa may at 10:06 PM on March 10, 2005

Short of getting up and moving to another seat, what do you do?

Get up, but don't move to another seat. Just stand and watch the movie until they shut up.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:35 PM on March 10, 2005

I would not pay more money for absolute silence. I already did when I paid $10.

If they're going to run ads in front of the movie, shouldn't they be discounting the price? Say 1 ad=$1 off. Show me ten ads, and then keep the damn theatre quiet. I'm not paying attention to the four or five I see anyway.

This is a general comfort question: not yours, theirs.

It's the belief that a movie theater is the same as their living room. I've seen theatres where:
People answer cellphones.
People bring their 4 year old kid to an R rated movie at 10pm
Five or six guys are loud...with alcohol.

It's a lack of social education.

I still go to the movies, because it's the only real way to see a film.

I go to better theaters in off times to enjoy myself.

It's so bad that they've made a viral film with high production values (that they show in theaters)
posted by filmgeek at 4:15 AM on March 11, 2005

I only go to movies during matinees, when there are fewer (or few or no) people in the audience

I can't stand going to the cinema at busy times because of the noise and you get the crappy seats. We don't go to the matinees but we go to the midnight/12.30 screenings where you have no more that a dozen people in the theatre and are spread out enough not to hear the chatting. There was even a time when we were the only people in the whole of the cinema complex and the only noise we encountered was the snoring of the security guard as he waiting for us to leave. The main reason we go the late shows is so we can stretch our legs in the seats next to the spaces for wheelchairs in the gangway (of course we wouldn't use these if they were needed).

On the very odd occasion when it is busier I'm afraid I do the evil look/hmmphing and then the 'will you PLEASE just shut up' routine.
posted by floanna at 4:56 AM on March 11, 2005

a friend of mine got so stuck on the annoyance of red "exit" signs in her peripheral vision when she went to see movies that she stopped being able to enjoy watching films in theatres.

That's really funny to me, mdn, because I have that exact same problem. I guess it's a bit obsessive, but in addition to avoiding noisy people, I choose a seat somewhere away from the exit. I can't seem to find a way to tune out the glow of the sign.

Amongst those of us who love getting totally immersed in the movie (forgetting the real world around us), some do so easily. Others -- my unfortunately -- get jerked out of the world by the slightest distraction.
posted by grumblebee at 5:08 AM on March 11, 2005

I'm on the finicky side concerning these matters as well (I'm always the guy that ends up going to complain about the projection if it's wrong). I rarely ever go to showings on a weekend night because of the noise, unless it's a comedy (these days, comedies seem to take the presence of crowd noise into account when they're edited). Saturday and Sunday matinees are nice.
posted by Prospero at 6:20 AM on March 11, 2005

For those of you who disdain a practiced routine or a fake illness to get people to shut up, I have never, ever gotten people to be quiet by just asking. You have to wear them down, maybe annoy them more than it is worth talking for. I commend those with roundabout tactics. Who would travel all the way to a theater only to leave it and miss possibly a good/crutial part of the movie?

You wouldn't want to miss a critical part of the movie but you would waste time 'wearing' someone down? OOOk.

Either they will shut up, and it does happen, or they will not. Play games all you want, but admit to yourself you're playing games.

Asking them to be quiet may solve it quickly, if they refuse then going to management is the next quickest option, and you may even get free tickets.

"Wearing" someone down should be relegated to those who don't care about the move or are in high school. Just because the immature jerks in front of you won't shut up doesn't mean you have to stoop to their level.
posted by justgary at 6:22 AM on March 11, 2005

That's why I always buy popcorn. I toss kernels at them one at a time. I often get caught, but I ignore their stares.
Hey, if they want me to ignore their talking, then they'd better get used to me ignoring their stares too.
posted by timyang at 6:48 AM on March 11, 2005

I'm with ColdChef: there are two types of people. Ask them to be quiet, and if they don't, just move.

You cannot change other peoples' behavior. This is a fact. My own strategy is just to go to matinees or weekday showings, and usually several weeks after release so the crowds have died down. It's not so important to me to see something on opening weekend that I have to suffer the crowds of rowdy teenagers.

