Well, I’ve had movies on the brain this week because any day now my new fantastic MoviePass is going to arrive in the mail and I’m going to start seeing a new movie every day at no cost – so it’s absolutely no wonder that movies are on my mind.

In all my thinking about movies this week, it hit me that people teach you how to drive before they let you take a car out on the road, and they teach you how to operate heavy machinery before they let you do that – yet no one ever teaches you how to go to a movie theater and watch a movie. They let anyone do that with no training.

And I’m absolutely amazed at how many people don’t have the first clue how to go see a movie and how to behave once they get to the theater. For those of you who don’t know how to do that, I forgive you for not knowing up until this point, but now I’m going to teach you, so, in the future, after you read this, you will have absolutely no excuse for not following all the movie rules.

Now, they show some rules up on the screen before a movie at some theaters, but I’ve found that they leave off some important rules and also many people still don’t follow those rules they do show.

Let’s start with what should be an obvious one that you should know but many of you clearly don’t …

• Put away your phones! No talking or texting during the movie. The light from your phone when you are texting is as bad as the noise when you are talking on the phone, but, either way, this is morally wrong and you should never ever do it. Even when it comes to this very simple and basic rule, I’m completely shocked at the number of people who apparently don’t know this. When you are on your phone talking and texting, it obliterates the fictional dream the movie is creating for the rest of us in the theater, so you really need to stop this.

In January 2014, a man shot another man in a Tampa theater for using a cell phone during a movie. Now, look, it is totally wrong for someone to be shot and killed for using a cell phone in theater and it is a tremendous tragedy that he lost his life. I am very sympathetic to all that, but you also have to admit – and I almost hate to say it – that he was, after all, using a cell phone in a movie.

And, again, I’m not saying the man had it coming or anything remotely like that; I’m just saying that it’s not like the guy was sitting there quietly watching the movie and then he got shot.

• In fact, shut off your phone entirely. Many people don’t seem to know this about their phones at movies: It tends to ring when people call it. It’s one thing if your phone goes off one time because you forgot to turn it off and you quickly shut off the sound and then you look around guiltily and apologetically at everyone around you to acknowledge that you screwed up. You are allowed for that to happen once.

But the most unbelievable thing I ever saw in a theater was when a guy’s phone rang and he just answered it and started talking like he was in his living room or something. He was like, “Oh yeah, hi. Nothing much, just watching a movie; how about you? What’s up with you? Did you ever hook up with Jennifer? Oh great. No, I’ve got time. Tell me all about it. Don’t leave out a detail …”

You know, I mean – come on people. How inconsiderate can you be?

I just looked at him in astonishment with my mouth open hoping he didn’t get shot by someone.

• As a rule of thumb, enter the theater exactly one hour and 42 minutes after the “start time” of the movie. If you are an inexperienced moviegoer, or someone who hasn’t gone to the movies in a long time, you may say, “But, Scott, I’ll miss the whole movie!” But if you’re not a movie newbie, you know the reason for this rule is that showing up an hour and 42 minutes before the start time will mean that you can walk in just as the movie begins.

Remember, the stated movie start is the start time for suckers who get tricked into waiting and watching 38 minutes of ads followed by an hour and four minutes of previews. Lord knows what you might see in the first hour and 42 minutes.

One time I was at a theater in Chapel Hill and, before the movie started, they showed a bunch of ads and then a very long ad for a children’s charity like those long ones you see on late night cable TV. And then – I am not making this up – the lights came up and people carrying donation collection jars moved through the audience asking for donations. They do that at West Market Street United Methodist Church during the sermon too, but I don’t mind that because it’s not like the church just charged me $10 to get in and $4,000 for a pack of Twizzlers.

What? Huh? Why are you hitting me up for donations at a movie theater?   No, no, no – you should be safe there.

• If you can’t follow the movie, don’t ask your friends what’s going on. Instead, remain quiet and in the future remember you need to go to movies with simpler plots. Talking to people around you is just as bad as talking to people on the phone in the theater.

Years ago, when people near me in a theater kept asking questions and I reached the breaking point, I would get up from my seat, sit beside the person and start saying, “Maybe I can explain it. You see, they think that guy there is the killer but the woman detective is saying there’s no way he could have done it because …”

I used to really do that for real and it was very creepy but I only did it when they deserved it. I don’t do it anymore now that people get shot in theaters so much.

• There is no need to talk to the characters on the movie screen. They are merely projected flickers of light and cannot hear anything you say. So there is no reason to talk to them. There is no reason to shout out, “Girl, don’t you go in that room! No, I said DO NOT GO IN THAT ROOM! I WARNED YOU!! NOW YOU’RE GONNA PAY! LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU! NOOOOOOOOOOO!

• Movies are no place for babies. Now, the only exception to this rule is in cases where your baby is exceptionally quiet and extremely well behaved and there is little to no chance that he or she is going to start crying at the theater. If that is the case, well then – OK, stop right there. Read that again: You see how ridiculous that sounds? Every parent thinks their baby might make it through an entire movie without bawling, but I promise you that is not the case. Every parent who has ever thought that has been wrong. Since the beginning of time that has never happened. Listen to me: If you take your baby to the theater, your baby will cry.


Very loudly.

It’s not a question of whether he or she will cry, it is simply a question of when your baby will cry. Most likely it will happen at the most important, most pivotal part of the movie when everyone in the theater really needs to understand what the characters are saying and the whole twist of the movie is explained.

That’s usually when it happens but really it’s anyone’s guess when your baby will start blaring. A baby at a theater is like a ticking time bomb without an attached countdown display that lets you know how long you have before it goes off. Babies don’t belong in a theater any more than adults belong at a baby shower. I have two words for you: Baby and sitter.

If you have a baby and you really must go to the movies and you can’t get a sitter, then take them to see Planes 5 or Cars 4 or whatever. That movie will be packed with screaming babies and no one will mind you adding yours into the mix. I know that’s not the movie you wanted to see, but you should have had that conversation with yourself before you decided to have your little bundle of joy.

Finally, if, for any reason, you have to get up during the film – to use the restroom, get a soda or whatever – look to see if I am sitting in your row and, if so, go down the row in the other direction. There is a picture of me each week with the column for that very reason, so if you just see that I am sitting in the row, please just go the other way. (And yes, even if there are two people in my direction and 22 in the other.)

Thanks for learning and following all the rules.

See you at the movies!