Complete silence theatre March 12, 2005 11:19 AM   Subscribe

I had a crazy idea that I mentioned, off the cuff, in this thread. It seems there are many of us who hate it when people talk during movies. My idea: theatres should have special "complete silence" shows. During these shows, you would not be allowed to talk or munch popcorn. There would be an usher stationed in the theatre to enforce the rules. The theatre would charge double the normal ticket price (to pay for the usher and as a further deterrent to talkers).

I was surprised so many were into it. What if we contacted a theatre an proposed the idea? If we get enough people interested, they might go for it. There are many of us in the NYC area. And we could, perhaps, partner with other sites like What do you guys think?
posted by grumblebee to MetaFilter Gatherings at 11:19 AM (34 comments total)

I would only go for it if the theater agreed to turn down the volume on the previews. Sometimes I forget my earplugs.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:22 AM on March 12, 2005

This idea might, suck. I don't know. But if enough people are into it, I would be willing to start writing letters. If we guarantee a filled house for one show, we might be able to interest a theatre.

Kirth, I don't like the loud previews either, but I suggest we start simply. Just the no talking thing. Otherwise, everyone is going to start adding riders ("no previews at all", "no commercials", "no movies with Tom Cruise," etc.)
posted by grumblebee at 11:26 AM on March 12, 2005

I can barely justify $10.50 per movie right now, I am not sure I'd pay $21 to see a movie in complete silence.
posted by riffola at 11:26 AM on March 12, 2005

Hmmm, a movie model that has people willing to pay more is something like Arclight, which offers less commercials/previews, bigger and more comfortable seats, reserved seating, and the opportunity to eat full meals and drink beer and wine while watching the movie - and the cost is just a couple dollars more than a regular movie. You're proposing a LOT more per ticket to only get one thing - no talking - which I already get by going to the local arthouse theater. The audience is more respectful, it's less crowded, there's no commercials, and the prices are always cheaper than at the megaplexes. I, personally, would pay more to be able to have a beer at a movie, not to be banned from eating in the theater altogether, you know?

Anyway, back when I did Rocky Horror, the theater we used would charge more per ticket and we had to guarantee we had X amount of people attending (they would count us off in line before allowing us in the theater) or they would not run the movie. Theaters willing to make deals like this are more likely to be small ones, not megaplexes with the latest event flicks. You might have an easier time selling them on the proposal if you offer to rent out a showing and do the promotion yourself to prove that it's viable; that way they're guaranteed the costs of the usher and running the movie are covered in advance. Perhaps make everyone pre-pay so as to CYA? And I think you'd get more people interested if it was a combo deal of no commercials/no talking/no food or drink/no standing in line/reserved seating. I don't think "starting simple" is going to work at the price you're proposing to charge.
posted by Melinika at 12:04 PM on March 12, 2005

My pricing was not well-thought-out (it was an emotional response -- I would play that much for silence, and I am far from rich).

How about $15 a ticket instead of $10? How about $12?
posted by grumblebee at 12:11 PM on March 12, 2005

It may be worth a try, but I think you will find that theatre owners will be intensely skeptical that there is a market for silent viewings (I can imagine any number of objections they might have) and might view you as a bit odd for suggesting it. A better strategy might be to find a large enough group of people to buy out an entire movie theatre for a showing. This sounds difficult, but if you can get enough people to fill the audience 80%, each of you ends up paying 25% more for your ticket. Very few people buy movie tickets more than a couple of days in advance, so if you plan ahead, pick a film that's been out a week or two, and by early, you could accomplish it. You might even be able to get a special rate from the theatre owners, though maybe not, since they mostly make their money from the concessions, and if they know they're going to have a whole theatre full of people who won't buy anything, they may balk.

Also, if you can fill a theatre that way several times, it becomes easier to demonstrate to the owners that there's a market for the service you want.
posted by anapestic at 12:27 PM on March 12, 2005

And by "by early," I mean "buy early," of course.
posted by anapestic at 12:27 PM on March 12, 2005

As someone said in that thread, I believe, it would be a hell of a lot more distracting for someone to be extracted from the theater for talking than to hear them talking in the first place. I loathe talking in theates as well, but this idea seems shaky at best. I mean, what you're basically suggesting is mefi rents out a theater for a private show.

