“Shhhhh!” said a woman in the row behind me at the movies last night. Sat forward in her chair with a finger pressed to her bright pink lips: “Shhhh! Shhhh! Shhhh!” The finger then traveled forward and wagged side to side in a hypnotic “no no no”. Rhythmic, like a metronome. “No talking,” she continued. “This is a movie!” Satisfied, she pushed back into her chair and glanced at her three female friends. Job done.
“But it’s the previews!” I said. First to her and then to my friend, Yifat, who I had been chatting to and laughing with (modestly), while we waited for Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, to begin. I thought chatting during previews was allowed? Actually, I thought a lot of stuff was allowed during previews, like last minute dashes for snacks or the bathroom – a window for latecomers. The film is also in its 14th week, so getting tickets and finding seats in Vancouver’s half-empty Park theatre had been easy.
I wondered when the evening would get easy and fun for the shusher? She was already with friends. Doesn’t an evening out typically get fun when you meet up, say in the lobby or over a glass of wine, food or coffee beforehand? Does the movie officially have to begin before the relaxation does on movie nights? Or I guess in this woman’s case the previews, as long as everyone else is silent. How badly did this woman need The Grand Budapest Hotel to be good? What if it was crap?
I was reminded of the last time I upset a cinema goer in Vancouver, while out on a Friday night with my husband at Burrard Street's Fifth Avenue Cinema. I can’t remember what we saw, but this time it was a question of personal space.
Again, it was not packed, but it was a Friday evening so people were out. We chose aisle seats in a row that had one other couple in it; they were stationed in the middle. The woman turned her head and looked at us as we sat down. Her expression was blank and then she got up. "Excuse me," she said is a hushed but exasperated tone. She squeezed between our legs and the chair backs in front and escaped. While she was gone a group of three arrived and asked to sit beside us. "Sure," we said and stood to let them in. When the woman returned carrying a bucket of popcorn and drinks she took one look at our chain of five people that linked all the way up with her and partner's seats. "Well," she said, slightly louder this time. “Looks like we picked the most popular row in the theatre!”