November brings change: weather change, time change, and attitude change. Things get festive wherever you look. Once we put away those Halloween costumes, we all seem to be in the mood for family gatherings and holiday parties.
Even the feel at the box office changes. Family movies take over the theatres, offering alternatives to the annual traditions of over-eating, drinking, napping, and arguing over politics or football. For many, the after-dinner movie has become the tradition.
Taking a group to the movies, whether family or friends, can be a great way to spend your afternoon or evening, providing conversation prompts for hours afterward. Group movie dates can present challenges too, logistical and behavioral. I want to dedicate this little niche of blog space to help the holiday movie-goer with a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
First let’s address the logistical problems we all run into with groups. I’m not shy—money is a big deal. Tickets are expensive, and concession treats can get out of hand quickly with a big group. If you’re taking a truckload to the show, your budget can stretch farther with some planning. Eat dinner—or at least a filling snack—right before you go to the movie. Let everyone know that you’re all eating first so that you don’t need a lot of candy and treats at the theatre.
Next, talk to your group about seating arrangements before you leave your house. A big group may not all get to sit together. Consider this possibility with the attitude of “divide and conquer.” If you can’t all fit on the same row, don’t panic. I always found it easier to monitor (and sometimes gently chastise) my kids when they sat on the row in front of me. Smaller groups scattered around the theatre may be a better option. Just remember one very important rule of etiquette: when you bring a child to the movie theatre, you are responsible for them. Keep them in your view at all times.
On that same thread, a large group should get to the theatre early. It might even be a good idea to pre-purchase your tickets so that you don’t have half of your group getting into one showing, and the rest being told the movie is sold out. It happens more than you expect, and situations like that wear on everybody’s nerves.
Now let’s move on to the behavioral side of group movie outings. When I first began taking my boys to the theatre, we discussed at length how we behave. We talked about putting our trash in the waste bins. We talked about restroom breaks and not blocking other peoples’ view. We talked about saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the theatre workers and ‘excuse me’ to other guests. We talked about being courteous and not rocking our seats back too far or kicking the seats of others. Please, please, PLEASE talk to your kids about all of these things, too. And if you see your child misbehaving, let them know that you expect them to apologize and correct their ways. Again, if you bring them, they are your responsibility. Ask the older ones in the group to set a good example for the younger ones to follow.
I am a firm believer in age-appropriate movies, especially with groups. If you have a toddler, please don’t bring them to a rated-R or PG-13 movie. They won’t like it. You won’t like it. All of the other people in the theatre won’t like it. When you have to take a scared, screaming baby out to the lobby, you’ll be upset that you missed the rest of the film. You’ll be cranky that you can’t just go home, because you have to wait on the others in your group to finish the show. And if you don’t take the screaming baby out to the lobby, the other patrons in the movie will want to lynch you before you leave.
As far as cell phones go, turn them off. That little clip they show before the movie—the one where they tell you not to text or talk on the phone—they mean it. If you want to talk on the phone, don’t go to the movie. If you want to watch a movie, don’t talk on the phone. It bothers people. It bothers me. I’m not kidding; turn it off.
When it comes to talking during a movie, my rules might be slightly different than others. I am not a zero-tolerance kind of gal. I’m strict, but not tyrannical. I believe that great movies evoke immediate responses from audiences. I think it’s wonderful to hear laughs, screams, gasps, sobs and Oh NOs throughout a film. I am lenient about quiet questions. “What did he say?” or “I didn’t catch his name.” After all, I don’t want someone to miss something important. Occasional whispers pertaining to the movie are allowed, as long as both parties consent. Full volume speaking is never okay. Chatting about anything not pertaining to the film is never okay.
Movies should be fun for everybody. You’re paying for a good show, and so is everybody else in the theatre. Manners don’t cost anything, and we should take advantage of that bargain. Enjoy your holiday movies!
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!