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August 08, 2013


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Peter Labuza

Excellent as always GK. In response to one of your inquiries over when theaters became a "cathedral" so to say, I'm not sure this totally satisfied your answer, but Linda Williams argues that it was PSYCHO's stringent screening policies that at least changed that practice. For those curious, it's called “Discipline and Distraction: Psycho, Visual Culture, and Postmodern Cinema" and is located in the anthology "Culture" and the Problem of the Disciplines" edited by John Carlos Rowe.

Jeff McMahon

This Dash piece reminds me that you can craft an piece with arguments that are valid and hard to dispute in the particular cultural context, and still be a huge raging dick.

Also, was that a jab at Jiro Dreams of Sushi?

Glenn Kenny

Not a jab. I just didn't consider "Jiro" all that transcendental. And the music had already been near-egregiously over-used...


“And the thing is, my people do not give a damn about what’s on the screen.” That’s nice. In Kolkata there are plenty of Bolly/Holly-wood cinemas where social behavior is certainly on the level of a nice public house (minus the alcohol, of course.) Just down the street in the Satyajit Ray Film Center, people sit quietly and respectfully watch the screen, just like those prudish, shushing Americans. What the fuck is wrong with these people?!? Let’s go in there and show these people that “they need to find a way to accommodate us…”

What a peculiar race card to pull…

David M.

This is why physical violence, or the threat of it, is so very, very wonderful.

Fredrik Gustafsson

Psycho was indeed a key development in movie going habits, with a marketing campaign that was built around the fact that nobody was allowed into the cinema after the film had started. "It is required that you see the film from the very beginning!" with an image of a stern Hitch pointing at his watch was one example, or the even more aggressive "No one...BUT NO ONE... will be admitted to the theatre after the start of each performance of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho".

Wonderful post Glenn.

Jesse Crall

Good on you for taking the time to write this, Glenn.

Sit down, shut up, and enjoy the fucking movie. If you can't, go to a pediatrician and see if you need to get a prescription for Ritalin. Any other attitude in a public theatre means you're an immature, unfocused moron who doesn't have the brains and soul to appreciate things in public. And in terms of the quality of movies dictating your response...Hey, I thought Transformers sucked but I wouldn't screw around in the theatre because I respect that someone else might dig it and doesn't need me wrecking their experience because I'm "above it" or something. Real life is a bitch; I don't need other people intruding on my 2 hour escape.

And yeah, lets take India's lead because it's such a thriving utopia. Sure thing.


@Jeff McMahon - Except I'm not seeing the arguments that are "valid and hard to dispute." I'd say it's pretty damn easy to dispute Dash's raging hyperbole and logical fallacies - see, for example, Matt Zoller Seitz's responses on that site.

Joel E

"This Dash piece reminds me that you can craft an piece with arguments that are valid and hard to dispute in the particular cultural context, and still be a huge raging dick."

Valid and hard to dispute? A theater is a privately-owned business where each patron "rents" a seat for a particular show. Theaters, operas, restaurants, they all are the same basic business propostion as a movie theater. You must behave by the rules and most importantly, respect the establish and the other patrons or be sent out on your douchey ass.

If we both paid for dinner in a given restaurant, but I chose to stand next to your table and talk loudly through your entire meal, fart repeatedly, and stare at you the entire time, you'd likely ask for the staff to throw me out. And they would, because my behavior violates the rules and accepted social conduct. But what I was doing was "normal" and not necessarily illegal or even outside the norm of public displays. It's just not acceptable when we've both paid for a peaceful eating experience.

A movie theater shouldn't be any different. People who insist on doing whatever they damn well please in a theater can first suck a bag of dicks, and then blow me. We both paid (theoretically) and you have no right to ruin my expectation of getting my money's worth.


I don't remember offhand who this Anil Dash person is. Isn't he one of those Silicon Valley types? If so, I see this just as another expression of the unbereable sense of entitlement that is afflicting those people lately, on par with the forest wedding of that Facebook cofounder. "I do what I want, because I am a digerati and I represent the NEW. Oh, and I'm rich, you knew that?"

Yes, I know this is an ad-hominem, but honestly, his argument is so ridiculous that isn't worth dealing with. What Mr. Dash needs is for someone to attend his next public speaking event and start playing smartphone games as loudly as possible while he is talking, only to stop as soon as it's someone else's turn to speak. That would be a better demostration of why he is wrong than any rational argument.

Dan Humphrey

You're my new favorite film blogger!

Clayton Sutherland

I remember Roger Ebert, a few years ago, mentioning a light-up pen that he used to take notes during screenings. I imagine a number of critics do this. Which begs two questions:

1) Could this light source not create a distraction for other individuals at the screening?

2) How "consecrated" could the screening be if a number of critics are not completely focused on what they're watching, because they're taking notes?

