At some point during last night's viewing of "Dark Knight" at the IMAX, I decided that I am %$#@ing done with movie theaters, unless I absolutely, positively cannot wait for the DVD. I used to love the theater experience. Ever since my first life-changing, big-screen film ("Star Wars" in 1977), I have been an avid cinema lover. I still love movies. But I hate what stupid people have done to the communal experience of enjoying them.
I admit that I am easily distracted, so when someone comments incessantly during a film, it takes me out of the moment. It's the same with the glowing, blue screens of cell phones, even if they are silent. To go to a movie these days means dealing with this constantly, though the indie/Miracle 5 crowd tends to be much better behaved. I don't understand the point of paying upward of 8 bucks to have a conversation you could have had for free in your living room. Is it really necessary to text the equivalent of " 'Sup?" 10 times in the middle of a pivotal scene? Again, you're paying for this. This isn't a generational rant, because I enjoy a good text conversation. Just not while I'm at the movies.
But to me, the most egregious thing a moviegoer can do is to bring a small child to a thoroughly inappropriate film. At this point, everyone knows that "Dark Knight" features a brilliant and deeply disturbing portrayal of the Joker by Heath Ledger. People are shot at point-blank range, impaled with pencils, found dead in body bags. Oh, and we haven't even gotten to the part where Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent has half his face burned off. On what planet would it be OK to let your children, approximately ages 6 and 8, watch this - especially on a big-ass IMAX screen?
I tried to give the couple the benefit of the doubt. They were speaking a foreign language, so I thought it possible that they weren't as aware of the content as an American filmgoer might be. And then I decided that was ridiculous. This is a global blockbuster. And it's not like they left after the first, second or 14th act of violence on screen. At one point, the oldest girl was crying in her father's lap, her head buried in his shoulder. He was comforting her, but as I glared daggers at him, I longed to scream, "Why in the hell are you still here? Take this poor, frightened child home immediately!" Or as Christian Bale might say, "What don't you *%$&ing understand?!"
I was annoyed by the kids' high-pitched chatter, but it was almost impossible to enjoy the movie knowing that these girls were going to be exposed to so much scary stuff. And it's not like complaining to the manager would have helped, because small children are allowed to see a film like this as long as they're with a guardian.
The chattering, texting teens a couple of rows in front of us paled in comparison. But I kind of wanted to kill them, too.
Unless you have a high-tech home theater, I still think that nothing can replace the shared experience of seeing a great movie with others. And let's face it; some movies are made for talking back to the screen. But this kind of clueless, naked self-absorption has become noticeably worse in the last decade. I feel old saying that, but it's true. Just one more thing for the ailing movie theater industry to worry about.