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Movie manners 

Loud-talkers, chair-kickers and texters: Our film critic won’t say anything to you, but know he’s there, seething in the back row.

The lights dim as the pre-show comes to an end. I settle into my usual slouch, folding into my padded chair like an accordion. I don't have especially high hopes for Season of the Witch, but as the film starts I notice what, to me, is a rare and precious phenomenon: a quiet theatre. At least I won't be distracted from Nicolas Cage's medieval silliness.

And then the noises begin. Sharp rattling sounds, followed by loud crunching. I look to my left. A teenager shakes the ice around in his cup and pours a bunch of cubes into his mouth.

Crunch. It's not malicious. He's absentmindedly indulging a harmless habit. In my mind, though, dude might as well be lighting fireworks.

Or worse. He could be talking. I have a painfully low threshold for distractions. While most people are organizing their snacks and sussing out the coming attractions, I'm surveying the theatre for cellphone lights, giggling kids and hard-of-hearing greybeards with deep voices. Whereas most people gravitate to the central seats, I head straight for the back corner to put as much distance as possible between myself and other patrons.

If I sound like a grumpy, neurotic, anal-retentive jackass, it's because I am. At least, I am when I go to the movies. I'm Larry David, Ebenezer Scrooge and a school hall monitor rolled into a single curmudgeon. Worst of all, I'm a passive-aggressive one. I seem to believe that I can turn off smartphones and mute chatters with a simple icy glare. This has never actually worked. But what am I supposed to do---actually say something?

Maybe I should. "A lot of times it's self-policing," says Dean Leland, VP of studio and media relations for Empire Theatres. "Some of our regular patrons are very good at catching the eye of our staff people and indicating that there is some sort of concern in the auditorium."

Yeah. I still probably won't do it. Clearly I have issues. But it's amazing how oblivious or uncaring some filmgoers can be. I'm not talking about ice-chewing or popcorn shuffling or any other eating-related noise. People want munchies at the pictures. I get that. My complaint is with the various kinds of talkers, the folks who are forever missing something and asking their companion, "What just happened?" (Just keep watching and you're bound to figure it out.) The predictors who try very vocally to stay one step ahead of the plot. (Use your inside voice.)

I'm also talking about the chair- kickers. If you're older than five and under seven feet tall, you can probably keep your legs under control in the space allotted. And the texters. Can't it wait? Can't you at least go outside?

I shouldn't expend so much energy on the question of whether Empire's schoolmarm-y pleas to refrain from talking and texting, which run onscreen before every show, will be heeded. I should better appreciate that movie-watching can be a beautiful collective experience, an activity bringing hundreds together to laugh, cry and otherwise enjoy the work of cinematic artists. This appreciation is a big part of why we go out to theatres rather than watch everything at home.

But the lack of consideration from talkers, texters or neurotic and dagger-staring film critics can diminish this experience, and those of us who fall into any of these categories need to rethink our behaviour. "What it comes down to is the whole respect thing," says Leland.

My show of respect involves lightening up a bit. And if I slip, do feel free to talk to your friends or tweet about the grouchy loser giving you the evil eye from the back row. But please, wait until the show's over.


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