Saturday, 4 March 2006

Quiet, please!

I went to the cinema on Thursday. Yay! I’ve said before how much I love films and why I stopped going to the cinema when I moved to London – mostly because smoking was still allowed and because eating and drinking was becoming more common, and I couldn’t stand it (also because, when you go to the theatre three nights a week, you don’t have much time left for other things).

I used to live very very close to Portobello Road and I did go to the Electric (the oldest cinema in London) a few times, back in the early ’80s, before it closed down, then reopened briefly as a theatre, then closed down again, then reopened again as an über- trendy cinema and café/restaurant, where the Notting Hill Set (i.e. people who moved to the area after 1995, after that film came out) like to be seen. At the time, the Electric was a big barn of a place, with a Wurlitzer that would come up before the performance, and a kind of indoor kiosk where you could buy a hamburger and chips to munch through the film. The smell of food and cigarette was rather disturbing, but less so than crunchy popcorn, and the Electric was convenient and it showed good stuff. You could sit through great long double bills for very little money. I remember getting an awful migraine after watching The Day of the Triffids followed by several hours of 1900, during my Donald Sutherland phase. It was eccentric and fun. Much more than the awful Odeons and Empires in Leicester Square. I was very sad when it closed down. And by the time it reopened I had already left the area.

Here in Shepherds Bush we were deprived of cinemas for a very long time, until three years ago, I think, a beautiful cinema opened in our local shopping precinct. I went the first week it opened and promised myself to go regularly, but, guess what!, I haven’t. I can count on the fingers of one hand the films I’ve been to see there. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know.

But on Thursday my partner and I saw Goodnight, And Good Luck, at 5pm – while people were still at work (ah, the life of a freelancer!). We had a 2-for-1 voucher (which helped a lot with the decision to get off our butts and actually go there) and we managed to get our favourite seats: the ones in the back row that face the aisle, i.e. with an unobstructed view of the screen. Hooray! Except that, apart from us, there were only four other people in the entire auditorium, which meant we could have sat anywhere.

Just before the start of the performance, a young couple turned up and stumbled over our feet to get past and sit at one end of the back row. Ok. But then they talked loudly all through the trailers. Fine. Surely they would keep quiet as soon as the big film started. Not a chance. They carried on talking until we shouted at them to please shut up. Luckily, they were silent from then on, but ten minutes from the end of the film they stumbled over our feet again and went out. Did the woman have a crush on George Clooney and was she disappointed that it wasn’t a romance? They left separately – did they have an argument halfway through? Or was it too difficult for them to keep quiet for another ten minutes?

I’m slapping them for spoiling the first fifteen minutes of that wonderful, stylish and thought-provoking film, and everyone else who thinks they are in their living room when they go to the cinema. Stay in and watch DVDs, please!


  1. I talk loudly during adverts and inappropriate trailers on principle. I've paid for my seat and the broadcast, I don't want to consider the new phone I don't need or the air fouling car I can't drive. Equally if the film I've paid for and invested time in is B&W, contains a meaningful subplot and has subtitles, I probably won't want to watch 'maid in manhattan'.

    However, when the feature begins, I generally want to concentrate on what I'm hearing, thinking, seeing and feeling. I may pass comment from time to time, that's part of the experience. But why do (young) people go to the cinema just to shout at each other? They could do it for free in the foyer!

    We had a lovely old fashioned (decrepit deco) indie cinema called 'electric' in Birmingham. Closed under a shadow, traumatising me (and the employees, I believe they were sacked on a Christmas Eve) and I've been too scared to return since the re-opening.

    I really should have more shared entertainment experiences. I don't get to the cinema or theatre nearly as much as someone who enjoys both so much should.

  2. Ah, this is a slap dear to my heart. Lousy audience behavior. It isn't just the talking, it's the cell phones, the occasional snoring, the raucous laughter at any moment in a film that smacks of genuine emotion, the squeals of "cool!" at a moment of graphic violence. I know a man who loves movies passionately and has worked on them for a living for many, many years. In his filmography are some world-famous classics. But he won't go to a movie theater at all anymore. He can't take the audiences.

    See, it is people like you, my friend A. and yours truly who are being driven to DVDs, not the loudmouth boors.

  3. But some films really do require seeing on the big screen still, don't they? I only have a wee flat with a wee TV of 15 inches, which reduces even more when showing widescreen films. They showed Chicago at New Year, and it was great but -er - miniature. And I wanted the songs loud but was concerned for my neighbours. It's also quite fun to see kids' films with kids, or funny films in public. Like many years ago, Life of Brian - in fact I saw that in Birmingham - maybe at your cinema, JvS? They even had a lady with an ice cream tray coming down the aisle after the short.

