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The movie theater is not your living room

(Not So) Common Sense
The movie theater is not your living room
By Carole Townsend

Today, I’m going to go down a path that I’ve already been down before with you all,  not because I have run out of topics about which to write, but because the issue continues to arise and in my opinion, it does so because as a civil society, we are deteriorating. 

Carole Townsend

Sound a little over-the-top? Please, hear me out.

My husband and I recently went on a date together, and we chose to go to dinner and a movie at a local theater that also serves foods and drinks from a kitchen and bar. Our date nights are precious to us, because we are simply too busy to spend much meaningful time with each other during the week. The theater we chose is one of our favorites, as we can enjoy both the show and the dinner at the same time. This convenience relieves scheduling problems, with which we are both often plagued. 

We arrived at the theater about a half hour before the movie was to begin, giving ourselves enough time to peruse the menu, order and get settled in. The room was nearly packed by the time the trailers started to roll. About ten minutes into the movie, people were still filing in and trying to find enough seats to have their entire party sit together in a crowded movie theater. As annoying as it was to have to try to see around people who didn’t make it to the theater on time, I remained patient and sympathetic. I know what it’s like to be running late; I’ve experienced it myself a time or two. I took a couple of deep breaths, smiled at my husband, and kept my comments to myself.

No, my problem wasn’t with the latecomers. It was with the people who, no matter what time they arrived at the theater, seemed to believe that they were sitting in their own living rooms instead of a public theater at which everyone had paid around $10.00 per ticket to see a show, plus the cost of dinner. There were two groups in particular that I believe should be photographed, their images displayed like a “wanted” poster in the lobby, and banned from entering any movie theater in this state of Georgia unless they pay to rent the whole thing out for themselves. 

One family had three young children with them (at an R-rated movie, but that’s really none of my business). Having arrived late for the movie, the parents opted to sit several rows behind their children. During the entire movie, the kids shouted to their parents what they wanted to eat, what they wanted to drink, what they wanted for dessert, and inquiries as to whether they could go to the bathroom at various intervals throughout the movie. One of the boys got so detailed as to shout to his parents what specific business he needed to take care of during each bathroom run.  In between orders and trips to the loo, the boys threw popcorn at each other, spilled two drinks, giggled and squirmed. The people sitting on either side of this group of unattended children were obviously irritated, but Mom and Dad were blissfully unaware. You see, they were enjoying a date night too, apparently. The people sitting on both sides of their little darlings were the free babysitters. They just weren’t told that. 

Had it been my husband and I who had arrived late, young children in tow, I would have elected to sit with one or two of the children while Dad sat with the others. My husband and I have raised four, and yes, alone time is nice, but not at the expense of other moviegoers. 

The other group of people –  a couple in, say, their mid-forties – should also be required to rent out the theater for themselves next time they go to a movie. Why? I must assume that this past Friday night was perhaps a third or maybe fourth date for them; they were obviously extremely attracted to one another physically, but they hadn’t spent quite enough time together to discreetly harness their burning passion in private. Before the lights had even dimmed in the theater, they were climbing each other like a backyard shade tree. When they weren’t climbing, they were talking to each other as if they were the only two in the entire room. I thought to myself that they should be required to go sit beside the unruly children; that might solve both problems.

Oh I almost forgot, there was also a man in the theater that must work directly for the president, or maybe he was an on-call neurosurgeon. I assume these two things because he never turned the ringer off on his cell phone, and it must have rung eight or ten times throughout the movie. The man answered it every time it rang, and he never had the courtesy to leave his seat when he did.


Is it me?

I find that, as I age, I have less and less patience with such rude behavior. When did we decide as a society that we are the only ones in a room full of “others” who matter? When did we decide that, if we are respectful of others, then somehow we are having our own personal rights trampled? I really fear that, by the time I reach age 60 (which is only a few short years away), I’ll never leave my house. If adults are this inconsiderate now, what on earth will their offspring be like as they become adults? I shudder to think.

To the parents who left their kids for those around them to deal with, spring for a sitter.  To the couple who should have spent the evening at a hotel rather than a movie theater, no one wants to see you two in action; it wasn’t nearly the turn-on for us as it seemed to have been for you. And to the man who is so critically important to the continuation of life as we know it in the free world, put your phone on “vibrate.” That way, the president can reach you, and we can still hear what Kevin Costner is whispering just before he blows the guy’s car up.

Next week, maybe we’ll go to a concert or an art show or something. I’m not sure I can maintain my composure during another movie being shown in someone else’s living room. 

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth and newest book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, is slated for April 12 publication. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her most recent book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a sidesplitting look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. Her first two books, RED LIPSTICK AND CLEAN UNDERWEAR (a book about our Mothers’ advice) and SOUTHERN FRIED WHITE TRASH (a hilarious look at the unique, charming and sometimes outrageous ways we Southerners conduct ourselves) earned Carole almost instant national fame, with her “unmistakable humor and hysterical honesty,” (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2012). Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the southeast region, teaching writers’ workshops, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well being of the family. For more information, visit