However, I actually enjoy going to the local noisy ghetto theatre to see certain films. I find that the ambience -- crowd chatter and all -- enhances the experience of watching certain movies. B-grad horror movies in particular benefit from it. This theatre greatly improved my enjoyment of Freddy vs. Jason, for instance.
posted by casu marzu at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2005

This is the primary reason that I hardly ever go to the movies anymore. I think people are simply retarded nowadays, and sadly, it's easier to avoid them than it is to educate them.
posted by eas98 at 7:25 AM on March 11, 2005

After years of trying to deal with this, I quit the ineffectual ask-nicely-namby-pamby approach. Now when pissed off at loud motherfuckers I start in immediately with, "Will you please shut the fuck up? You sound like a fucking asshole." Works much better.

Although: The last bad actor got up in my face, told me he was a soldier, started thumping me in the chest, and asked me how I dare talk to him like that. So I got the double delight of telling him that if he was the sort of person who was fighting for my country, then I was embarrassed for my country and ashamed of him. Also, I told him to stand up straight, take what he had coming, and stop acting like a little girl. Soldiers hate being called little girls. What a good time I had that day.

I also enjoy certain movies with a loud audience. Jet Li movies, in particular, because they draw a good mix of young people of all races, and the movie is just better with people all shouting together things like, "Aw shit! Did you see that? Damn!"
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:34 AM on March 11, 2005

I've pretty much stopped going to the movies. It drives me nuts. The polite shush sometimes works, but it's a total crap shoot. So many people respond with "I bought my ticket, I can do what I want." Yeah, nice sense of entitlement, asshole.

It's a losing battle.

Grumblebee, I love your idea. Obviously, it's not ideal for big, loud movies with superdeluxe sound, but I tend to be more tolerant with those because the whole crowd is into it. I'd pay a couple bucks for a headphone, no question.
posted by mkultra at 7:56 AM on March 11, 2005

I've been to the movies by myself more times than I'd like to. I hate it. Why? Because I think of movie-going as a social event. If you don't, why are your even taking you significant other out with the intention of not communicating at all.
Movies make me think. Good ones remind me of experiences in my own life or point out things about life and society or make reference to books I've read etc. They make my head boil over with thoughts, that's what I like about movies. (Don't even get me started on the joy of pointing out plot lapses, unrealistic characters etc in bad movies, has none of you seen MST3K?!?)
posted by Octaviuz at 8:22 AM on March 11, 2005

Add me to the list of being willing to pay an extra few bucks for a Quiet Ticket. Only thing is that, here in NYC at least, I'm pretty sure that at most showings you'd end up with a couple of kids who'd be there just to be loud for their own entertainment.

I have to talk myself into a relaxed state going to see movies in the theatre these days -- "It's just a movie. People are going to talk. It's no big deal." But I don't want to stop going -- there's nothing like a movie on the big screen and there's nothing like that communal experience: laughing, gasping, etc. with 100 other people.

Still, I find myself waiting until they come out on DVD and buying them (same price as me and the fiancee going to the theater).
posted by papercake at 8:44 AM on March 11, 2005

If you don't, why are your even taking you significant other out with the intention of not communicating at all.

Because we plan on discussing the movie AFTER we've watched it.

Movies make me think.

Movies make me FEEL. But I can't feel as deeply if I'm constandly reminded that it's all a fabrication. If the movie is well-made, and if the audience behaves, I can go for long stretches of time believing it's all real, getting totally sucked into it, getting scared, falling in love, etc. THAT'S what I love about movies.

Octavius, I'm not belittling your tastes, but if you endulge them by talking, you make it impossible for me to endulge in mine. And I guess if I shut you up, I ruin your experience. Which is why we need different shows for different kind of moviefgoers.
posted by grumblebee at 8:45 AM on March 11, 2005

Nothing new to add except a Zen approach might work for certain films at certain times. Friday night showing of Hitch? Go with the flow, enjoy the crowd as part of the experience. The guy next to you echoing all the words at a Shakespeare play? Not so cool. I don't have a good solution to people chatting through Million Dollar Baby and the like, but if the choice is to seethe or not to seethe (which it boils down to sometimes) might try letting it go. In other words, don't get more distracted with (legitimate) annoyance than the distraction itself. This is great life advice in general if only I could take it!!
posted by Pattie at 8:46 AM on March 11, 2005

dbarefoot, i love your chart - will you marry me?
posted by matildaben at 8:58 AM on March 11, 2005

I once got up during a film, walked back to the teenagers who were making jackasses of themselves, and asked them in a polite and cheery tone if this was the first time they'd been to the movies. They responded with vaguely terrified blinking. In the same sugary voice I informed them that normally people shut the fuck up at the movie theatre, and would they do the same.

