13 April 2012

Where has Movie Theater Etiquette Gone: The Sequel

Now playing at The Edward Ringwald Blog: Where has Movie Theater Etiquette Gone: The Sequel.

The place: AMC Veterans 24 Theatres, located on Anderson Road and the entrance to the Veterans Expressway, Tampa.

The movie: Bully, a documentary profiling several families whose lives have been impacted by bullying in the public schools.

Going to the movies is a diversion for me, especially on a Friday after work. As I haven't been to a movie in a while, I pull out the BlackBerry to check and see what is playing. I came across a movie that interested me, and I decided to go see Bully over at AMC Veterans 24 Theatres in Tampa, which is a short ride away.

So, it was onto the Veterans Expressway and to the Anderson Road exit and the mandatory SunPass beep indicating that the Florida DOT took the appropriate toll from my trusty SunPass account. (Besides, there are plans in the works to widen the Veterans Expressway and convert it to the open road tolling concept similar to the Selmon Crosstown Expressway which would make life a lot easier - there was only one attended lane open and a line of cars was backed up). Two more turns and I made it to AMC Veterans 24 Theatres.

I had a pass that I could use for this movie which helped me save some cold hard cash. After a brief stop at the concession stand I found the correct auditorium and settled myself in for the movie. First the usual pre-movie stuff: Coming attractions, features, reminders from AMC about proper etiquette during the movie, and the movie itself.

Until the movie started. Then trouble brewed on the horizon as both the movie began and the movie progressed.

Several teenage girls entered the theater that were very noisy with the intention of disrupting the show for those people like me that wanted to see the movie. One teenage girl spoke abruptly like if she decided to push me to the side trying to get to her friends sitting on the right side of the theater. I along with two seatmates sitting in front of me told these teenage girls to be quiet.

Things were OK for a while until the same teenage girls returned. Apparently these girls were hopping from auditorium to auditorium; after all, a movie ticket in a theater such as AMC Veterans 24 Theateres does not give one the right to change auditoriums as one pleases. Your movie ticket only allows you to attend only one showing of the movie at that particular time and in that particular auditorium. By the time we got through a third of the movie these teenage girls were becoming more noisy and disrespectful, additionally a group of teenage boys came in out of nowhere and sat in the back seats (where I was sitting) just for the purpose of intimidating patrons that wanted to see the movie.

That was it. I along with a few other people including the seatmates sitting in front of me ended up leaving the movie and speaking to the manager on duty. We told the manager what happened - the teenagers being so unruly and disrespectful that they were disrupting the movie for others - and we received passes that were good for any movie, including movies for which no passes were accepted. Further, the manager had security deal with the unruly teenagers that were in the auditorium disrupting the movie going experience for others.

If you have read my previous blog entry on movie theater etiquette, you know why attendance at movie theaters is declining: The main reason is that there are people out there that do not want to observe proper etiquette in a movie theater when a movie is playing. For instance, there are the teenage kids that think it is their God given right to talk or text on their cell phone as well as have a loud conversation while the movie is playing. Then there are the teenage kids who have to make things hard for those people like me that pay to see a movie without any distractions of any kind.

When those teenagers swarmed around me on either side where I was sitting in the auditorium, I was concerned that these teenagers would do something either to me or to the other movie goers. It brought back an incident that took place around Christmas 2010 at the Royal Palm 20 Theaters in Bradenton (which was the subject of a story on Bay News 9) where a polite request to be quiet and respectful from a couple - the husband who was a United States Marine that recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq - turned into a verbal confrontation at first then into a physical confrontation outside the theater. Fearing what could have happened when those unruly teenagers swarmed me in the back of the theater, and the fact that my seatmates in front of me were leaving, I used the opportunity to exit the theater before things got worse.

As I left AMC Veterans 24 Theatres, I thanked the manager for handling the situation and the free pass to another movie. As I wrote in my previous blog entry on movie theater etiquette, in today’s world there are unfortunately a lot of people out there who do not have any manners. It’s sad but it is true in contrast to how I was raised many years ago in a better mannered and civilized world, especially before the age of American Idol, instant gratification, Facebook and cell phones.

