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If You Can’t Behave Yourself in a Theater, Don’t Go Out
Plus: A Spooky Assignment!
I’ve always believed that decline is a choice, and one place we seem to have chosen decline is at the theater, both live and cinematic. That decline was represented most dramatically this week by the boorishness of Rep. Lauren Boebert at a recent showing of Beetlejuice: The Musical. According to authorities and folks in the theater, she was raucously singing along with the show, vaping, and acting like an all-around idiot. How big of an idiot? She was taking selfies with the flash on, a straight-to-Gitmo caliber offense. When escorted out, she may have even yelled that this couldn’t happen to her because she’s a congresswoman.
Of course, it could happen to her and it did happen to her, because the theater is the great equalizer: If you show up and act the fool and disrupt other folks who paid good money to be there, you deserve to be tossed out regardless of your political or socioeconomic status.
We are all correct to point and laugh at Boebert. But, again, this isn’t a political issue. The real problem is that audiences, in general, feel entitled to act like morons in settings where they need to sit, quietly and respectfully, and watch the show so as not to disturb their neighbors. The rise of cell phones has been a perpetual nuisance, of course—one of my favorite stories of this sort dates to a decade ago, when National Review critic Kevin Williamson snatched a phone from a rude patron and chucked it—but other issues seem to be creeping up post-pandemic.
Among them: the rise of drunks in theaters, a problem so bad that Playbill published a story about it only to have the publication’s CEO order the story taken down thanks to fears it would discourage audiences from showing up. The New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski highlighted a series of horror stories from post-pandemic audiences, from belligerent idiots to a person who charged the stage and demanded a refund from the great Wendell Pierce himself. Actors in England noted things have gotten so bad at some shows that the theaters have had to put up signs that say “Don’t Sing. Don’t Dance.”
It’s bad enough when these things happen in movie theaters—don’t get me started on the woman at my local Alamo Drafthouse who dropped an AirPod in the middle of a sold-out showing of Halloween Ends, turned her cell phone light on to find it, and, when asked to knock it off, started screeching about rude people disrespecting her—but at a live showing it’s an order of magnitude worse. Not just because tickets are often an order of magnitude more expensive. But also because you’re disrespecting the performers who need to maintain concentration and deliver a great show to the people actually paying attention.
Again: heaping opprobrium upon Boebert for her garish behavior is all well and good. But she’s more a symptom of social decline than its cause. If you can’t sit down and shut up for two hours, do the rest of us a favor and stay home.
On this Friday’s episode of Across the Movie Aisle, Alyssa, Peter, and I discussed the ways in which pirates are serving as low-key archivists and how to balance the problem of theft with the benefit of maintaining access to materials that would otherwise be lost.
I reviewed A Haunting in Venice this week, the latest Hercule Poirot movie from director-star Kenneth Branagh. It’s good! I like all of these movies and hope that Branagh makes one every two years for the next decade.
Last Saturday I talked to Ben Dreyfuss, formerly in charge of audience acquisition at Mother Jones, about the ways in which the advertising markets dried up in a way that not only destroyed a central pillar of the business of news but also helped shape what kind of stories were published. I hope you give it a listen, particularly as we move toward more and more ad-based streaming services.
Turns out Hasan Minahj is a bit of a faker. I don’t think this is going to matter either to his fans or to the executives looking for the new host of The Daily Show.
This parody of AMC’s Nicole Kidman intro by the Saw team is very funny. I don’t even particularly like the Saw movies, but this cracked me up:
Martin Scorsese sat down with Time’s Stephanie Zacharek for an extended chat and it’s very much worth your, erm, time.
I’m sorry, but if your main takeaway from the nude scenes in Oppenheimer is “One man gets to be brilliant, while a brilliant woman gets to be naked,” you should probably just stop writing about movies.
Disney is likely to fall short of subscriber targets by eight figures, but I’m not really sure it matters that much if most of the subs they’re losing are low-revenue Indian subscribers who bailed when Disney gave up cricket rights. The real question is profitability for the service rather than raw numbers of subscribers, and between price increases and advertising revenue, they are getting closer to the goal of sustained streaming profitability.
Assigned Viewing: The Pope’s Exorcist (Netflix)
I’m not going to lie: I could watch 100 of these movies. Russell Crowe doing a silly accent and riding around on a Vespa? Franco Nero, the original Django, playing Pope Not-Quite-John Paul II? Demons making kids say foul things? It’s all brilliant. I beg for more of these to be made. Please!