    I don't mind seeing thoughtful or emotional films at home, though.

    So, Bela - and the Oscar goes to...? Is your vote going to Mr Clooney at all?

  4. Have to agree with the whole disruptive behavior in the theatre slap. Won't tolerate it! From the moment that the trailers rolled until the last of the credits I was quiet. Chewed my popcorn quietly as well!

    Have not had the urge to go to the movies since the accident because I wouldn't be that comfortable. Besides things get to On Demand (do you have that service) so quickly these days and I can pause the film anytime I choose and refill on Twizlers.

  5. YES! I cannot stand it when people talk in the movies. Most appropriate slap!

    To jvs: I understand your principle, but I don't agree with it.

    So, since I also paid for my seat, would you consider that I have the right to listen to each and every word of the trailers? (I consider the trailers to be a public service. They often help me know what I don't want to spend money to see.

    Can we compromise? I don't mind if you talk during the adverts. But again, must it be "loudly?" I probably don't care for your conversation during the advertisements. Maybe I'd enjoy listening to my own thoughts.

  6. Maybe I was exaggerating about the loudly part. I'd quite like it if they targeted their trailers a little, tho!

  7. jvs: You're right about targeting the trailers. In my area, they do that for the most part. Some theaters that I go to are excellent about the showing trailers that "fit in" with the movie that you have paid to see. Others are not as careful.

  8. it is my PET HATE about going to the cinema, an experience which i otherwise LOVER

    i hate the people who talk
    i hate the people who munch on their stinky popcorn loudly
    i hate the people who laugh in bits of the film which are patently NOT FUNNY (on account of them being too stupid to realise)

    slap slap slap slap slap

    *grits teeth*

    p.s. please go and see 'walk the line' at the cinema - you won't get the same effect of the boom-chicka-boom beat pulsing through your body if you watch it on DVD! and of course, you won't appreciate joaquin in his full glory :)

  9. um, that should have said 'LOVE' not 'LOVER'!!

  10. JvS, I’m glad you came back to amend your comment a little bit, because I was going to chide you for it. I actually don’t mind the ads (there are ads everywhere); I don’t mind the trailers either: that’s what I expect when I go to the cinema. I’m with TLP there: I’ve paid for my seat and want to be able to hear everything. Like her, I would allow you to talk ‘softly’ during the adverts, but that’s it.

    Young people are used to talking all the time, everywhere. Even when they’re on their own they talk – on the phone. No one ever says anything so they think it’s ok.

    The old cinemas were lovely. I remember the huge ones in Paris, where I saw The Ten Commandments and Cleopatra: it was awesome.

    There really is nothing like watching something with lots of other people. That’s also why I love the theatre so much.

    F, I was hoping you would comment, as a serious film buff. You’re right: it’s people like us who stay at home watching DVDs. Sad.

    Yes, L, quite a few films require seeing on the big screen – Chicago was definitely one of them – but most of the time the experience is not pleasant and one doesn’t want to repeat it.

    Like you, I’d rather see emotional films at home: I cry easily and like to be able to do so freely.

    Oops, too late for predictions. GC did get an Oscar. Not the one I (and probably he) thought he’d win, but still…

    SL, chewing popcorn quietly is tricky. You sound like the perfect cinema-going companion.

    I expect it must be difficult for you to go the cinema or the theatre. I can’t blame you for not wanting to put yourself through it. I don’t know about On Demand. Is that a cable/satellite service? I only have terrestrial TV (and we don’t get to see the Oscars live any longer, grrr!). I too like being able to see a good film in the best of conditions.

    TLP, you know I agree with you 100%.

    We don’t have targeted trailers here, I don’t think. I’m not too bothered by that, since I go to the cinema so seldom, but, yes, they should be. If I went to see Goodnight, And Good Luck I’m not very likely to want to see some crappy, moronic film (unless I made a mistake, like that couple the other evening).

    UC, agree, agree, agree.

    We would have gone to see Walk the Line if our voucher hadn’t specified that film was excluded from the offer. I’m busy this week so I can’t go to the cinema again, but I might get another chance to see it before long.

  11. Wow, even with 4 other people in the place you had annoying and rude people there. I can't stand that. In the US, at least, movie ticket sales are way down and it's the same complaint everywhere. Loud, annoying people who talk, make disgusting sounds or comments, get in the way... My question is: If everybody hates those people, who are they?

    By the way, you've been tagged. ♥

  12. CJB, ticket sales are up here, for some reason. I don't know why everyone puts up with those annoying people. It's rather depressing.

    Thanks for tagging me. I thought I should thank you before I went to see what I'm supposed to do. I might want to strangle you otherwise. LOL!

  13. Ah, it's completely my pleasure. But you already knew that. ;-)


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