Why not start a movement for people to leave theaters during a film and demand their money back if there's too much talking during a film? If enough people did that you might have a chance of actually changing theater policy.
posted by Doug at 1:01 PM on March 12, 2005

Although I hate people who talk in a movie, this plan wouldn't work financially. Movie theaters make most of their money through concessions, not ticket sales. Most of the ticket sales go straight to the studios. Without the money that theaters make from concessions, you would have to pay almost $20 a ticket for the theater to make a profit.
posted by ColdChef at 1:14 PM on March 12, 2005

No, no, no.

Don't offer to pay more -- offer to pay less.

But guarantee a set number of sold tickets, at a time when the theatre wouldn't normally be filled to capacity -- like a matinee.

The theatres already are willing to reduce prices to fill seats during matinees -- and if they aren't, find a non-chain theatre. Those folks are hurting, and will be happy to do what it takes to guarantee a full house.

Indeed, this might be the more socially responsible way to go about it: save a non-chain neighborhood theatre by filling it up, once a week, with patrons who don't want to hear talking.
posted by orthogonality at 1:20 PM on March 12, 2005

It is a great idea. Count me in.
posted by mlis at 1:31 PM on March 12, 2005

you would have to pay almost $20 a ticket for the theater to make a profit.

That's what I'm suggesting. But does the average theatre-goer really by $10 worth of concessions?

(i'm not sure how this is metafilter-related and thus deserving of metatalk)

In the thread I linked to, above, many MeFites complained about talking at the movies. I though that we might be able to do something about it as a group.

it would be a hell of a lot more distracting for someone to be extracted from the theater for talking than to hear them talking in the first place.

And when someone does talk in the theater, what would you propose should happen? Kick them out? Give them a warning?

The world will never be a perfect place. There will always be talking at the movies. I want less. I think if there are special shows where no-talking is the rule -- and if those shows cost more -- there WILL be less talking. And the audience will be composed, mostly, of anti-talkers. And there will be an usher in the theatre.

I'm not suggesting anyone get arrested. I'm suggesting that if a certain atmosphere is created, it's likely that certain bevahior will ensue.

My guess is that this won't happen. I suspect that though many people find talkers irritating, my extreme irritation (to the point that I don't go see movies anymore, because even a whisper now-and-then ruins it for me), puts me in a tiny minority. But I wanted to test the waters and see if I was right or wrong about that.
posted by grumblebee at 2:37 PM on March 12, 2005

Despite my criticism in the thread, this is a fantasy I have had myself for a long time, and I would love to be part of it if it could be made to work.

First, I propose that we make a distinction between eating and other noise. Personally, I don't mind eating so much, as long as there aren't a lot of wrapping-related sounds (plastic crunching, cardboard crumpling, etc.). Are we really going to say that there should be absolutely no sound whatsoever?

Second, as I see it, the issue is really not with art house films, it's with mainstream films. You can always find a civil screening of an art film. So what if we approached a venue that gets mainstream movies, and asked them for one non-publicized screening of a mainstream movie that had been out for a while. We would explain that we would provide the publicity through our 'club.' And we would choose, say, Monday or Tuesday nights, which are traditionally slow nights for theaters, and by picking a movie that had been out for a while, we'd avoid competition with the general paying crowds.

So, I guess the second big question is: What kind of movies are we looking to see (at first), and how recent would they have to be? Because it actually makes a difference to the theater. And the more we start to say that we don't mind seeing older films, the closer we get to being a club that ought to just rent a DVD, a venue, and a projector (which I'm not opposed to either).
posted by bingo at 2:57 PM on March 12, 2005

