Every now and then, you run into situations that don’t seem to have any protocol attached to them. There should be rules here, or so you think, but you look around and you can’t seem to find any.
So here’s my question: When you go to see a movie in theatres, is it OK to talk during the trailers?
Trailers occupy that awkward place between advertising and entertainment — they come on after the product ads, but before the film you paid to see. They’re fun, but they’re definitely trying to sell you something.
And yet I love them. I know trailers exist only to get you excited about the studio’s next project, but they whet your appetite for the film you’re about to see.
But the last time I went to see a movie, the guys beside me talked (albeit quietly) their way through the previews. I sat there, grumbling to myself about their rudeness, until I realized I wasn’t sure if that was unacceptable behaviour or not. (The talking, not the grumbling. It’s always acceptable to grumble.)
For a bit of juxtaposition, several weeks ago I went to see the Palm Court Light Orchestra’s Rhapsody in Blue, conducted by Charles Job. (I’m not a Gershwin fan, but my brother loves Rhapsody in Blue, so we went as a family.)
We were, unsurprisingly, among the youngest people in the auditorium. The audience was composed mainly of seniors, who enthusiastically enjoyed the Silver Screen-themed program. I enjoyed our conductor as much as anything: an energetic, mop-headed man who continually ribbed Frederick Hodges, the long-suffering piano player, and who paired his dress pants with the satin stripe up the side with some comfy black leather sneakers.
Watching the way he interacted with the audience, I was struck by how well-trained the audience was. They applauded at the correct times, knew when to be silent and when to make noise and reacted appropriately to the pauses in the speeches. This was reassuring for a newbie.
Audience etiquette is one of those established forms of social behaviour that is comforting and unifying: No talking. No cellphones. Applaud appropriately. These rules allow us to show proper respect to the artists and to our fellow audience members.
But social protocol is a mobile beast, especially in less-formal situations.I was at The Hobbit, and it wasn’t my first time seeing it, so I didn’t have the excuse of wanting the experience to be pristine. There were some couples in the audience, some singles, some groups of friends, some parents with kids. It was the last showing of the night at that theatre and the tone was relaxed. People munched popcorn. It was a far cry from the more staid, homogenous Gershwin crowd.
Still, when people gather in a theatre to watch a movie, you assume there are some common rules of behaviour in place. You’ve all gone out of your way to spend your money on a ticket for the same show and gathered in the same place — and I was annoyed that the two friends felt free to chat (again, albeit quietly) through the trailers.
And yet, just because I’m a willing victim of the marketing juggernaut doesn’t mean that everyone is. You could argue that talking through trailers is an act of anti-capitalist rebellion. Let us reject the idea that advertisers have a right to our undivided attention.
Let us protect ourselves against the messages that bombard us from all sides at all times as corporations try to convince us that we want to give them our money. Or maybe these guys felt that since the movie proper hadn’t started yet, talking during the trailers was fair.
I was annoyed, not because they were interrupting my trailers, but because I’m just used to the idea that you Do Not Talk in Theatres. So if it’s permissible for advertisers to blare at a captive audience for 15 minutes, maybe it’s permissible for us to say “No way!” and talk through them, even if the trailer for Pacific Rim does look pretty sweet.
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