Not. A. Peep. For the rest of the film. Bliss.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:58 AM on March 11, 2005

I've found that no technique works all the time. Sometimes you can yell. Sometimes you can use shame. Sometimes you can nudge. So I tune them out unless they're really bad. In which case the only tactic I've ever found that works most of the time is to ask the talker's friend to have the talker be quiet. If you've got two talkers then you're fucked. But a polite, 'Can you ask your friend to be quiet?' tends to work well enough for me. Once you isolate the talker from their audience then they pipe down.

My biggest problem with the movies nowadays isn't so much loud people but the barrage of ads before the movie starts that are so loud talking is impossible.
posted by box elder at 3:07 PM on March 11, 2005

I'm not afraid to confront people, but I got tired of doing it in movie theaters a long time ago. More than a few seconds (and maybe even less) spent on shutting someone up, and you have probably missed something on the screen and/or worsened the experience of other innocent moviegoers who are now annoyed by you.

I have my antennae up for this kind of trouble before the movie starts. If someone sitting near me shows signs of being an obnoxious asshole during the ads or the trailer, I move then if I possibly can.

mdn has the right idea about choosing your theaters carefully.

The problem with grumbebee's proposal is that the bouncers would have to be superpeople: brave, physically tough, polite, discreet, highly observant, difficult-to-bore centurions with their fingers on the pulse of what counts as 'disturbing.' I can't think of any criteria that wouldn't have exceptions over which some angry offender would inevitably sue for the way his or her wrist was twisted as they were dragged from the theater. Not to mention that, in many auditoriums, extracting someone, forcibly or otherwise without disturbing other viewers even more is going to be difficult in many cases. Especially if the offender decides to make an issue out of it right then and there, at the top of their lungs. And, let's be honest, in many cases, they would.

Don't get me wrong; I think that 99% of the time, anyone who speaks above a whisper should be dragged into the street and beaten into unconsciousness for the amusement of passers-by.
posted by bingo at 4:42 PM on March 11, 2005

Since I'm very non-confrontational, and have learned to avoid the opening weekend, moving is what I do. Guessing the people who don't find this option viable are attending the crowded shows. I often wind up moving a lot, not so much to avoid the talkers, but to avoid the eaters. (Many's the screening where I've had to move right after the film begins, because the seat which seemed 'safe' is ruined by someone coming in late and settling in right behind me with a tub of popcorn.) Sometimes I end up standing near the rear exit for the first reel or two, until the eaters finish
their snacks. (I realize theaters typically make up to 75% of their profit off the concession stand, but I can't understand why their snacks are so popular -- why not watch the picture without spoiling your appetite, and then go out for a real meal? Often the best film experiences for me happen at festivals & etc where the venue lacks a concession stand.)

If they aren't quiet summon an usher.
Not in the US, not for decades now. I'm reminded of Marty McFly's astonishment at the squad of servicemen sprinting out to service a vehicle, just after he arrived in 1955.

have none of you seen MST3K?!?
Oh, what a ghastly 'entertainment' -- a possibly interesting old picture violated by assholes making stupid comments, with no way to avoid them!

But I can't feel as deeply if I'm constandly reminded that it's all a fabrication. If the movie is well-made, and if the audience behaves, I can go for long stretches of time believing it's all real, getting totally sucked into it, getting scared, falling in love, etc. THAT'S what I love about movies.
Tell it, grumblebee. I've come to the conclusion that those people talking lack experience with truly great cinema -- they're just not familiar with the escape a wonderful movie makes possible.

... the barrage of ads before the movie starts that are so loud talking is impossible.
I'm curious -- where does one experience a 'barrage' of ads, pre-show? Here in NoCal I've only noticed one, and that's only at a specific chain (for the execrable Fandango ticket service, during which I shut my eyes and even humm quietly, untill it's over). Of course I'm not counting the reviews (or trailers, if you insist on using the Hollywood term).
posted by Rash at 4:57 PM on March 11, 2005

er, previews
posted by Rash at 5:05 PM on March 11, 2005

The two times this happened I handled it like this:

First time (person who laughed like a hyena throughout the movie): Took my pocket flashlight, walked over to his seat like an usher, turned the flashlight on and pointed it in his face. Said "I'll treat you like an adult and give you a chance to stop disturbing everyone in the movie theatre while I use the washroom. I'll be back in 5 minutes and I expect you to be quiet and enjoy the movie." I'd say he was still annoying, but the volume went from 11 to 5.

