I’ve been waiting a while to write this, to give myself time to cool down. It stems from when Korean Cigarette Smoking Moriarty Man and I went to a movie. We were both pretty fired up about the audience.
No really, we were pretty pissed off. When you plunk down hard–earned cash for an afternoon of entertainment, you expect other people who’ve done the same to respect that. Or at least act like they cared about spending their own money.
We took the initiative to go see The Cabin In The Woods (which was pretty darned post-modern clever without being all Kevin Smith-y about it), even though we’d met for a different movie, and the movie audience was so bad that the movie theatre where we went to see it has become the first official entry on the “Banned for Life” list that I haven’t invoked since college.
Regal Potomac Yard Stadium 16 of Alexandria, Virginia…I salute you. With a middle finger.
First and foremost, let me say that the movie is worth seeing. It’s fun, it honors and mocks the best and worst tropes of the horror genre, and it doesn’t run longer than it should. If you didn’t see it in the theatre, it’s worth a rental/download.
Now that we’re past the nice part, let me illustrate all the ways in which this audience, which I consider emblematic of the trend of all audiences, sucked. They sucked so hard, I’m surprised the theatre wasn’t in deep vacuum.
It’s hard even to quantify every problem with them.
- Was it the general lack of silence throughout the entire movie?
- Was it the screaming infant trapped in a loud, smelly and cold room with sudden, violent noises? I do not blame the infant, mind you, but the “mother” who couldn’t consider the infant before herself. Really nice and selfless you pile of crap; sorry that kids might impact your social schedule.
- What about cell phones? Even though we was sitting as far forward as we were able, I still saw at least one light up.
- Would you enjoy complete idiots walking (sneaking?) in when the movie was three-quarters over, asking how long it had been on, and then sitting down…only to leave minutes later? Because I’m pretty sure KCSMM didn’t.
- Oh, and I love the trend of bringing children under 10 to an R-rated horror movie. Sure, they’re likely to see it, and you can’t stop it (no one could stop us) but at least make them work for it as opposed to giving your parental stamp of approval.
That list isn’t even complete! Those are just the most egregious sins against good taste evidenced in a 90–minute movie.
While everyone likes to blame cell phones for movie disruptions, I prefer to look at home video as the root cause of the problem. And as that technology has become increasingly better, audiences have become steadily worse.
Movie theatres take all control away from an audience used to pause, freeze frame and bathroom breaks. They also can’t compete with the notion of “on demand,” which has made us lose all concept of having to adapt our own schedules to the theatre’s.
Perhaps it’s a naturally selfish behavior we’ll never completely avoid.
An Hereditary Behavior?
Going all the way back to Renaissance times, the Groundlings have always been a factor. The people who were “less refined,” uninterested in any complexity and instead looking for something just to take their minds off ditch–digging.
These were the people who laughed at Shakespeare’s ass jokes while missing the point of Richard III and smelled of their favorite snacks, which were leeks. No, really. Leeks were the popcorn of their day. So imagine a large group of half–drunk, smelly and under–educated people loudly interrupting plays and not getting anything but the most obvious of jokes and references.
So is the disheartening truth that it’s hard–wired in our DNA to be crappy audience members unable to appreciate art and going for the cheap seats?
The box office receipts of the Transformers movies would seem to support the theory that it’s hard–wired into us. The fact that every few weeks there’s a movie that’s an inexplicable smash hit, and then fades from memory like a drop of laziness in a sea of mediocrity.
If so, then social media and the insulating nature of mass customization have only compounded a pre–existing problem. They’ve compounded it exponentially, but not created it.
So how to solve this?
IQ Tests for Theatre Tickets
Instead of an MPAA ratings system, which is arguably arbitrary anyway, I say we go with an IQ test. To make it fair, what you do is follow these steps:
- Administer a stringent IQ test. No curve, no adjustments. Divide the ticket holders into two simple groups. Label one “Slack–Jawed Popcorn Munchers” and the other, “Normal.”
- If the majority of ticket purchasers for a showing skew toward the stupid, you inform the minority of the opportunity to get a refund for their tickets. They may also have a voucher for a later show and a free small popcorn instead. If they refuse, then their crappy movie time is on them.
- Assign seats in the theatre according to IQ. Regardless of the result, be sure to separate the groups.
- If the unintelligent become unruly, remove them from the theatre. Since some audience members could pose a physical threat to ushers, outfit them with body armor, stun guns and beanbag guns. (These should also be available at an extra cost to the intelligent patrons.)
- Disenfranchise the unintelligent. They should not be allowed to vote. Since they took the IQ test voluntarily, we can store the information in a national database so that the stupid people—regardless of political persuasion—can stop ruining every aspect of our lives both within and without the movie theatre.
You’re gosh–darn welcome.