Slightly off-topic, I know, but related to the overall "immersion" factor.

Pete Apruzzese

You deal with a guy like Dash simply: when he opens his phone to tweet, text, or whatever, you accidentally spill a large Coke (but not a Diet Coke, you need the sugar to ruin the circuitry) on him and his device. Apologize profusely and leave. If he comes after you, apologize again and keep walking.

Grant L

I keep hoping it's just some sociological cliche propounded by worrywarts in think pieces, but I see evidence of "the definition of healthy self-esteem in America has gone from 'I'm just as good as anybody else' to 'I'm the center of the universe, deal with it'" nearly every day.


Have you been to the Kent on Coney Island Boulevard? It's a place something like you describe. It's cheap and run down and a lot of lower income young people go there to see blockbusters. So where I'd get irritated at people and their cell phones or little asides as if they were watching a movie in their living room if I'd paid enough to feed a poor family Chad for a week, or at least $13, in a hi tech theater with nice, comfortable, stadium-like seating. I mean, it's easy to catch a $5 show and it's only $8 max and the refreshments are moderate, to put it moderately. These days, when I can settle into a $5 movie with a $1.50 bottle of Jarritos, I can be pretty mellow about the chitter chatter.

But I found I did have my limits. One day I arrived a little late, and after stumbling around in the dark for awhile, sat down next to a couple and the guy just kept up a constant stream of babble about everything he was thinking about the movie as he thought it. At first, I didn't pay much attention. Then, it kept up and I began to congratulate myself for my calmness. It didn't stop and I politely asked him to keep it down. That worked for all of 5 seconds and thereafter my requests became less and less polite. Finally, I cracked and said out load so the whole theater could here: "are you fucking retarded, or what," got up and found a seat as far away as possible. And of course when the lights went up, it turned out that yes, he was, shall we say, mentally handicapped, as was almost everyone else in the theater. Seems it was some kind of institutional outing. Anyway, I think that little anecdote relates. And I found a related lesson or two in there somewhere.


I don't expect most people (or pretty much anyone else besides me) to have the sort of "consecrated" view of moviegoing that I increasingly have as I crawl through middle age, but what surprises me more and more is the apparently complete lack of interest the texters have in what's going on screen, as well as how this illuminated behavior doesn't faze their actual companions.

When the young guy sitting a few seats away from me spends most of THE CONJURING (not just the exposition scenes but the major set pieces) looking at his phone, or the teenage girl nearest me is similarly occupied during PHANTOM MENACE's pod-race (in the miracle of crappy conversion 3D), I wonder not only why doesn't it bother the friends sitting with them, but why they're even in the movie theater in the first place (and this is no defense of the over-hyped CONJURING and the getting-even-worse-with-age PHANTOM MENACE).

However, if you happen to wear a hoodie, putting up the hood is great for blocking the light from the people in your row, if not the people further down. I recommend it.

Also, re: "but I see evidence of "the definition of healthy self-esteem in America has gone from 'I'm just as good as anybody else' to 'I'm the center of the universe, deal with it'" nearly every day."

This last part is particularly true if you watch the way people drive in L.A. I'm reminded of the bumper sticker allegedly sighted in Berkeley -- "Forget World Peace -- Visualize Using Your Turn Signal."

But back to movies -- I know I'm late to the game, but I just watched THE APU TRILOGY for the first time. Holy crap those are great movies.


I'm trying to figure out what it means that Bollywood, "the most popular film industry in the world" has an audience that appears to be entirely made up of people "who do not give a damn about what's on the screen." I guess it takes a lot of pressure off the filmmakers to actually be good, at least.

I'm generally pretty lucky in that I mostly see films in a modest midwestern market that always has sparsely attended matinees in which no one ever causes any trouble (so far). But for the life of me, as others have mentioned, I will never understand why anyone would pay to sit in a darkened theater engaging in a more-or-less free activity such as texting or checking email while ignoring the thing you paid for.

Evan Connell

My father in law, who can be quite gruff at times, was at the cinema some time ago, and there were folks sitting directly behind him, munching on potato chips very loudly, making a din of rustling, crunching and mastication. After a while of putting up with it, he turned around, glared at them and said "try sucking on them".


I will happily confront anyone (although I am perfectly happy to start off with politesse), even getting up and walking to where they are, be it little old ladies or teenagers who might beat me up. Actually, one time in NY I thought that might be the case, so I just kept snapping my fingers behind the person's head. Worked like a charm. Another time here in Portland about eight teenagers walked into the middle of Rachel Getting Married and proceeded to gab. I walked over and said, "You know, we actually paid for this movie." This being the NW, they were immediately abashed and apologetic, and later when the dude at the other end of the chain who hadn't gotten the message started talking, they all vehemently shushed him themselves.