Wow, why not just rent a DVD and watch it at home?
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on March 12, 2005

delmoi, that's what I do. But for many films, it's not the same experience as the big screen. I want to be totally overwhelmed by a movie. On the small screen, it's too -- well -- small to be overwhelming. A big screen is perfect, but the chatter pulls me out of the movie and leaves me underwhelmed.
posted by grumblebee at 3:07 PM on March 12, 2005

this is completely ass backward. how about halfing the price of regular admission, and for silence one pays normal price? why do y'all so worship the purveyors of flashing lights on the white wall?
posted by quonsar at 3:08 PM on March 12, 2005

"And when someone does talk in the theater ..." = BanHammer!!!
posted by mischief at 3:49 PM on March 12, 2005

what if it's a comedy? is laughing allowed?
posted by brevator at 3:53 PM on March 12, 2005

I remember this being suggested in the other thread and several other members chiming in about what a great idea it is. I remember thinking "ya right". I was surprised at how many people agreed.

Though I'm sure some people like the idea (ex. "count me in") it's surely not a great idea. Mainly because it won't work.

Very few movies do I come out of thinking I got my money's worth. Most of the time, even if I enjoyed it, I feel like I should have waited for the dvd.

I understand your pain, but the execution is lacking.
posted by justgary at 3:54 PM on March 12, 2005

Approach a theater in your area and talk to them about marketing some "all- silent" screenings. In marketing, they call this a "competitive differentiator." The theater could even charge extra for those screenings.

We have about 10 theaters in my city and I'm sure one of them would see it as a good idea, a way to differentiate themselves from other theaters and stimulate sales. Offer to MC the showings, introducing everyone to the concept on a microphone before the show and busting people who make noise during the show (that's the only way you'll get it to work).

You might only manage to swing one Tuesday showing per week at a small theater, but you can make this idea happen if you have the guts to take your pet peeve and go BIG with it.
posted by scarabic at 3:55 PM on March 12, 2005

Incidentally, I don't like the idea myself. I like to see movies with a good, responsive crowd. I do have my own big-screen at home, too. But I definitely see marketing potential here. Think of it as a "premium" service. People eat that shit up.
posted by scarabic at 3:56 PM on March 12, 2005

Was this a call for a meetup? Because I'd be interested in joining your NYC metafilter-moviegoing gang, if it means large numbers of us beating up obnoxious teenagers.

If you're taking resum├ęs, here's mine: 6' 215 lbs. and I ride a motorcycle. No one's ever fucked with me twice. AND I'm a brother (well, half, but who can tell in a dark theater). I don't own a gun, but I am a champion archer (wooden bow and arrows can't be picked up by a metal detector). I work cheap if I get to injure white folks.

Please, by no means take this as an endorsement of silent moviegoing. I was filled with loathing at the end of Dead Poets Society when no one else stood up on their chairs and applauded. I simply like the violence.
posted by Eideteker at 4:01 PM on March 12, 2005

Melinika thanks for the Arclight link, I never knew about.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 4:33 PM on March 12, 2005

scarabic's talk of 'a good, responsive crowd' is indicative of why, in the askme thread, I was talking about the need for super-ushers. Surely, spontaneous expressions of emotion, like laughter, are allowed, right? And then it's a slippery slope. What if only a few people laugh? What if only a few people laugh throughout most of the film? What if those few people are actually the only ones who understand the movie?

All that said, the number of people expressing amazement at any interest in this only shows how badly it's needed.

Enforcement really is the main problem. We can get a theater to agree to a special screening, but are they going to agree to order their ushers to kick people out? I used to work in a movie theater, and let me just say, it won't happen. Those kids get paid minimum wage, and most of them don't care whether you even paid, let alone whether you're talking in the theater.

So I reiterate my suggestion that this start out as a 'club' of people going to screenings that are simply not publicized. It can be the sort of 'club' that you only get into by being recommended by someone who is already a member. (the first rule of silent movie night is: Shut the fuck up! The second rule of silent movie night is: SHUT THE FUCK UP!)
posted by bingo at 4:36 PM on March 12, 2005

What happens next? I'm genuinely curious.

I don't see any other way except that the person would be physically removed from the theater immediately.

