View Full Version : Movie Horror stories coming from the audience?

07-31-2005, 06:48 AM
The horror stories at the movies can come from the audience

By Anita Creamer -- Bee Columnist

Coming soon to a theater near you: movie rage, the outright warfare threatening to erupt any day now between the talkers and the shushers.

And between the cell-phoners - and candy-wrapper crinklers and seat-kickers and laptop users - and the rest of us, who used to go to the movies a lot more often, before our fellow audience members' rude behavior drove us away.

Recent studies show that's one of the top reasons for the slump in movie theater attendance. Frankly, we already knew.

So we asked for your movie audience horror stories, and we learned that things are even worse than we thought.

One reader goes so far as to suggest bringing the troops home early from Iraq to patrol the aisles of America's movie theaters. After all, theater management clearly isn't interested in doing it.

But Tiffany Steir doesn't understand what the fuss is about.

"If little things like people using their cell phones in the movie theater get to you, get over it," she says, "because we live in a cell phone-driven world, and it's only going to get worse from here on out."

Yes, that's our fear.

Steir is 19, a Sierra College student who lives in Roseville. She's just defined the shape of the future for us, but we don't have to like it.

"I set my phone on vibrate when I go to the movies," she says. "And then I'm usually text-messaging people, 'Hey, I can't call you back now. I'm at the movies.'"

A better option than talking, sure. But would it kill people to go full-metal incommunicado for two hours?

More to the point, are we really doomed to a world in which the shushers are increasingly ignored, drowned out and shunned - and in which selfish, obnoxious behavior rules?

People, that is just so wrong.

"It was the red Hawaiian gross icky punch," says Peter Frederick, 37, a stockbroker who lives in Carmichael. "My wife had khakis and a white shirt on, and she ended up covered in red."

Her mistake? Shushing a chatty woman during a showing of - appropriately enough - "From Hell" a few years ago. The woman threw her 32-ounce soda, which hit Frederick's wife in the head. Meanwhile, the woman's companion went ballistic.

"The guy went after me," says Frederick.

Security guards intervened. Police were called. All in all, a mess.

Bill Conner and a few other folks tried to shush two noisy young men in a movie two years ago. Bad news. The guys stood up, insulted, and one of them dropped the bottle of liquor they were drinking, smashing it. Then they got really mad.

They stalked through the theater, glaring at people and demanding to know who'd told them to be quiet, Conner says.

"It was a roller coaster between being angry and being frightened - and I'm a combat veteran," says Conner, 55, who works for the state and lives in Elk Grove. "You shouldn't have to go through that at the movies."

A theater worker peered in and quickly left, Conner says. Who could blame him? Minimum wage doesn't include combat pay.

Belligerence, the new norm. A selection of choice retorts to being shushed:

"Well, you're the one talking now!"

Very snarky indeed, but 22-year-old Elizabeth Rowell of Galt, a Sacramento State psychology major, didn't let that response keep her from insisting the guy behind her at a showing of "The Village" get off his cell phone. He did.

"You'll have to ask me nicely because I'm trying to teach my son proper behavior at the movies."

No way was Maris Montanet, an east Sacramento artist, buying that lame response from the mother of a 5-year-old, who talked and talked and talked. The mom, not the kid.

And finally, this: "It's OK to talk during the movie when the actors aren't talking."

Oh, good heavens. They're making up their own rules.

"We explained to this woman that even the silent parts are important," says Kathy Giles, 57, a Roseville interior design coordinator. "My dad worked for Warner Brothers for 40 years. He's long gone now, but if he only knew what going to see movies was like these days."

Other moments from movie audience hell:

At "Batman Begins" a couple of weeks ago, Bob Badgley politely shushed the middle-age women behind him and thought his problems were over. Uh-uh. No such luck.

"A few minutes later, something brushed my elbow, resting on the left armrest," says Badgley, 66, a Roseville retiree.

It was a naked foot. One of the ladies had decided to stretch out, tootsies alfresco. Eww. Gross.

"I couldn't believe it," Badgley says.

He moved to another seat and later, on his way out of the theater, mentioned the incident to an employee, who merely shrugged. A foot? Big deal.

"My husband and I always get to the movie early to get good seats," says Laura Tinney, 53, a teacher who lives in Fair Oaks.

That was their first mistake. By the time the drunk wandered in and sat next to her, there were few places left to move.

"He was telling us all about Jesus, and he kept asking us if we'd been saved," she says. "It was hard to tell what was worse, the ranting or the fumes."

At a recent showing of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," Valya Kindelvich watched as a toddler ran up and down the carpeted aisle - "Whee!" - through the entire movie.

"I love children," says Kindelvich, 47, who sells real estate and lives in Land Park. "I absolutely adore them. But the parents were oblivious. They were on date night, come hell or high water."


"The worst thing I've experienced in the movies was a man sitting behind me who had the most incredible body odor," says Dana Sumlar, 41, a marketing coordinator and south Sacramento resident. "And his breath - I'm surprised I didn't have a bald spot singed into my scalp.

"Would you go to a fine restaurant covered in perspiration? You want to present yourself in a positive light. A movie theater is no different, just because it's dark."

Clearly, that's where she's mistaken. The evidence is overwhelming that the boors have already inherited the Earth.

They sneak fast food into movie theaters; sacks of it. They smuggle in alcohol, too. Like the nicely dressed couple in their 60s sitting behind Maris Montanet at a recent showing of "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith." They popped the cork on a bottle of wine, and they got rowdy.

"The woman is yelling 'Yay!' during the exciting parts," says Montanet. "She's stomping and clapping and jumping up and down. She reminded me of my niece when she was 5 years old."

What are we to make of a world in which such tackiness prevails and common decency is no longer, well, common? Respect for others long ago took the bus to one of the more civilized and polite countries, leaving us with only ourselves to blame.

And leaving us at the movies with people in need of classes in impulse control and anger management - the insolent cell phone users, the inebriated loudmouths, the soda-tossing malcontents.

They think they're entitled. The rest of us disagree. But really, whatever. We're already in full retreat.

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08-05-2005, 12:41 AM