Further, as I mentioned in my movie etiquette blog entry I support initiatives by the movie theater chains including AMC Theatres’ Silence Is Golden program asking patrons to observe proper etiquette when inside the auditorium of a theatre and the movie is playing. As I mentioned earlier, the top reason why movie theater attendance has been declining for many years is because fellow patrons do not observe proper movie theater etiquette.

I feel more needs to be done to address the issue of people who do not observe proper movie theater etiquette besides the individual theater manager who is ultimately responsible for the so many patrons that come to attend a movie and make the moviegoing experience to its fullest. Here in Florida I feel that our legislators need to enact laws that make the deliberate disruption of a movie theater when a movie is in progress:

On the first violation, a civil infraction on the first offense with a $100 penalty.

On a subsequent violation within one year it should be a criminal misdemeanor carrying a penalty of $500 and/or jail time of up to 6 months in the county jail, plus a ban on attending any - and I mean any - movie theater in the state for up to one year which is imposed by the judge. That ban would start from the moment the person is released from jail and/or released from probation, much like the mandatory 10 day impoundment of a motor vehicle for conviction of a DUI charge, which starts after release. Moreover, the judge can also impose mandatory restitution to a movie theater that has had to refund or issue readmission passes to patrons that have had to jump ship from the movie theater due to misconduct.

Doesn't Florida have laws on the books that criminalize the disruption of a church service? If you said yes, you are right - it's codified in Section 871.01 of the Florida Statutes!

After all, court orders have much more teeth and bite than trespass warnings.

Perhaps the only place where you would see mandatory movie theater etiquette would be a movie theater on a military base such as MacDill Air Force Base. Not only movie theater etiquette is strictly enforced, there is one pre-show item that is missing from the commercially operated movie theaters such as AMC Theaters: The playing of the national anthem before the movie. Make no mistake, the protocols on a military base are strictly enforced to the letter.

Isn't the national anthem played before Tampa Bay Rays games at Tropicana Field? I thought so.

If you want to bring back civility and respect to movie theaters, please make it known to the general manager at the movie theater you go to, especially one you go to on a regular basis. Additionally, write your legislators in Tallahassee and demand better laws on enforcement of proper etiquette in movie theaters.

By the way, I can't close out this blog entry without a little description of the movie I have seen. If you haven't seen Bully yet, I urge you to see it at your local movie theater if it's playing in your area. It's a touching documentary of families who were touched by incidents involving bullying in America's public schools.

Just why do our public schools - despite anti-bullying policies put in place by many school districts including the Pinellas County School District - do condone bullying in any form and punish the victim (using useless zero-tolerance school rules, citing the Columbine High tragedy in Littleon, Colorado as an excuse among other things) instead of the perpetrator? It saddens me when a public school student goes to extremes when administrators will not listen to a student that needs help such as suicide or the girl in Yazoo County, Mississippi (which was profiled in the movie) who was bullied so much that she brought a weapon aboard the school bus; the girl was charged with serious multiple felony counts that carried the potential of life in the Mississippi State Penitentiary without any parole. Luckily, the charges were dropped but the girl was ordered kept in psychiatric custody until the doctors said that she is ready to re-enter society.

Again, you need to see Bully for yourself, especially if you have children going to public school. And if your children are being bullied in public school, please speak with your school's administration and don't let them brush it off as an isolated incident - after all, you as the parent provide for your child's future. Besides, bullying in school - either by fellow students, teachers or staff including administrative staff such as the principal or assistant principal - should never be a part of your child's daily routine at school.

And one more thing: I would like to thank the manager on duty at the AMC Veterans 24 Theatres in Tampa for handling the situation professionally and properly and for the free readmission pass! I went back the next day and got to see Bully in its entirety at the same movie theater, this time with a respectful yet interested audience in attendance. Just goes on to show you how AMC Theatres goes out of the way for its patrons like me.

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