SCOT BELLAVIA: Movie Theater PSA

Rules were not made to be broken; they were made because someone offended common etiquette. Recent events transpired during one viewer’s (this author’s) attendance of the movie Wonka that have necessitated the posting of the following rules in theaters nationwide.

Dear Valued Moviegoers,

  1. Your assigned seats are not required. When you select seats at the ticket counter, this is simply to ensure we have space for everyone. We will not be checking that you are in your selected seat, especially in showings with fewer attendants. So, if by the time the opening credits begin* you are next to a stranger and there are seats available, we ask that all parties put at least one seat between them and another party. In this way, we can largely avoid the following.
  2. Do not explicitly concede an armrest. If you are in a full house or have ignored Item 1, part of the moviegoing experience is the tacit fight over the shared armrest**. Typically, the right of use goes to the larger person or the party that first arrived. If, instead, what ensues is awkward brushing of a stranger’s hands, keep your mutual apology quick and quiet. (If this results in a meet-cute, we’d love to hear about it! Post your story on social media, tag us, and include the hashtag #armrestlove.) Above all, however, do not verbally concede the shared armrest before you have had a chance to silently compromise on its use. Do not say, “You can use this armrest; I will not be.” This confuses your beneficiary because, in other situations, to defer is an act of generosity, but in this situation, it crosses the sacred boundary between strangers in an audience. So, the armrest is wasted in unuse as you keep your promise not to use it and the stranger sits in discomfort not wanting touch it so he can keep the illusion of a boundary between you and himself.
  3. Keep your conversations within your party only. If you have disregarded Item 2, you may feel you are able to discuss the movie (or other matters!) with your stranger-neighbor during the movie. You do not have this right***.
  4. Know the rating. If you are accompanying a minor, do your research on what the movie is rated and why. If the above items haven’t already deterred you, for your child’s sake, do not consult the stranger next to you whether the movie is PG-13 or PG because a character shook his rump on screen in obvious slapstick and potty humor. We cite Jacobellis v. Ohio in saying, “You’ll know PG-13 rump shaking when you see it.”
  5. Lastly, on extraneous noises. To apologize for the crinkling of food wrappers is to draw further attention to its distraction. Open it as quickly as possible, and remember your mother’s rule to chew with your mouth closed. Furthermore, do not blame the child for the noise when you, with all your conversing, have been far more distracting than any crinkle.

Enjoy the movie!

Sincerely,

Management

*Our official stance is that anyone who arrives during the opening credits doesn’t deserve to see the movie.

**This is listed in the Terms and Conditions you agreed to at ticket purchase.

***See Terms and Conditions.

– Scot Bellavia

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