Going to the movies is my favorite thing in the world. From the time I was a little kid seeing Beauty & the Beast with my mom all the way through going to see Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 for the second time yesterday afternoon, nothing feels more exhilarating to me than going to the movies.
I don’t mean just watching a movie. Sure, I deeply appreciate the convenience of pouring a glass of Cabernet with my jammies on while I hunt for something to watch on Netflix or HBONow. But watching something in my own living room will never compete with the experience of being inside a movie theatre. From the sticky, poorly lit dollar theatre back in my hometown to the cool, independent theatre around the corner from me now, I’ve never met a movie theatre I didn’t instantly revere.
A movie is the product of an amazing alchemy of technology and art, and it’s a miracle every time a movie happens. There’s not a better smell in the world than buttery popcorn, and there’s no better flavor combination in the world than hot, crunchy, salty popcorn paired with a cold, icy Cherry Coke. Even as so much of the world changes, for the better and for the worse, the core of the movie-going experience remains the same. You get your snacks, you sit in the darkness, and you escape.
Going to the movies makes me feel connected to my friends. I love being the person who researches show times, and sets up the Facebook event to make sure everyone knows about when and where we’re going on opening night. Going to the movies also makes me feel connected to a wider world of like-minded people. I’ll never forget being 11 going on 12, and standing in line outside of the big, beautiful, purple Regal 24, waiting for an early screening of Attack of the Clones. I’d never been around adult nerds before. Tween-me glimpsed for the first time into a world that would eventually become my home.
Going to the movies makes me feel safe. I’m naturally a talker and a performer, and sometimes my big, fat mouth and desire to connect to other humans by sharing all my deepest, darkest secrets wears me out. At the movies, no one’s looking at me. No one is listening to me. At the movies, I am small, and my vulnerability is hidden in the dark and the silver. If I cry from opening credits to closing credits through Spike Jones’ adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, no one has to see me or judge me.
Sometimes, when I feel like I’m failing at therapy, medication, and even yoga, going to the movies is my last resource to steal a few hours of respite from my depression.
This is what I wish I had the time to say to people when they start talking or texting during the movies.
When I overhear whispers during a movie, my blood boils immediately. My stomach constricts, and my head aches. Outside of injustice and prejudice, nothing infuriates me more than someone not observing proper cinema etiquette.
It’s something around which I just can’t wrap my brain. Going to the movies is expensive. Why are you paying so much money just to talk or text through the whole thing? Why are you here?
Also, it’s against the rules. You’re told that all over the place. The screen very politely tells you not to do it before the previews even begin, and there’s usually a display in the lobby that features Yellow M&M imploring you not to do it. If we can’t all rally behind Yellow M&M, what are we even doing? Why are you here?
It’s obviously disruptive and upsetting to the people around you. What did I do to you that you feel so entitled to mess with my joy over being here? How does it not make you feel at least a little guilty to knowingly break a rule that exists to make sure everyone around you has a good time? Why are you here?
PLEASE. SHUT. UP.
Here’s why I’m here.
Sometimes the anticipation of a movie is what keeps me going in a really literal way. This movie is getting me through more than you know. When I feel devoid of hope, which is not infrequent, watching Chris Pratt train velociraptors or Baby Groot dance to ELO or young Chiron swim in the moonlight provides me with enough endorphins and wonder to want to wake up in the morning. Movies are hope and marvel and magic, and watching them on a big screen quiets down my goblins.
I feel pathetic typing this all out. But it’s the truth.
I’m trying to calm down about this. Just like there’s no reason for any stranger in the theatre to know that all of this mental peril is wracking my brain, there’s no reason for me to know why someone else might feel compelled to check their phone or whisper to their friend. Yesterday during Guardians, a group of teenage girls sat down beside my boyfriend and I. I immediately hated them, assuming the worst. Sure enough, they would turn and whisper to each other during the movie, and it drove me crazy every time.
But, I mean, I get it. That movie is awesome. Baby Groot is the cutest thing that’s ever happened. Reacting to it all makes sense. So, I tried to breathe and focus on myself. What do I gain from shushing excited, teenage girls?
If you’re checking your phone during the movie because maybe you’re on a preciously-earned date night with your spouse, and you want to make sure the babysitter is okay, I’m sorry for leaning forward, and asking you to put it away. I know I sound edgy and kind of bitchy. I’m working on it.
When I say “Ssh,” I mean, “Hey there, fellow Earthling. Getting to experience the moment that A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… comes onscreen during absolute silence makes me want to still be alive, so it would mean a lot to me if you would stop talking to your friend. I know that’s weird, but it’s just kind of where I am right now. I really hope you have so much fun at this movie. Namaste.”
But if I take the time to say all of that, I become what I hate.
I’ll never stop going to the movies, and I’ll probably never stop occasionally shushing people. The weightless feeling of excitement that a good movie gives me is worth everything. So, I’m willing to compromise. Just leave your phone on silent, and maybe take it out to the lobby if something important comes up? If you know you’re a chatterbox, maybe sit in the back of the theatre? I’m already sitting as close to the screen as I possibly can to minimize the chance that someone texting won’t be in front of me, terrorizing my experience with their blue glow.
And if we could especially get our collective nonsense together before opening night of The Last Jedi, I would just be the happiest dork the multiplex has ever seen.
Let’s respect each other’s move-going journey. Please take all your trash to the receptacles at the rear of the theatre. Please silence your cell phones now.
Most importantly, enjoy the movie.