Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Our resident Emirati film buff says we need to be quiet in the cinema

It's not just your voices that disturb people, but also the pyrotechnic-like display from all the smartphone lights

Cinemas are for being quiet and enjoying the film, says our resident Emirati film fan. Getty Images
Cinemas are for being quiet and enjoying the film, says our resident Emirati film fan. Getty Images

I love films. So much so that I will travel to international film festivals just to watch them. One might wonder why I, as an Emirati, would go through the trouble when we already have state-of-the-art cinemas right here in Abu Dhabi. Simply put: cinema-goers and their behaviour in the theatre.

We have all had to deal with this scenario: you get comfortable in your seat and then, slowly but surely, as if meticulously planned, a chorus of conversation and loud chomping noises start. This is complemented by the pyrotechnic-like display from all the smartphone lights that turn on one by one across the room.

We, as viewers, need to ask more from the multiplexes we spend so much money in

You want to complain, but you come to realise you are in the minority. What did you think was going to happen? Did you think that just because you were going into a dark room with comfortable seats and a large screen you could lose yourself in the cinematic display and forget the real world? The cinema is for anything but that, didn’t you know? It’s for conversations among large groups of people, preferably as loud as possible. It’s for you to catch up on all the messages you have received in the past year, with the brightness of your screen cranked up to maximum.

In my opinion, the idea of a cinema should be well understood from an early age. It is dark because you should only focus on the large screen. It is (supposed to be) quiet because you should be able to hear everything that’s being said in the film. Breaking either of those two connections ruins the experience.

We have all had great experiences at the cinema. Most were probably due to how good the film was, but others, I am sure, were because you were allowed to take it in with no distractions. You went there for a reason: to watch a film. Anyone stopping you from doing that should be treated like any common thief. That might sound like an overreaction, but it’s not just the experience you’re being robbed of, but your hard-earned money, too.

'It isn't just a local issue'

Last week, I travelled to Bologna, Italy, to attend the Cinema Ritrovato film festival. Film lovers from all over the world came together to watch some of the best classic films ever made. I managed to watch 14, all uninterrupted. Upon arriving back home, I decided to see a double bill of the latest from Hollywood – Toy Story 4 and Annabelle Comes Home. Each screening had myriad issues. During the former, unsupervised kids cackled and threw popcorn; and during the latter, teens talked loudly.

Both experiences cemented in me the belief that it does not, and should not, be this way. Ultimately, it is the culture of cinema-going that needs to change and improve. We, as viewers, need to ask more from the multiplexes we spend so much money in, and they need to make it clear that the spaces they have set up are for watching films, and nothing else.

The large multiplexes exist to screen films and our standards for how people should behave in them should be stricter. The level of respect that’s shown shouldn’t have to match how serious the film is; even when ­watching superhero films, cinema-­goers must be told not to act like the theatre is their own living room.

It isn’t just a local issue. Many societies around the world have to deal with it. In the UK, radio presenters Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode unveiled a cinema “code of conduct” back in 2010 – a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts that was made in response to an ongoing battle with the public’s misconduct in film houses.

Having a list does make it more clear what you should and should not be able to do while in the cinema, but it’s hard to imagine that attitudes will change overnight. Yet, while we all deem other spaces for art and creativity worthy of our discipline – from galleries to museums – we treat cinemas like get-together spots where anything goes. And that needs to change.

Updated: July 4, 2019 05:16 PM

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