Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Regal Theaters Allow Patrons to Report Problem Moviegoers; Debbie's Rules of Movie Etiquette

By Debbie Schlussel

Three cheers to Regal Entertainment Group.

Although I see a lot of private screenings of movies, I also attend a number of public ones. And I can't stand when people incessantly talk (including on their cellphones!) and make noise during a movie (including by bringing their screaming infants to the theater). People have lost their sense of common courtesy and the most basic etiquette. You need not be Emily Post or Letitia Baldridge to know that if you're at a movie, shut up and watch.

Now, Regal is providing patrons wireless devices to anonymously alert the manager of disruptions, rude customers, and other disruptions (cell phones, talking, etc.):

Regal will try to change that this week by introducing its Regal Guest Response System in 114 theaters, up from a test at 13 that began last year. Customers in Regal's loyalty points program will be invited to take a cellphone-size device into the theater. If something pushes their buttons - a disturbance, picture or sound glitch, someone recording the film - they can push one of four buttons to alert the manager.

"We've seen an improvement in the customer etiquette with the implementation of this program," [Regal VP Dick] Westerling says. "It addresses these problems on a more routine basis and in a faster manner."

That's a great thing I wish they'd thought of sooner. And it's something that should be expanded throughout the moviegoing industry.

Unfortunately, it comes at a time when most people are renting and staying home. It's simply not worth $10 plus $8 more for food per person (and expensive gasoline and probably parking) to see most movies out there, these days.

That's why movie theaters are suddenly interested in politeness and common courtesy. Doing the right thing has nothing to do with it.

It's all about the bottom line.


Since I'm a self-described movie-Nazi, here's my list of dos and don't for going to the movies:

* If you can't find a baby sitter for your infant or other-aged, noisemaking toddler, stay home.

* Don't bring your 8-year-old daughter to see "300." "Daddy, why did that man's head come off his neck?" "What's a concubine?" "Mommy, what are those two people doing in the bed?" I don't need to hear you explain Persian beheadings and "the birds and the bees" to your way-too-young kid. That uncomfortable experience is not to be shared with 400 total strangers focused on a screen. There's a reason it's rated "R," which does not stand for Really Irresponsible. Bringing your kid to movies like this constitutes child abuse.

* If you need to answer your cellphone, stay home (unless you are a medical doctor, in which case, put it on vibrate and answer it OUTSIDE the theater).

* If you need to have a constantly-flashing Bluetooth on your ear, stay home. The light distracts theater goers.

* If you need to incessantly check your Blackberry, stay at Starbucks . . . and away from the theater.

* If you need to constantly give your friend/significant other/ companion the play-by-play, audition for ESPN or Monday Night Football. We can see the screen. We hear the on-screen dialogue as well as you do. We know what's going on. And so does your escort. Dennis Miller got fired from "Monday Night Football" for a reason. His dumb commentary--when what we saw on the screen was more than enough--was beyond annoying. And so is your commentary.

* If you need to make out, get a room. The only physical display of affection we need see is on the big screen.

* Above all, SHUT THE HECK UP! (If you must make a brief comment, whisper!)

* If you didn't do it before cell phones and Blackberries existed, and it isn't an emergency, don't do it now.

Really, I'm not a movie prude. I just want to watch my movie in peace and--other than what's going on on-screen and through the theater sound system--quiet.