Inappropriate Laughter Prompts Removal From Theater

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rober de niro PHOTO

I enjoy cigars, but enjoy hearing the movie more. Nick Nolte seems to agree.

I was at a movie screening for Planes: Fire & Rescue tonight. As expected, there were a few toddlers and babies making lots of noise. I’m a bit more tolerant of that at an animated kids movie, yet I still feel that a theatre is no place for a baby. Even a movie geared towards kids. Spring for a babysitter and let their older siblings enjoy it with you. I’ve pointed out many times that, as much as I love movies, I didn’t take my daughter to one until she was 4-years-old and it was the Barney movie (not the one with Paul Giamatti, but the purple dinosaur).

It’s hard for a 8-year-old and their parents, to enjoy anything when the characters on screen are being drowned out by a crying baby behind them.

I got into my car and heard a radio station talking about a story that happened last month. It presents a different dilemma, but one I feel the same way about. Here’s what happened.

At an AMC theatre in La Puente, California, the Schreurs (who will probably soon become “the suers”) were at a showing of The Fault in Our Stars. They had a 10-year-old with them, and really – the movie isn’t for 10-year-olds (it’s rated PG-13). A manager approached the family and asked them to leave, because of that 10-year-old. Not because of the content of the film, but because the child was being loud. She’s “special-needs.”

It was a mere 20 minutes into the movie when the manager asked them to keep the girl quiet. The mother, Marji Schreur, got angry and exchanged words with the manager. That’s when they were asked to leave.

One of the callers to the show who was at the movie, said “The mentally challenged girl was laughing at inappropriate times, during scenes that weren’t meant to be funny.”

I immediately thought of Robert De Niro in Cape Fear. He was enjoying a huge cigar and laughing loudly, to ruin the movie going experience for Nick Nolte. I feel like taking one of my lit Cohibas and shoving it in the eye balls of the two in appropriate laughers that always attend the local screenings, but that’s a different story for a different day.

After that fantasy, I thought about how The Fault in Our Stars is one movie where that would be a disruption. You’re trying to get invested in this teenager who has cancer and finally falls in love with a boy she meets at a support group. I can only imagine what scenes this girl was laughing at – the Anne Frank House? The cancer coming back? The best friend losing his eye sight? (Oh yeah — spoiler alert)

AMC Theatres spokesman Ryan Noonan issued a statement to KTLA in Los Angeles that said, “On Monday evening, a theatre manager received complaints from two guests about disruptive behavior during a movie. The manager stepped into the auditorium to observe the situation, indentified prolonged disruptive behavior, waited to see if the behavior would cease, and when it did not, approached the guests. The manager explained our policy about making noise that disrupts others during the movie. At that time the guest asked for a refund, which was provided.”

The Schreur family feels they were discriminated against and that their daughter Destiny was treated unfairly. Marji said, “She deserves to be able to laugh just like anybody else.”

I’d love to ask her what was funny and laughable about cancer. I wonder what she would think if there was a person there that just lost somebody in a similar fashion – and as they’re grieving with these memories during a sad scene – the girl next to them is laughing at who knows what. Instead of these selfish people (and I’m not talking about Destiny, but her mom) just caring about what THEY want, they should’ve been thinking about others in the theatre.

I was at a screening of the Planet of the Apes movie, and had a lovely conversation with a woman next to me that hated Snowpiercer (I liked it). She was eating a piece of cheese cake. Later during the movie, she started eating something that smelled disgusting. For the next 10 minutes, everyone around us was looking back to find the offensive smell. That’s disruptive. And it shows a severe lack of consideration, just as it did when I worked a few years at the post office and these old Asian women would heat up fish in the microwave a few times a week for lunch. You think burned popcorn smells bad!!!

During an afternoon showing of Life Itself, there was a scene where we find out Roger Ebert can’t eat because his jaw has been removed. The lady behind me figured since she can still eat, would spend the next five minutes rattling a bag of goodies she had smuggled in. Imagine my surprise when 15 minutes later, I had to endure five more minutes of bag rattling noise. When it happened again 30 minutes later, I turned around and looked at her. She immediately stopped.

Sometimes I’m more tolerant because…it’s hard to fault people for spending a few minutes trying to open their Red Vines. The theatre is in the business of selling snacks, even the ones that are hard to open in the dark (don’t even get me started on the waitresses that bring in food during the movie at Cinepolis).

I brought up a similar topic before on my Facebook page and two friends that have children with disabilities gave me a hard time. They claimed I was the one that cared only about myself (side note: they unfriended me).