The way I like to imagine it, the theater would have big rows that the ushers could easily walk through, and the offender would be lifted by the scruff of their neck or collar, without regard for age, disability, or any other discriminating factor. The usher's other hand would then be clamped over the offender's mouth, hard enough to hurt. They would then be carried to the lobby (exiting through the sides or near the screen would be too disturbing to the other patrons), and thrown into the street. If they resist, they should be rendered unconscious immediately, by any means necessary.

Since this would not be legal, however, I propose hiring an off-duty cop to do the next closest thing that he or she would feel comfortable with.
posted by bingo at 5:45 PM on March 12, 2005

odinsdream, I don't have it all worked out. I would want the usher to quietly approach the person and ask him to be quiet. And if he didn't, then ask him to leave. A theatre has the right to evict people who don't follow the rules, so I guess they could call the police if the person then refused to leave. Or let it go and then refuse to let that person back in again.


I think we're on different pages here. What if a bar has a ladies only night and a man shows up? I don't know what happens. My belief is that if you advertise a show as being a no-talking show, and if you charge more for the tickets, people will -- in general -- stop talking. Which is all I ask for.
posted by grumblebee at 5:51 PM on March 12, 2005

So do you guys think there will be tons of people going to come to something like this on-purpose, just to talk? Even at a higher ticket price? why?

It's like holding an event that's black-tie only and saying "what do we do if someone comes wearing a white tie?" Probably nothing. In general, people will wear black ties and follow the rules. Once in a while someone won't.
posted by grumblebee at 5:54 PM on March 12, 2005

This is not snark, but a genuine question: doesn't New Yorkers have any of those brand-spankin' new, super-fancy, "movie lovers" stadium seating theaters, or is that only in L.A.? (I'm thinking primarily of the Arclight or, to a lesser degree, the stadium seating theatres at upscale shopping centers like the Grove.) Tickets are already pricier (I think ~$15 for weekend shows), concessions are fancier-schmancier, they don't seat after the movie starts, and they make a big fricken deal (i.e., a live usher comes out and gives a speech before the ) about the no talking rule.

The cumulative effect is that these theatres seem to attract a crowd far less likely to talk, and so I have never been disturbed by chattering assholes who think they're in their own living rooms when I see a movie there as opposed to the standard suburban cineplex. But maybe it's just an L.A. thing these days...?
posted by scody at 6:18 PM on March 12, 2005

d'oh! "doesn't New Yorkers" should, of course, read "doesn't New York." Why is it that I miss stuff like that on preview, but not the second it actually posts?
posted by scody at 6:19 PM on March 12, 2005

scrody, NYC has loads of stadium theatres. They are great for comfort and view-of-the-screen, but I am continually disturbed by talkers at them.
posted by grumblebee at 6:56 PM on March 12, 2005

scody, also good is the Bridge at HH Promenade, which is near enough to my work that I can frequently leave & catch a movie there at lunch.
posted by jonson at 12:19 AM on March 13, 2005

It won't work.

Scenario A:
-"Gee honey, we're too late for the 19h30 showing of H2G2, but there's still tickets for some sort of 'silent' showing at 20h00. I'll buy the tickets while you get the popcorn and noise makers."

Scenario B:
-"Sir, you're talking/eating popupcorn/etc is in violation of this silent screening, you'll have to leave the theatre."
-"Hey you, usher, YOU'RE in violation of the silent screening, now YOU'RE gonna have to leave too."
-"Shaddup! shaddup! shaddup!"
-"I demand a refund, the silence has been broken!"

Scenario C:
-"BABABOUI! BABABOUI! Howard Stern's penis! /giggle snicker snort"

Scenario D:
-"Oh I'm not making noise, I just have a runny nose/cold/allergies/bad gas/the burps."

I wish I'd seen this post earlier.
posted by furtive at 8:02 AM on March 13, 2005

Seriously, all you have to do is go to an independent theater that shows artsier movies. Granted, you won't be able to see I, Robot 2 there, but the crowd is generally older, MUCH more polite, and are seasoned moviegoers.
posted by graventy at 3:53 PM on March 13, 2005

Why would you need to make a deal with a theater? Just pick a small one, buy every seat, split the cost, see the movie, shut up.
posted by mr.marx at 11:03 AM on March 14, 2005

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