I have long-professed a love of silence at the movies. I have held up my love of sitting by myself in an empty theater watching movies all alone. I stand by this ideal, but yesterday, I did something quite far removed from it – I attended a quote-along event of one of my favorite movies, “Clue.”
A theater near me put together the event complete with champagne poppers to be used when guns were shot, flashlights for when the power went out, and a bell for when the doorbell rang. Naturally there were also a number of lines subtitled on the screen, not that many people in that particular audience needed them.
It was a great experience. Mostly.
People using the various props and reading the subtitled lines proved exceptionally fun. Particularly great was trying to get through Mrs. Peacock’s entire speech at dinner as she tries to break the ice (the one that ends with “and, oh my, this soup’s delicious, isn’t it?”). Rather than tossing the whole speech up in a single subtitle, we kept getting a new set of subtitles as her talk went on and on and on. Every new subtitle led to a fresh peal of laughter.
I saw two downsides to the entire event.
First off, one of the lines was incorrectly subtitled. It was an Yvette line that ends with “mon Dieu,” but whomever wrote out the subtitle did it “monsieur.” They may sound similar, but one made sense in the context of what she was saying and one didn’t. That was the smaller of the two issues. A nagging one to be sure, but smaller.
The larger problem was perhaps entirely predictable and related to the reciting of the film’s dialogue. The saying of non-subtitled lines was most certainly allowed, and encouraged by the theater, but there was one gentleman who—very impressively mind you—did some scenes nearly in their entirety. The issue was that he was not content with just saying the lines, but rather had to belt them out at a volume where he, a single person, drowned out the on screen actors. It was one thing for a theater with hundreds of people in it to be louder than the folks on screen but quite another for a single person to be talking at such a volume. If he had simply been saying the lines I don’t think anyone would have had a problem, but that isn’t what took place.
Where then did this leave me and my silence-in-the-theater rule?
In the end, it clarified it all for me. People agree to certain behavior in the theater – whether that’s talking along with the movie at a special event or being quiet. The issue arises when someone(s) decide(s) that they are going to go off and do their own thing outside of what everyone else is doing. Movies are a communal event, and people stepping outside the group in ways that detract from everyone’s experience are detrimental. You don’t talk during a regular movie and you don’t yell every line at a quote-along. You consider your actions as they will affect those around you. It really doesn’t seem like much to ask.
photo credit: Paramount Pictures