Moviegoing 101: Behave Yourself!


This week I had two bad experiences watching TV in the cinema and both of them had to do with other people’s behavior (or misbehavior) during the movie.

Manners, people, please have them.

On Wednesday, I went to watch Michael Mann’s Blackhat with a friend. We both knew that we were going to be slightly late because we had an appointment with someone else so when we got tickets we made sure to get seats next to the aisle. That way we won’t have to disturb other people’s viewing by trying to get into our chairs in the middle or the end of the row. Nothing is more annoying than people coming in late and trying to squeeze their way in between your knees and the chair in front of you, hitting your bag, stepping on your toes, blocking your vision and loudly saying, “Sorry!” (Or worse, not apologizing at all, which has happened several times!) in the middle of a scene in the movie.

We went in a few minutes late and quickly located our seats. When we got there, there were plastics of food (Shin Lin chicken, the Taiwanese snack, which was so very pungent with all the spices it had on the slab of meat) and handbags on our chairs. When it was obvious that we were going to sit there the people on the two seats next to us immediately cleaned their crap out but my friend’s mood was ruined. I remained calm for a while longer… until these people continued to eat in LOUD noise. Quite honestly, it was disgusting. I have nothing against eating food inside a cinema, but as a rule, I expect those foods to be eaten with mouth closed. It’s utterly disgusting to hear people chewing loudly and talking with food inside their mouths. And these people did exactly just that with that chicken.

During the course of the movie, these people not only ate in a really appalling manner, then proceeded to loudly exclaim and interject comments at every single scene they saw. “Oh look! Chris Hemsworth is in prison!” “Wow, Korea looks dirty… what? Koreatown is not in Korea? Where is then?” “That’s Indonesian dialogue!” “where is this in Jakarta?” “Her make-up makes her look like a ghost!” and so on, all the way throughout the movie until the end. Also, one of them kept checking their smart phones with glaring LCD display, hurting our eyes in the middle of the darkness of the cinema. My friend went, “Could you please turn that off? The light is very distracting.” All she got was a giggling response, “Oh, the movie’s about to finish anyway.” Which is not the point, you rude and mannerless heathen. 

The exact same thing happened at another screening the next day. On Thursday, I went to watch The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death. I expected a noisy cinema – it is a horror movie, after all, and people tend to get shrieky during horror movies, myself included – but I never expected to see or hear people eating a goddamn box of rice (or whatever it was that smelled like a goddamned Padang restaurant, complete with yet again the pungent smell of spices) AND CRACKERS. Yes, they were eating crispy crackers and didn’t bother masking the sound. If you’re ever going to eat something inside a cinema, couldn’t you stick to popcorn and/or nachos? Really.

Those were the people two seats over. The person to the seat right next to mine? Kept turning on his phone and checking messages during scary scenes. Dude, if you know you’re going to be scared inside a horror movie, close your damn eyes.

These incidents got me thinking. They happen so often that I suspect that the majority of people I meet in cinemas really have no basic concept of etiquette. I’m not even being condescending because it just seems like they really have no clue. I’m not expecting people to be all prim and proper as they do at a formal dinner party or anything like that but some things are just so simple that to ignore them or comply with them just show how much of an idiot they are.

1. Be on time.

We have only 3 cinema chains in Indonesia: XXI, Blitz and Cinemaxx.
The time printed on the ticket in XXI Cinema is usually the time the movie starts. They open their door to the screening studio at least 10 minutes before the movie starts. So if you have your ticket, you should know to get into the room before the time printed on your ticket. They also have PA system where they announce door opening and movie starting times. How and why you can be late with the movies with this system, I have no idea.

The time printed on the ticket in Blitz Megaplex is usually the time the door to the screening studio opened. You get another 10-15 minutes (or even longer) to wait inside and watch the trailers and commercials before the movie starts. Blitz Megaplex (or at least the ones in Grand Indonesia and Pacific Place) don’t have announcements from the PA system. You have to manage your own time when watching a movie at Blitz but now that you know this – because I just told you – it’s supposed to be simple to do.