Second time (person wouldn't shut up insulting the movie loudly to his friends, and wouldn't quit kicking the seat). After another patron asked them to be quiet nicely and they just laughed I turned around and shouted at the top of my lungs:


The entire theatre clapped for me, and the once rude moviegoers sat in stunned silence the rest of the movie. You can get a lot of support from the rest of the people in the theatre if you have the guts to put rude people in their place.

It probably helps that I weigh(ed) 265 lbs. In a dark theatre people don't know if you're just a lardo or you're an amateur boxer. :-D
posted by shepd at 5:22 PM on March 11, 2005

The problem with grumbebee's proposal is that the bouncers would have to be superpeople...

I disagree. If a theatre advertised certain shows as quiet shows, disallowed popcorn, put up a slide (and a sign on the door) making clear that talkers would be evicted, and put an employee or two in the room, I think it would help a huge amount. Of course it wouldn't be perfect. But I suspect most people who enjoy chatting would choose another show.

The higher ticket price would help. People who like to talk wouldn't see the point of paying it.
posted by grumblebee at 6:28 PM on March 11, 2005

I have to wear headphones at the theatre. Let me tell you what is in store for those of you planning to be hearing impaired for a couple of hours:

You'll often have to give up your drivers license. After the film, you'll have to find someone who can locate the person who hid your license. God help you if you attended the last show of the night.

And after they spend a few minutes finding a pair that has working batteries?


Theatres do not spend much money for the transmitters or headphones. Of course, I have not been in every theatre in the world, but in two countries, four states, and over 10 years I've never had clear sound from a set.

Movies that depend on sound effects will sound flat and two-dimensional. Some fun nights it will seem your headphones have a lag to the rest of the film. The whispers that sound clear in the theatre will be lost. (Maybe those who truly aren't hearing impaired will hear the quiet sounds, but I doubt the whispers are audible over the hiss.)

Even with the headphones I've had people talk loud enough that I could hear them.
posted by ?! at 8:40 PM on March 11, 2005

Last year some friends and I went to go see Elf at a theater in Evanston. During the movie these three 12-year-old boys were behind us gabbing away, piping up with rather graphic comments (seemingly to impress each other) about cast-member Zooey Deschanel. Unbeknownst to me, they were also kicking my friend's chair.

She turned around and let them know to pipe down and quit screwing around.

A bit later my friend Stef suddenly got up and left the theater. I thought "I guess she wants some Raisinettes or something" (actually the kids had been tossing jellybeans at each other and one of them had hit her). A couple of minutes later she comes back in followed by two of Evanston's finest. They all marched up to the three kids sitting in the back row of the theater. Black MagLites were held high, blinding the little bastards. The whole upper balcony of the theater was now turned staring at the kids.

"I understand you boys are causing a disturbance...

"No," they say, voices shaking, "were weren't doing anything..." they tried

"You're going to need to come with us" the police tell them.

The kids try to hem and haw -- "please, sir we'll be quiet..."

"Let's go!" say the cops.

At least one was crying as the cops led them out. Perhaps I imagined the cheer that accompanied their exit.

And the kicker? They had been dropped off at the theater by their parents so they had to sit in the lobby with the cops until one of their moms picked them up. And, the cops made them apologize to my friend Stef as we were leaving the theater. It was awesome.

So, um, that would seem to be a vote for bringing in outside people... at least for dealing with bratty kids.
posted by blueberry at 1:00 PM on March 13, 2005

When I went to see '24 Hour Party People' a few years ago, I was alone except for some couples at the very back. They began touching each other even before the credits had finished. And not just petting. Bare in mind this is just an ordinary multiplex in the centre of Manchester.

On one side of the room we have full-on sex on the other just pleasuring. For much of the time they keep the moaning to a minimum, but as the film continued one pair were getting louder and louder to the point that I couldn't hear the dialogue.

I walked over. As I lurked over them a pair of girls eyes peered at me through the darkness.

”I’m trying to watch the film…” I said militantly.

Her boyfriend looked up from his ecstacy and glared at me. I just returned the gaze for a moment and went back to my seat in time to see Shaun Rider drop is methodone. Peace (apart from the noise of the film). Somewhat nervous of reprisals I dashed out at the end.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:39 PM on March 13, 2005

I wonder how much this is responsible for the recent boom in the home theater industry.
posted by softlord at 7:01 AM on March 17, 2005

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