A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman
For frequenters of City Cinema or the monster screens, I offer this practical guide to appropriate behaviour:
Selection: Remember "Let's have a night out and catch whatever's playing?" No more. The postmodern consumer reads up before selecting a movie, credible word of mouth being but a humble substitute.
Showtime: Early evening is best, unless you're mentally spry as midnight nears. Matinees? For the young or the nocturnally incapacitated. And full-price nights are for show-offs.
Taste: Know what you like, but take an occasional risk.
Companions: Avoid those who can't share your tastes. Serial sighing will only sully your evening and taint the relationship.
Children: Between the ages of 11 and 19, yours will not wish to sit anywhere near you. Applaud such independence. Their carping when you insist on viewing the credits will serve as a lesson in patience for all.
Arrival: Early, to avoid serious queuing, but not so early as to make you feel thumb-twiddlingly silly.
Parking: Look for the haunted parking space.
Refreshments: Cinemas make more from concessions than from ticket sales, and while some folks tackle a movie only if provisioned with popcorn, chocolaty almonds, and three bladders worth of faux soda, buffmeisters limit themselves to a small coffee or bottled water.
Manners: Ritual container-rustling and slurping are acceptable only until the lights dim, after which they become a capital offense.
Timing: The world is divided into zhlubs who will attend a feature even if it's underway when they arrive and those who will sensibly re-book if even the trailers have begun.
Trailers: They complete the experience and may be the best versions of movies you'll never see. Some people watch in reverence, so behave accordingly.
Cartoons and short subjects: We wish.
Seating: Mid-cinema on the aisle so as to minimize the disturbance of break-exiting. The world is divided into those (latecomers) who face the already seated as they slide by and those who lead with their posteriors, those who rise to let people by and those who pretzel their feet rather than stand.
Seat claiming: Drape your parka across the back, in summer a clean handkerchief. It's gauche to ignore another's marker, even when your favourite seat is at stake. Mind, should it slip floorward, it's hardly your fault.
Conversation: Clam up at the dimming of the lights. Past that, gab is a capital offense. The movie mystifies you? Ask your questions after The End.
Romance: The only people who make out at a movie are the unimaginative and the nostalgic. A fine movie is not a hot date.
Sleep and stentorian breathing: It is marginally permissible to doze, but not to regain consciousness with a snork and a loud demand to hear what you've missed. Snoring is a capital offense.
Reaction: It is permissible and even charming to laugh aloud where apt, and to weep softly at any time. Entertain perspective.
Bailing out: Abandon a movie that gives you the cramps rather than imitate a lump of congealing gravy. And save your editorializing for the parking lot.
Breaks: Slip out stealthily and return likewise, pausing at the back, eyes adjusting to the dark, so as not to end up in the wrong seat. Don't expect a synopsis of what you've missed.
Exiting: Anyone who skedaddles before the credits roll is hell-bound. It shows disrespect for performance and for process, and it also means missing the scenes salted among the credits; a reward to the patient, who earn the right to lord it over those who have lurched out to embrace their cars.
Trash: While you are not obliged to claim your own garbage, those who attend a subsequent showing and encounter messiness and stickiness are entitled to obtain DNA samples and hunt down the offender.
Postmortem: The world is divided into those keen to parse the movie while heading home and those who prefer to sleep on it. Respect protracted post-viewing silence; there's a mind at work.
Opportunities lost: The world is sub-divided into those who don't bat an eye over a missed flick and those who lament. The latter tend not to see videos or DVDs as an adequate alternative to the cinema experience, and rightly so.
FYI: A film is a movie, but a movie cannot be a film…unless elevated in retrospect; e.g. Casablanca was once a movie, now it's a film. Turtle Diary is a film. My Big Fat Greek Wedding will always be a movie.