I am not that distracted by the blue light from somebody texting, but more bothered by the fact that the bozo doing it isn’t thinking about those around them. I hate couples that feel the need to explain the movie to each other, or say asinine things like, “Isn’t that that one actor from that one movie? Yeah, I think it is!”

In the case of the Schreur family, the special-needs child being loud in a movie would’ve  irked me.

I used to see a woman at movie screenings in San Diego in a wheelchair and with a loud breathing apparatus. It was so loud that if you sat within 7 rows of her, you’d hear it. During quiet scenes, the entire theatre could hear it. I was tempted to ask her if she realized how loud it was for everyone else. Of course, I would’ve sounded like a jerk. People would’ve said, “Shouldn’t she be allowed to enjoy the movie going experience too?”

Well, where does that all end? If you had an overactive bladder that causes you to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes – and you think you’ll still enjoy a movie that you miss half of – go for it. I have no problems. Until you’re asking me to move my legs 10 times and I can’t see the screen for a few seconds each time. As I told a fellow movie critic recently who gets up to make phone calls during screenings, “Sit in the aisle seat if you know you’re going to be getting up during the movies.”

Before you send all your hate mail, let me say this. I’ve been a volunteer basketball coach for a Special Olympics team for the last five years. I don’t have anybody in my family who is mentally challenged. I just feel the parents of people that do have it tough, and to have practices and games and give those parents a break while the kids get to play a sport they love – I’m all about that. So please – give me a break when I want to spend a couple hours escaping into the fantasy world of film.


  • Jan

    Well said Josh. I stopped going to the movies a long time ago because of the many disruptions. Rather wait for a movie to be on DVD or on the internet.

  • Elisha

    You are indeed a jerk. I hope you for your sake you never have a "special need". But if you do, see how you enjoy the movie without your "breathing apparatus".

    “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
    ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

    • Mission Valley Film

      So the movie goer has to be "understanding and forgiving" of a patron being loud and ruining the movie for them. Shouldn't the mother of the loud, special-needs child be "understanding" of an audience that wants to hear a movie?????

  • bob pearl

    Wow one of your best reviews ever but I guess i forgot which movie it was for,lol. There is a short video going around on facebook where there are four ladies in a room and one is taking a cell call and all she does is go ha ha real loud after about 4 times the lady next to her grabs the phone throws it against the wall and hopefully broke it and does the ha ha back to her, its great and i can understand her reason. All in all there has to be a limit as movies are to be enjoyed and heard by all, Although i like to talk alot i also love to watch and enjoy a movie the only time i had a problem is during the Artist which was a silent film and Imight have whispered something to someone and a guy gave me the shush thing at which I just said to him whats the matter you cant hear the words, besides the music and yes I got in trouble from my friend but I still dont think it was that bad but oh well. If i am getting the main idea from your thesis, everyone feels for special needs and other unfortunate situations but they also have to think of others and when they expect special favors etc. There has to be a limit. I may be missing the point if is so I'm sorry but especially if you pay for the movie there has to be some consideration involved and since so many are sue happy and so many judges and lawyers are crooked you might have a case which is just another case of the tilted scales of justice.

  • Nicole

    My husband refuses to go to movies because of kids kicking back of seats and being disruptive. I agree with this post!!!

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    • joshboardfox5

      I don't think you have to directly kick them out. Give them (or the family) a chance, as it seems this theatre did. Management went in, saw/heard a distraction, and asked the family to be quieter. The woman took offense to that, and was promptly asked to leave. The strange thing is….for example, I was at a screening of Earth to Echo. Now, that is geared towards kids, but this family next to me had a 4 year old, 7, and 10 year old (guessed on the ages). The 4 and 7-year-old kept saying things, every two minutes, in a loud voice. Things like "What's that mom?" or "Hey….I want to get some ice cream. Is there a space ship in this?" And occasionally, the mom would say "Shhhhh" to the kids, but that did little. So finally I said to her "Can you please keep your kids quiet?" She looked at me like she was ready to kill me, but leaned over and told her kids to be quiet. About two minutes later, they started up again, with her going "Shhhhh." So….after about 20 more minutes of this, and me missing lots of the movie, I tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Come on, you gotta find a way to keep your kids quiet." She snapped, "Who are you, the king of the theater?!" Seriously, that was her response. Instead of just taking the two loud ones out of the theatre, and telling them, "If you guys can't sit still and stop talking, we can't go back in there and watch the rest of it." And that's why NOBODY ever wants to say anything to anybody, because they know it won't do any good. So if a parent of ANY CHILD that is going to make noise, lets it continue — they are a bigger part of the problem and get no sympathy from me.

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