Noam Sane

"...when the boat piloted by the two kids who are running from Robert Mitchum for their lives floats quietly past a lily pad and frog."

I had precisely the same experience - this was a Night of the Hunter showing at the Castro in SF, late 90's. What is there to laugh at? And if you find a frog hilarious, why aren't you down by a creek somewhere having a riot?

Hell is other people.

Joel G

Is it really that bad? I find that no one respects the rules at the library anymore, but I generally have good luck at the movies--or at least diminished expectations. On the other hand, the "sophisticated" snickers at old movies are the absolute worst. I used to get a lot of that at Film Forum in the late 90s. What lunatic would feel superior to Night of the Hunter?

Jonathan Woollen

I'll never forget the opening night of The Fellowship of the Ring, during which any quiet settled over the audience following some onscreen disaster (say, getting trapped by rockfall at the mine gates), the full-grown man beside me would (at least five times over the course of the movie) chuckle for a bit and "break the tension" by yelling, "Well, that would suck."


Joel, it's kind of scary how prevalent the "laughing at old movies" disease is. I got into a tiff with a commenter over at Poland's blog (yeah, I know, never a good idea), who wore it as some kind of badge of honor that he "laughed audibly" the first time he saw Sunset Boulevard ("in a classroom," he claimed, as if that made it ok) in an attempt to prove his argument that acting in old movies was "hammy" and therefore the craft had "vastly improved" in the time since.

Funny thing is, I went through the cinema studies grad program at NYU recently, thinking I'd be among like-minded film students who'd gotten over that sort of thing. Boy, was I naive.

Jeff McMahon

Folks, I didn't actually think the guy's points were valid and hard to dispute, EXCEPT within his very narrowly tailored, possibly non-existent cultural context, which is the keystone to his argument. And then I didn't feel like bothering with taking that argument apart since others had done it so well.

My favorite laugh-to-show-you-get-it theater memory is the guy in the screening I attended of The Red Violin, 14 years ago, who chuckled every time something ironic happened, which in that movie was a LOT.


The Orson Welles comments are revealing about a time when people went to movies as casually as people channel-surf TV today. At least until the '50s, people didn't go to "a movie." They went to "the movies." They went to see whatever their neighborhood theater was showing, pretty much every week. Didn't matter if it was a Gable-Crawford vehicle or a crappy B movie. They saw it anyway.

The collapse of the studio system, the rise of television, increasing admission prices and, yes, Hitchcock's policies with "Psycho" led to each movie becoming an "event."

D Cairns

I have shushed Sean Connery at a film festival he was patron of.

I have thrown balled-up paper at whisperers when shushing them didn't work.

I have had a copulating couple ejected because his belt buckle was jingling too loudly.

For evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for shushers to do nothing.


MarkVH: I don't know who you are at the Hot Blog (I'm Yancy Skancy), but I was in on that SUNSET BLVD tiff, too. Ever since then, whenever I see a hammy performance in a recent film or TV show (which is rather often), I think of that guy's ridiculous argument and chuckle.


A year or so ago, I was at UCLA to see the premiere of their restoration of an early Anthony Mann called STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT. You could hear the proverbial pin drop throughout the screening, especially during a horrific train wreck that comes out of nowhere. One month later, it played the Film Noir festival at the American Cinematheque. Unfortunately, there were three gorillas (sitting right behind me, of course) who found the train wreck (and subsequent scenes of bloody bodies being hauled out) the funniest goddamn thing they'd ever seen and howled with laughter. and as you know, laughter is contagious, and pretty soon everyone was laughing, and it continued right to the end of the film. I was furious, but there was nothing I could do about it. However, it does prove that it only takes one weasel to poison the well.

As for first-run movies, just do what I do: Wait a couple of weeks. The stupid kids will have moved on, and we grown-ups can enjoy the movie in darkened peace.


It's part of the new culture. If you go to a multiplex, where their speakers (all 85 of them) are cranked up to 11, where you get 20+ minutes of digital television commercials before the main trailers even start, and then you get upset when someone talks or texts? Sorry, that's silly.

Personally, it's easy to avoid that if it bothers you: go see olden-tyme films at a revival house, or go see arty foreign films at an art house. Or, as Cadavra just pointed out, go several weeks after the film opens. Otherwise, someone talking or texting during the 3D version of The Great Gatsby? Ha! No problem: it's part of the spectacle.


So people who are open to the possibility that Hollywood could produce a film that amounts to something more than noisy spectacle should just shut up and put up with the talking and texting? Or at least wait a few weeks before going to the multiplex, in deference to 13-year-old Facebook addict's delicate sensibilities? Not to mention that plenty of people don't live near a revival house or even an arthouse (and if they do, they generally don't talk about "olden-tyme films" or "arty foreign films.")

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