At risk of sounding like a lame comedian circa 1985, I will now offer some very basic rules of moviegoing that I hope we can all agree with. Because really -- if we ALL agree on them, then every one of my complaints should be remedied by this time tomorrow. And that would be great.
A. Young children in movie theaters. OK, for G or PG-rated flicks we non-breeders simply have to deal with it. That's cool. (Forget that I still can't see WALL*E in peace, but OK.) For PG-13 movies, you're kind of pushing it. I seriously doubt that your four-year-old will be disappointed if he has to wait for Return of the King on DVD. So please just drop the extra $15 on a babysitter. For R-rated movies? Nothing personal, but if your child is too young to understand the phrase "Please be silent for the next 103 minutes, except if you have to pee or you rrrreally want a soda," then that child must be left at home. I've seen three-year-olds at 300, rugrats roaming The Ruins, toddlers' troubles with 28 Days Later, daughters dazed by Doomsday, sons stunned by Sunshine, minors mucking through The Mist and babies babbling In Bruges. Seriously, cut it out.
B. When dealing with "talkage" during a screening, we should of course give the talker a brief grace period. He / she could be saying something that's actually important (like the house is on fire) or maybe they just need a quick catch-up on why Spy Assassin B just turned stoolie on Government Agent C. That person gets a handful of seconds (depending on the mood of the offended party), but once a brief exchange of words becomes anything close to an actual conversation, then SHUSHING simply must occur. The key is to be firm yet polite, humane yet serious. Admit it: If you're in a dark room and a stranger shushes you (even IF you were definitely in the wrong), your first reaction is to be offended. Ignore that impulse, do a quick memory check to confirm that you were TALKING during a movie, and then simply be quiet. Despite the fact that your living room houses a better theater system than your local multiplex, that does NOT make a movie theater your living room. (And please do pass along that message to your children: Movie auditoriums are like libraries, which means please do be quiet. And then you'll have to explain what a library is.)
C. Section B also holds true for the movie trailers. Yes, some of us actually want to see and hear those things. If you desperately need that last seven minutes for even more chit-chatting, I might suggest that you made the wrong plans that evening. What you wanted was a restaurant.
D. You know that one scene that we've all seen in the trailers and commercials 63 times? Stop pretending that you were surprised by that specific joke / scare / explosion. It makes us all seem kind of Pavlovian. (This recently happened during The Strangers -- you know the scene even if you haven't seen the flick -- and it made me a little bit irritated with our entire species.)
E. All that pseudo-Ebert movie-babble that you guys ooze out of your faces in an effort to impress your movie-clueless girlfiends? Actually, keep that stuff up. It's hilarious pre-show entertainment. (And she probably knows you're full of crap, that Michael Mann didn't direct Legends of the Fall, and that she likes you anyway.)
F. Pre-Movie Advertising. OK, obviously it's pure evil. That's a given. I mean, we deal with ads on network TV because, hell, we get some fine programs FOR FREE from network television. Fine. But if you just dropped $72 so your family could experience that magic that is Meet Dave, you sure as hell don't deserve a 12-minute block of promotional garbage. (What you do deserve is better taste in movies.) If your theater chain is kind enough to begin the ad-block well before the film's scheduled start time, that's a whole lot cooler. But still pure evil.
G. I know I really shouldn't care because we're all leaving at the same time and it never really affects me in any practical way, but this just in: An auditorium is not a CRAP SILO. If you spilled some popcorn or left a napkin, big whoop. But why would you just leave four (half-empty) large Cokes and six Goober empties strewn across the floor? Gotta make those teenagers truly earn their six bucks an hour, eh?
I definitely have a few more (pee before the movie, lazy!), but I'd like to open the question up to the (virtual) floor. (And seriously, it's virtual. I'm not responsible if you stand on it.) What are some other moviegoing rules that we can all agree on?
Oh, and for the record: I really do love children. And I absolutely love talking. Just not while a flick is playing and quadruply so while movie tickets are $11 apiece.