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06/01/2002 - Spitting Rant

After weeks of annoying delay, I finally went to see SPIDERMAN this weekend. No one I knew was there, thank God, so I didn't have to use my backup line, "I thought I'd see it again." I wouldn't want to be caught going three weeks late to the most anticipated movie of the summer.

The audience was pretty relaxed. Most of the folks there weren't the kind to worry about seeing a movie on the opening weekend. Especially one group of folks - the two young parents sitting in the front row with their THREE ANCY TODDLERS.

That's right, here it comes. No advice or insights this week, just one long, bilious rant.

LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME. If your kids are the mellow types who sit calmly through a movie, fine. If sometimes they behave and sometimes they don't, well, then take them out of the theater if they get noisy. I've seen lots of people bring their kids to movies while respecting the audience around them. To those wonderful parents: thank you for giving a damn about others.

To the people who ruined SPIDERMAN for me: Why don't your brains work? How has your social pathology gone undiagnosed for so long? Is it easier living without a conscience? Do you feel lighter and bouncier as you traipse about in your cocoon of oblivion? Or, in the words of the late great Bill Hicks: "Kill yourselves. No, really. Kill yourselves."

Maybe those people down front were so miserable with their squalling children that they wanted to drag an entire theater of moviegoers down into their personal hell. They can't have been enjoying the movie - they spent the whole time chasing their bundles of joy hither and fro, little silhouettes trotting back and forth under the screen. As the shapes bobbed around I felt like I was watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 with Mike Nelson and the robots entering and exiting, entering and exiting.

Here's the sad part: I actually tried to gently confront them afterwards. If you were at the Grove last Sunday night watching the 8:30 show, I was the strange woman waving the father down in the lobby, offering him money for a babysitter next time. "Please, take it. Don't do this again." His blazing retort was: "Did I have kids?" Wow, no I don't, but if I did have kids then I guess it wouldn't bother me to throw away $9.50 on an evening show to babysit his. Frankly, I think he had enough spawn for the both of us.

The sadder part is that his kids didn't enjoy the show either. They didn't want to be there - or maybe they were with the film until the fire scene, when the panicked mother points up at the sky and cries: "What's that?" when Spiderman is still TEN BLOCKS AWAY.

The theater owners are to blame. I wish they wouldn't let children under a certain age into anything but a G-rated movie after the first evening show. That might cut ticket sales though, so that'll never happen, any more than they'll stop showing friggin' television commercials before the movie.

While we're on the subject of miserable theater experiences, can't the theaters install some kind of MATRIX-like E.M.P. switch to silence the beepers and cell phones carelessly left on? And why can't people in the theater keep their cake-holes shut for two hours? You know those little cartoons that run before a movie, showing the usher quieting talky patrons? Where is that guy? We've gotten to the point where we need ushers back inside the theaters, armed with flashlights and batons to whack patrons who apparently think they're in their living rooms.

When I started writing this column last December I promised to descend as little as possible into bitter tirades against the industry and until today, I think I've fulfilled that promise. You might say that my complaints don't have much to do with the industry, but the reason I pitch a fit over a ruined movie is that an umpteen million-dollar budget is no match for a ringing cell phone. A screenwriter's labor of love can be drowned out by a two-year old.

All that we do in this business to create great moments on film are at the mercy of indifferent people and that makes me crazed. If I had been David Koepp, Tobey Maguire or Sam Raimi sitting in that theater, watching a year of my life and labor turned into Romper Room, I would've killed myself right then and there.

What's the solution? I don't know about you, but I'll be heading over to the sparkling new ArcLight Cinemas. So what if it's fourteen dollars a ticket? I'll happily forgo the raisinettes to avoid the belligerent hordes. At least there I can judge the movie, not the audience.


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