Last week I took my kid to watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was 5:10 on a Friday. The theater had around 15 people or so. Mmmaybe 20. Ideal conditions for a perfect theater experience. No kids, no clapping, no servers going back and forth. We ordered some popcorn, a 512 Pecan Porter for me, and a Dr. Pepper for him. Perfect.
Two older women, maybe in their mid-50s, were seated to my left. One seat separated us. They each had one full and one empty bottle of Bud Light perched in front of them. Warning sign #1. About 5 minutes after we ordered, the drunken laughter began. Warning sign #2. The first preview started and I looked over at them, and they thankfully quieted down. About 16 seconds later the commentary started. Although there was an empty seat that separated us, they may have well been talking to us. They were that loud.
If you've been to the Drafthouse, you know that throughout the preprogrammed content they sprinkle “DO NOT TALK DURING THE MOVIE" segments every few minutes. For Planet of the Apes, they had a great one with (appropriately) Gary Oldman.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and told myself that they would probably stop once the movie got going. Still…I love the previews. When I was younger, I would sit through a crappy movie just because I knew there was a specific trailer before it. I’m looking at you Episode I (who knew). I was hopeful that the talking would subside once the Sin City 2 trailer kicked in. Sorry Robert. These ladies could give two nuggets for anything Frank Miller.
My kid and I had a similar experience at a matinee showing of the first Hunger Games. Granted, it wasn’t at one of Alamo’s fine establishments. It was at a dollar theater. That experience involved 5-6yr old kids asking their mom about everything happening on screen. EVERYTHING. "Why is she shooting the apples with the arrows?" "Why are the kids killing each other?" “I’m scaaaared!” "Can I look now?" Also, who the hell takes kids that young to see the Hunger Games? I mean...possibly me. The difference? The minute my kid started talking, I'd shut that shit down. Quick. “Shut up and close your eyes if you’re scared!” That’s what I’d say.
But these two...these Bud Light drinking, raspy voiced squawkers…. these haggard, leather faced harpies. These stuck up...half witted...scruffy lookin’....
The previews ended. The last “SHUT UP CAUSE THE MOVIE IS STARTING” sign is flashed on the screen in big red fucking letters. The pre-credits roll…and the movie begins. The harpies grow silent. Yessss. 36 seconds later the talking and cackling starts up again. Goddammit. I turn around to the 4 or 5 people behind us pleading with my eyes. I send them my thoughts as violently as possibly. Do you guys hear this?? Aren’t you mad too!? Blink once for yes, two for no! They keep watching the movie, somehow ignoring the honks and caws of my neighbors. Finally, I decide to try a tactic I’ve heard comedian Matt Bearden talk about. The Stare. I attempt to burn a hole into their ugly faces with my invisible laser beam eyes. The one closest to me looks at me with a sideways glance...never turning her head. But she sees me. And she knows. And I know that she knows. She quiets down, but her friend persists. She explains how she thinks the movie won’t be as good because James Franco isn’t in this one. I turn and look at my kid. He’s staring at me. Eyes also pleading...but to me. Help me. Don’t let this be Hunger Games all over again his eyes say. I gather my courage, take another deep breath, and promptly fill out a “complaint card” for the server. This will not stand. This aggression will not stand. Our awesome server comes over and grabs my whine-scribbled complaint card. She reads it, nods at me, whispers “I’ll have this taken care of.” And with a smile she was gone.
Almost immediately my neighbors shut up. I’m not sure if they recognised the order that I had just placed, or maybe their couth finally kicked in. Either way they were silent. The Alamo staff must have known this because of instead of a warning for them, my kid and I got an extra tub of popcorn. Almost as if it was a reward for not sucker punching our now muted friends. Thankfully, they were silent for almost the whole movie...almost the whole movie...almost the whole movie… Naturally, during the climax of Apes….the finale….the zeeenith….they started up again. Much like a couple of daft toddlers, they decided to try and guess how the movie would end. Who would kill who? Who would live?? Who would die?! This is when I finally broke. Very politely, I lean over and calmly but firmly say: “SHUT UP.” The nearest harpy gives me a shocked look and whispers, “I’m sorry!” Abruptly, an iron curtain of silence fills the void between us. The only thing left is the shouting of CGI monkeys fighting atop a tower, incredibly. The movie concludes and the credits start to roll.
I chance a look to my left as the lights come up.
The woman sitting closest is staring at me. Her friend, slightly hidden, peeks around her shoulder slyly smiling. The closer woman leans over to me and the following words spew forth from her gaping hole: “I’m sorry we were talking during the movie (victory!) but you are a disrespectful punk.” Wait, what? That’s not victory. That’s...that’s...wait, what? A punk? Who are you, my dad?
The four of us slowly stand up as I release my safety vent valve. I’ll use all caps here for effect.
“I’M DISRESPECTFUL? YOU SHOULD APOLOGIZE TO EVERYONE IN HERE. YOU’RE LUCKY I DIDN’T HAVE THE MANAGER KICK YOU OUT DURING THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE. (“I wish you had,” she eeks.) IF YOU ASK ANYONE AROUND YOU THEY’LL SAY THE SAME THING (bluff). SERIOUSLY? I’M DISRESPECTFUL?”
Horrified, she looks around the theater, starts shuffling her feet and asks her friend “Are you ready? How do we get out of here?” Still drunk, they start looking for the way they came in. Arm extended, I point to the exit sign above the door that leads to the parking lot and say:
“LEAVE THAT WAY. THAT’S WHAT I WOULD DO.”
Without a word and without looking back, they walked through the door with the exit sign above it that leads to the parking lot. From there, I assume they flew off to their harpy nests located undoubtedly somewhere around the lake.