Oura Culpa! Mr. Lickona took a vacation and this reporter missed the screening of the much-anticipated Midsommar. Once I ran to advance screenings; now I run from them. Why? Because I would much rather try my luck on an opening day mid-morning matinee than deal with the parade of texting, talking, drinking, seat-back-kicking, pass whores who frequent preview showings. After reading these two true life tales from the front lines of cinema, I think you’ll agree.
The five of us settle in the Mission Valley 7, first row, center behind the break — we like using the guardrails as footrests — waiting to see Penguins. Today’s “plus one” are four people, all under the age of 10. (The publicist was nice enough to let me schnor.)
Without warning, she appears like a goblin from the center aisle, a sullen face blocking my field-of-vision with nothing more to share than, “You’re in my seat.”
A quick over-the-shoulder glance confirms that she’s not addressing any patron seated behind us. I turn and bid, “May I help you?”
“These seats are reserved for the press,” she demands while eyeing my companions with great disdain. I point to Winnie Lickona and quip, “I’m her guest. She writes for the Reader.”
Nothing. Not even a curl of the lip. “I’m waiting for my daughter…” she breaks it off. Why waste precious oxygen speaking to an idler such as I? Moving to her right, the disobliged chupacabra heads to the stairs, loops around, squats a few seats down the row, and begins to fumfke with her phone.
The pail of soda is splashed into courtesy cups, the silo of popcorn parcelled out into smaller cardboard boxes and both are divvied up among my guests. Setting the half-filled bucket on the floor, the kids and I engage in a little pre-show kibitzing. A moment later, I reach down for some corn and, what’s this? Looks like Fido hasn’t been fed. The service dog across the aisle is about at the end of its retractable tape leash, its snout within inches of the surplus ketch of corn. Scooping up the tub, I fire off a playful, “Hey lady! Reel in your dog!” She laughs, the kids laugh, and for a moment, all is at peace with the auditorium.
But. About an hour into the picture, the presence of a blue light begins to tug at the corner of my left eye. The gargoyle doth text. The last thing on my agenda is to mix it up with what’s known in the business as a “mommy blogger.” She was a mother, alright. The biggest mother of ‘em all!
“Excuse me,” I whisper, “Would you please turn your phone off. Thank you.” Two words — “I’m sorry” — would have put an end to it. Instead, Lady Fusspot leans forward and hisses, “You are a very rude person.” What follows is a searing slow-burn, a look so hot an egg would fry on my forehead. Let’s review: a critic sitting in the reserved seats section responds to a text in the middle of a movie, and I’m an ignoramus for politely asking that she douse her phone?! Let it go, Scott. The phone is off and back in her purse. Let it go.
The show’s over and I lead the pack of early exiters. No sooner do I finish bringing the publicist up to speed with, “And she tells me that I’m rude” than Princess Dragon Mommy exits the theatre. Embers blast through her nostrils as she echoes, “You are rude.” Turning to the publicist, she proceeds to justify her shamelessness with, “I was expecting a text from my son.” D’oh! Now you tell me. Had I known, I’d have run up to the booth and demanded that the projectionist stop the show. A light dust-up ensues. Let it go.
Still, it’s one thing for a patron to disrupt a movie, another for a member of the working press, and still another for a security guard. What follows is a terrifying tale of what happens when one such fellow — a man equipped with night vision goggles whose sworn duty it is to ensure that all phones are powered down — becomes part of the problem.
I am resigned to the fact that the three children behind me are going to talk and kick the back of my seat throughout the entire movie. What kind of monsters bring children to see Annabelle Comes Home? The same parents too strapped to afford a babysitter, or even to up a theater’s per capita with a trip to the concession stand. A pre-show visit to the dollar store fortifies the family with what sounds like $100 worth of Corn Nuts. The packaging is not movie theatre friendly; for 90 minutes it sounds like kids unwrapping birthday presents. (Mom kicking over her empty beer bottle was a heartwarming touch of dipsomania.)
None of this would have mattered were it not for one overly accommodating watchperson. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought security guards were hired to prevent disturbances, not create them. For the entire movie, anytime someone got up to take a pee — and this boozed-up crowd had bladders the size of raisins — he would hit the LED flash to help light their path. This germoke was hired to prevent possible piracy, not play usher. Attention moviegoers: hit the head before the picture, lest the concession stand add Depends to the menu board. As it was, 95 percent of the film takes place in darkness, making his torch stand out all the more.
“Huh?” was his response when I got up and asked that he stop playing lighthouse. When asked whether or not he knew how effing disturbing it was, he replied, “Shhhhh!” In the future, I ask that you please tell the person hired by the studio to tell audiences to silence their phones during a movie to do the same.