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Throw the Bums Out! by Matthew Murray

  • AlamoDrafthouse.jpgI've written before in this space about the basics of theatre etiquette, summed up in what I consider the Theatregoing Golden Rule: "Your theatre experience is not just about you." And yet, almost every time I go to the theatre, I am assaulted by selfish, socially unaware people who think they're somehow entitled to talk, text, or do anything else they want merely because they paid for a ticket. No: The money you paid entitles you only to get in the door, but once you're inside you are expected to behave like a courteous, thoughtful human being for the two hours or so it takes to see a play. If you can't or won't do this, get out—those of us who actually care about the theatre don't want you there.

    And yet, theaters—on Broadway and elsewhere—continue to not just allow but even condone this disgusting behavior. Some venues, such as in Boston, are even planning on instituting "tweet seats." Those are... ugh, you can figure out the pathetic details just from the name. And the yet-to-be-built Tateuchi Center in Bellevue, Washington, plans to allow audience members to use their cell phones during shows.

    This is basically the first horseman heralding the end of civilized society, but the battle has not necessary been entirely lost. One movie chain, in particular, has had enough. Alamo Drafthouse, which has four locations in the South and one in Denver, institutes and enforces a strict code of conduct. As the company describes the policy on its website:

    We have zero tolerance for talking or cell phone use of any kind during movies, and we aren't afraid to kick anyone rude enough to start texting their friends during a show right out of the theater.

    (And, oh yeah, Alamo Drafthouse also refuses to show ads before movie presentations, and boasts high-quality food and drinks.)

    But, you may ask, is Alamo Drafthouse serious about this? Will the people there really throw out a thoughtless dolt not interested in anyone but himself or herself? Why, yes, yes they will. (Warning, there is some... less-than-friendly language used in this clip.)

    Jason Reitman and Patton Oswalt even teamed up to create a dramatic recreation of these events, which was just recently posted on YouTube as well:

    Is it any surprise, then, that so many people seem to love Alamo Drafthouse? Unfortunately, I've never been to one (I don't get down South all that often), but everyone I know who's been to one insists it's an almost transcendent experience because the theater owners actually care about making the experience good for the people who pay money to get in.

    Live performing arts venues, on Broadway and elsewhere, need to start behaving exactly this way. Morons who whine, "But ticket prices are too high for me to not do whatever I want!" need to be shown that, in reality, ticket prices are too high to let everyone do whatever they want. If you pay upwards of $100 for a ticket, you deserve to see and hear the show, not endure some Neanderthal poking away at his cell phone or some harpy spending 10 minutes rooting around in her bag for her the ideal lozenge or, worse yet, piece of cellophane-wrapped candy that will satisfy her sweet tooth after she takes an eternity crinkling it open. If anyone behaves like this in a theater, they deserve to be thrown out onto the street. And a theater that actually takes the initiative to do this will, I guarantee you, gain admiration and appreciation for it the likes of which the New York performing arts community rarely sees except when Hugh Jackman is fundraising for it.

    Even if theatregoing is just a casual thing for you, and not the next best thing to a religion, it—and the people who participate in it and spend their money supporting it—deserve respect and unfettered experiences. The sooner live performance venues stop moving in the wrong direction of encouraging activities that make shows worse and start enforcing the common sense too many patrons seem not to have, the better off we will all be. And it can be summed up in four words, three of which should be familiar even to Northerners: Remember the Alamo Drafthouse!

    Why are you looking all the way down here?
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