I have just come from a screening of a very interesting movie. It was an awards screening, meaning the only people in the audience were film industry employees. The guy sitting next to me was the rudest buffoon it has ever been my misfortune to encounter. He and his date talked in normal voice throughout the entire movie, mostly talking back to the screen about what may or may not happen, and what the protagonists should do. In order to escape what was surely going to become an assault with a deadly weapons charge on my part, I moved to another seat. However, this incident prompted me to write an open letter to awards screening audience members. Read on –
Dear Awards Screening Audience Member:
It’s December, the kickoff to awards season, and as we all know, DVD screeners are not as abundant as in years past. This year, those of us who work in the industry are seeing more in-theater screening invitations in our mailboxes and less awards-screener DVDs. It’s actually a good thing; movies are meant to be seen on a 25-foot screen with surround sound, not on a hand-held device, especially where awards voting is concerned.
These screenings are held all over town in various screening rooms. I’d like to remind you that the screening room is sacred; this is not your living room. You are in public, surrounded by other human beings. You cannot crack open a beer, take a phone call, “pause” the movie and get on the internet or go to the bathroom. It’s a commitment of ninety minutes or more, in the dark, watching a piece of art.
We get invited to these screenings because we work in the industry. It is therefore part of our job to see these movies, review them in our heads and vote for the movies that earn our admiration for their excellence. These screenings are a privilege. They are free of charge, and often we get to see these films long before the movie’s theatrical release. It is a privilege that we get to see these movies. A privilege, not a right.
Let’s review, shall we, the normal “movie theater rules” disclaimer that runs before every commercially screened movie in theaters: 1) Turn off your cell phone. Not just vibrate; turn it OFF. 2) No talking. 3) No disturbing fellow audience members. The rules are pretty simple. We obey them because we live in a civilized society, and because we believe that if we are courteous to others, they will in turn treat us courteously.
The truth is, however, we live in Los Angeles… land of the entitled a-hole. People think that rules made for the hoi polloi surely do not apply to them. Well, let me tell you something. They do.
If you can’t understand something in a movie, wait a few minutes – it may reveal itself. Why make an audience of sixty people suffer for one person’s inability to understand? If, after a few minutes, you still can’t understand the movie, wait until you get home – Google the title; read a review. Don’t plague the audience with your personal narcissistic despair that you can’t understand, or pay attention to, a Goddamned movie.
If you don’t like the movie, there is an easy fix: exit the theater.
If you need to make a phone call, there is an easy fix: exit the theater.
If you are bored, yawning, and would rather be talking about your dinner plans following the screening, there is an easy fix: for the love of God, exit the theater.
Show some respect for the people who worked their butts off to get the film made. Show some respect for your fellow audience members. We all work in the business, so don’t make an ass out of yourself by showing such flagrant disrespect for our art form. Show some respect, and leave the theater on two feet with all of your teeth still in your head.
If you wake up face down on the sticky theater floor in a pool of blood with your lips bound together by solid gold safety pins, just know that you have failed to adhere to the rules, and I was sitting next to you.
Thank you for your time.
Kristin M. Burke
UPDATE – at the screening of RUST AND BONE last week on the Sony Lot – a FIGHT broke out in the screening room halfway through this movie – among audience members. This was a screening on the Sony Lot in the Jimmy Stewart Theater. You have to be cleared to go on the lot. They may clear you for guns, but they don’t clear you for being an @$$hole, evidently. It was SO disruptive and immature. Someone didn’t like someone asking them to move, and it escalated into yelling, then people getting out of their seats, then the whole audience yelling. I mean, SERIOUSLY? It’s shocking.