Some basics of theater etiquette

This last weekend, I decided to go to the movies with one of my best friends. Being a poor college student and whatnot, we decided to hit a matinee to save a few dollars. Snacks and drinks purchased, we settle into the theater under the suspicion that we were the only ones there. Ten minutes into the movie, two older couples enter the theater, sit right behind us and talk the remaining 90 minutes of the film. To say the least, by the end of the movie, I felt irritated.

Whether it’s at a movie theater or at an auditorium like the Val A. Browning Center, there are a few items of etiquette that all patrons should recognize so as to provide the best experience possible for both themselves and for the patrons around them: Patrons need to be on time and be respectful of others in the theater, putting away cameras and cell phones and keeping discussion to a minimum.

When I perform, there is nothing more frustrating or distracting than to see audience members out of their seats, moving around during the performance, especially at the very beginning of a show. At the movie theater, it’s also extremely distracting to be disrupted by patrons who come in late and often struggle to find a seat in the dark.

Besides it being rude and disruptive, in the eyes of this poor college kid, it’s also a waste of money. Depending on the movie theater or production, tickets can be anywhere from $7-$20 and beyond. Just like everything else in this world, entertainment does not go for a song, and should not be treated as if it does.

There is nothing more annoying than trying to sit through a movie or concert, only to be constantly disrupted by someone’s cell phone. At a concert at The Great Saltair I went to this spring, the performer asked all the people on cell phones to please look up and watch him, not their screens. Not only were all the cell phones obnoxious to this performer — being constantly whacked in the eye by the elbow of someone recording the concert, or taking a picture, or whatever on their phone made for a massive headache by the end of the night.  Distraction aside, taking pictures at an event is oftentimes illegal. The material presented at performances is copyrighted and reproducing that material is against the law.

I’m not alone.

Cell phones — they’re almost essential in this day and in this society, to function, to socialize, and just about everything else we humans think we need to do. As useful and necessary as they are, there’s really no reason they should be out during a performance or a movie. The light given off by the screen is very distracting to performers and fellow patrons. Of course, there are those times that a very important call is expected, or some other legitimate excuse, but for the most part, it is not difficult to survive an hour to an hour and a half. I have seen patrons sit on the back row of seats when they have things they need to accomplish during the performance. At the movie theater, it would be much more polite and courteous to sit on the edge of a row, near the door, for a quick escape as necessary.

No one likes a chatterbox, especially in a movie theater or in the middle of a stage production. With the increasing quality of produced entertainment, the small nuances that make a movie or production come alive can be drowned out by the crying of a baby or the quiet chatter of friends. While discussing the movie may seem like a good idea at the time, that talking can lead to missed details and a less-satisfying experience.

Having courtesy for others in theaters is something that few think of, but that all should exhibit. Good manners, especially at theaters, can make or break a performance for not only the performers, but also for the other patrons also in the theater. When attending a movie, play or any other event held in a theater, patrons should remember to be on time as well as be respectful and put away cell phones and cameras.