I know nothing about Cinemaxx so anyone who wants to enlighten me, feel free.

2. Be quiet.

Pretty sure people are not supposed to talk inside the screening studios. All cinemas usually warn you of this on their big screens before the movie starts. If you can’t pay attention, then you’re an idiot.
‘Being quiet’ means not only trying to keep your voice low when you address people inside the studio, whether to excuse yourself when you’re going to squeeze yourselves to get to your seat or when you’re asking anyone a question. Reacting to a movie itself by laughing, sobbing, shouting or shrieking might be acceptable to a certain point but, no, people generally don’t need to hear you pointing out what’s happening in every single scene. You think Chris Hemsworth is hot as a convincted prisoner in jail? Fine. Keep your admiration down to a sigh. Just stop making any loud noises that will disturb people.

3. Don’t discuss a movie DURING the movie.

This happens a lot, too. It’s bad enough when people react to certain scenes in a grandiose way, it’s even worse when you hear an actual conversation being carried out during the movie. I’ve lost count of how many times I hear people asking their friends/dates/family members to explain a plot point or what was happening during a scene. It’s so ridiculous that it should be illegal.

You don’t know what an Orc is? Go out and read a J.R.R. Tolkien book before you buy a ticket to The Hobbit. You don’t know what happened to Tony Stark in The Avengers? There are DVDs. You don’t know what a robot is? You poor thing; please open Wikipedia. You don’t know English and the subtitles are not helping you? Don’t watch Hollywood movies and stick to Indonesian films. But please stop asking someone else to explain all these things to you while they – and the rest of the world – are trying to watch something. 

If you happen to be the person someone is asking to explain stuff like these to them, please refrain from launching into a half an hour lecture during a movie just to impress them. Your date is not likely to comprehend your inoheren explanation and the people you’re sitting next to definitely won’t be impressed.

4. Sit on your own seats.

When you buy movie tickets in Indonesian cinemas, you get assigned a seat number. Stick to it. I don’t care if it seems like nobody is coming when the studio lights are dimming and the opening credits are rolling. You bought tickets with seat numbers on it, that’s where you should sit. You don’t sit on seats whose numbers are not printed on your tickets, and then question or complain to the people who do have those seat numbers printed on your ticket.

5. Eat lightly.

Close your mouth when you chew. Popcorn/nachos/chocolate bars/small fried stuff are acceptable, but NOT anything fragrant with spices. NOT crispy cracker stuff. NOT steak or soup or cereal or whatnot that require proper cutleries. And, again, chew with your lips sealed, mouths closed and all that.

6. Lay down your phones and watch.

I don’t understand people’s obsessive need to turn on their phones during a movie. If you’re going to be busy checking your messages, emails and social media accounts, then what the hell are you doing watching a movie in the first place? Unless you’re checking the time because you don’t own a watch, you should NOT be opening your phone inside a movie studio when the movie is playing.

Not putting your phone on silent mode during a movie is not acceptable. Taking calls during a movie is also not acceptable. Playing a game or Tweeting or using social media during a movie inside the studio is not acceptable. At all.

7. Don’t get angry when people remind you to do the stuff listed above.

It’s never nice to be reminded of your shortcomings by people, especially when they act all superior towards you, but the fact is: if you inconvenience people in public places, you’re going to get told off and it’s your own fault. The least THEY can do is be nice and polite to you about it, but if you don’t get their message, don’t blame them for calling you out on it. Most Indonesians are probably too afraid/shy to remind you to stop doing stuff that ruin their movie experience (or they’re clueless about it) but some people WILL. As long as you stop inconveniencing other people, you’ll be okay. Otherwise, these people (like me) won’t hesitate to have you kicked out from the cinema. Believe that.