Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, let’s acknowledge two basic facts: talking at the cinema will earn you a place in a very special level of hell. Under the right circumstances, though, it is also incredibly fun. As crazy as it sounds, these two ideas can peacefully coexist.
Before I get into how you can get away with talking at the cinema, I have one small disclaimer: if you annoy someone with these techniques, abandon ship immediately. No matter what you prefer or enjoy, the cardinal rule of the movies is to avoid ruining someone else’s experience. I’m also not going to advocate getting out your tablet, turning lights on, or doing anything to evolve the “second screen” experience. Movie theatres are elaborate and expensive. Doing anything but paying attention to the film defeats the point.
Be A Courteous Jerk
Talking at the cinema is a bit like speeding on the freeway. You shouldn’t do it, you’ll get in trouble if you get caught, but you can totally get away with it if you adhere to some moderation and common courtesy. Regardless of your situation (and I’ll discuss some special circumstances below), there are a few basic rules you need to follow if you don’t want to get pelted with popcorn:
Know your audience. Before you even enter a theatre, ask the friends you’re going with how they feel about talking during a film. You might be surprised to find out how many people don’t mind the occasional joke, but if the person you’re going to be sitting next to prefers silence, it’s better to know beforehand.
Never talk loud enough for more than one person to hear. If you’re incapable of whispering, you’re heading for disaster. There are nearly zero situations where it’s ok to say something loud enough for someone two seats away to hear you, much less the entire theatre. You should have already chosen your talking buddy, so make sure they’re the only ones who can hear you. (This also means that talking during movies becomes progressively more acceptable the fewer people are in your theatre.)
Pick your moments carefully. There are good times to say words during a movie and there are bad times. Learn the difference. If critical dialogue is (or even might be) happening on screen, shut up. If it’s a very quiet or tense moment, you probably can’t whisper quietly enough to avoid ruining it for someone. However, loud action scenes or filler scenes are more acceptable. Note: figuring this out is kind of like learning good comedic timing. There aren’t hard and fast rules, but people know when you do it wrong.
Say something worth hearing. This will probably rule out 99 per cent of potential movie talkers, but here’s the thing: you’re competing with a movie that could cost upwards of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. If you’re going to say something even to your talking buddy, it has to be something they enjoy enough to be briefly distracted from a movie they paid good money for. Even consensual movie talkers can be annoyed by dumb comments. Save your comments for your best jokes or most critical questions.
Of course, these are just rough guidelines that are mostly aimed at keeping you from getting caught. Which brings us to the most important rule of all: if someone asks you to stop, then stop. If you get so much as a “shh” from another audience member, it means the jig is up. You’re whispering too loudly to be subtle and it has bothered someone. Remember, regardless of how you feel about talking during the movie or how careful you are to not be disruptive, you are still breaking the rules. Don’t try to resist or be rude back. Just enjoy the rest of the movie in silence.
Get Louder At Midnight Showings
You have the basic rules down for how to avoid causing problems, but you’re still not satisfied. You want to laugh, cheer, whoop and clap at the movie. You’re not alone. I’m right there with you. You know what we should do? We should meet at a midnight showing.
Midnight showings aren’t always for the idle commentary crowd (though it depends on the crowd). However, you will almost always find the most enthusiastic fans at the earliest showings possible. These are the people you can cheer along with you, who will clap with you when the credits roll, and who will forgive you for laughing a bit too much when Hulk smashes Loki, because they’re right there with you. Oh, yeah, and there are typically at least a few people in costume. This is clearly not your typical movie experience.
If you want your movie outing to feel more like a concert, this is the place to be. However, if you want to pretend to be the next Joel Hodgson, you should probably keep your mouth shut here. That same enthusiastic crowd that loves getting excited and loud over their movies will probably be more irate than others if you ruin it for them.
Go To Special Movies That Encourage Interaction
If you find out that you can’t control the volume of your voice and you keep getting kicked out of theatres, maybe you need a different outlet. There are some movies that local or independent theatres will show solely because people enjoy interacting with them. In most cases, these are bad movies that get made fun of, so if that’s not your thing you might want to move on to the next section. If you can dig it, though, here are a few movies to watch out for:
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Pirates of the Carribean (No, really)
These showings frequently involve more than just talking back to the screen, so you should probably ask around a bit before you head down to the theatre. Otherwise, you could end up being pelted in the head with spoons unexpectedly. However, they’re lots of fun and cater almost exclusively to the crowd of people who don’t want to just shut up and enjoy the movie.
Make Your Own Rules For Your Home Theatre
Of course, no matter what you do, when you leave the house you’re agreeing to someone else’s rules. If you want the freedom to yell “Don’t go in there!” as much as you’d like, there’s one place you’ll always be safe: your own home. You don’t have to break the bank to make a really awesome home theatre. Once you do, invite some friends over and watch movies on your terms.
As much as we like to think that there’s literally nothing in the world that could be worse than someone talking at the theatre, there are a good number of entertaining cult and cultural icons that have arisen from movie theatre talking. You may be breaking the rules and risking the ire of your fellow moviegoers by making that comment while the lights are down, but you’re at least in good company. Just don’t be a jerk out there.
This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Knowing evil means knowing how to beat it, so you can use your sinister powers for good. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.