Socializing during movies shouldn’t be acceptable

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Photo by Luke Sarazin

 

Somehow, the concept of going to see a film has become tied up with forms of direct interaction: a person goes to the show with friends, or on a date.

This is curious and especially flawed because cinema is not inherently a social experience. A movie — at least, a good movie — is generally crafted to captivate the senses. It is a visual and audial experience that is intended to fully capture one’s attention and enrapture them in the world contained onscreen.

I love movies, and I love the cinematic experience of sitting disconnected from the world for several hours in a dark room, watching thoughtful dialogue and brilliant action unfold on big screens. But the way our world consumes movies is beginning to destroy the sanctity of that experience.

What a person does in their own living room is their own choice: if someone decides to turn on the television and then divide their attention between it and conversations with the people around them, or if they decide to play on their phone for the entire duration, that’s their own choice. These products are made in formats consumable within the home, by whatever terms a person wants to organize that experience.

But when you extend this method to the confines of the cinema — and this is hard to say without sounding like the cheap, nagging ads that play before the movie — you’re disrupting people around you.

And, worse, you’re actually actively detracting from the cinematic experience.

Because when you talk to your friends, when you pull out your phone, you’re not just momentarily interrupting the scene; you’re pulling the people around you out of their deep involvement with the picture unfolding onscreen.

Maybe that’s the sad future, and maybe that’s the death of film. Maybe the folks like me, the ones who actually enjoy watching movies, are no longer the crowd catered to in the cinema.

You’re severing an intimate bond between a person and a work of art.

And Snapchat? Two of the four times I’ve gone to the movies in the last three weeks, people have pulled out their phones to record scenes from the screen to send to their friends — an act that not only flashes rude, bright lights all around the cinema and in the eyes of those sitting behind you, but even qualifies as a downright illegal reproduction of a film to which you do not hold any of the rights.

There is no right or wrong in any of this — except for the criminal fact of unauthorized reproduction — and, in recent trips, I’ve noticed less and less enforcement of no-talking and no cell phone policies in theatres.

People talk more during movies than they used to, and people text more during movies, no matter how detrimental it is to the cinematic experience.

That’s a part of the latest generation: our attentions are divided between a thousand different things at once. You can’t exactly mandate a method by which everyone is forced to enjoy films in the same way.

And movie theatres — at least the big ones — are corporate institutions that care less about preserving the art and experience of cinema than they do about the bottom line.

What can a person even do? It’s a sad state of things when the experience itself is diluted so that texters and talkers are to be the new typical clientele of the cinema.

Maybe that’s the sad future, and maybe that’s the death of film. Maybe the folks like me, the ones who actually enjoy watching movies, are no longer the crowd catered to in the cinema.

Maybe we will just have to stay home.

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