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January 7th, 2004

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The most interesting thing about this evening's viewing of Return of the King (5:30 showing, Loews Boston Common) may not have been the actual film itself. It may have been the antics of one audience member in particular.

The theater wasn't packed, but it wasn't empty either. A right moderate audience-to-emptyseat ratio if you ask me. And we started the film rather nicely, I thought. But then, in the silence that followed the first major Gollum-Frodo-Sam scene (notice the complete lack of slash in that phrase) it happened. The Scream.

It came from someone behind me and to my left.

"PRECIOUSSSS!" she screamed. "MY PRECIOUSSSSSS!" And the entire audience whipped its collective head around and stared at her. There was a second or two of absolute stunned silence, then some people managed to get out a good stage-whispered "shush!" and we all turned back to the film.

We were right to be stunned, you see. This hadn't been a whispered joke to a friend. Nor had it been in any particular Indoor Voice. It had been a loud, brazen, full-on scream. One that, in the first few milliseconds or so, made your nerves leap into that white-hot Holy Shit Something's Wrong mode. And it scared us.

And really, we had no idea who the person was behind the scream. Was it a member of society whose mental development might have been sufficiently stunted so that they were not aware that you Do Not Do That in a movie theater? Perhaps. It's happened before. Was it someone actually possessed by the One Ring that they felt compelled to scream along with Gollum? Not bloody likely -- though you never know cause brother, that's one evil ring. Or perhaps it was someone being a complete and total jackass to amuse her friends? If so, her friends were not impressed. There were no juvenile snickers after the scream. If anything, the people seated next to the Source looked alternately embarassed and infuriated. Perhaps it was just a joke gone awry.

And the theater managed to stay silent for a few more scenes, until the Woman Sitting Two Seats Apart From The Screamer leapt into action. I hadn't heard what the Screamer had said, but apparently she'd said something else, and it was enough to set her neighbor off.

"STOP MAKING NOISE!" the Neighbor roared in one of those authoritative "That's All I Can Stands And I Canst Stands No More" voices. "YOU'RE RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE. JUST STOP MAKING THAT NOISE."

And then the Screamer petulantly offered up her defense. I swear to God, this is what she said:

"Chill out. All I said was 'My Precious' really loud."

Wow. Just ruminate on that for a moment. The Screamer explained it as if it had been No Big Thing. Of course it hadn't -- people routinely say things Really Loud in movie theaters, all the time, especially in a very silent moment between scenes. Well, as you may well expect, it wasn't enough for the Neighbor.

"You're a fucking selfish bitch," the Neighbor responded, and I think she got up and changed her seat.

Now, from a storytelling perspective, this is one of those moments that should end in appreciative applause from the audience members who care. But it didn't happen. Perhaps we were all still a bit stunned by the second loud outburst of the evening. Maybe we were waiting for the fight to continue. But it didn't. And the Screamer, apparently suitably chastened, stayed silent for the rest of the film.

And it was a pretty good movie, too. I teared up at the end and was the only one who stayed all the way through the closing credits.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2004 05:50 am (UTC)
My first reaction would be, this is the result of a wager. One of her friends bet she wouldn't do it, and she decided the money was worth the ostracization it'd cause. It doesn't sound like that after the second outburst, though.

I've noticed our local movie theater has a lot of problems which are, while not quite comparable to this, at least indicative of a complete lack of consideration for other moviegoers. The first occasion involved an asian boy, about 8th to 10th grade or so, talking incessantly on a cell phone. After several people told him to quiet down or leave, he decided it'd be good enough if he just got out of his seat and walked around the corner, so he was still audible but not visible. The second occasion involved a kid about the same age of indeterminate descent talking to a (clearly uncomfortable) kid in the row ahead of him.

The only thing I have to add is that this happens a lot less when I go to theaters in town, especially in a large audience. It's only the suburban ones that get the bad eggs.
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2004 02:27 pm (UTC)

oh my

As someone who wasn't there, I thought that story really funny.

If I had been there, I would have been pissed. When I saw TTT on opening day, for some reason my fellow movie-goers found the Gollum scenes FUNNY. So anytime he talked, esp if it was to himself, they laughed. A lot.

I found those scenes disturbing and sad, not funny. That weirded me out, the second time I saw it, there was no laughing. Course, might be the difference between IL and TX. :) Ok, no, that doesn't hold up very well, but there was major location difference.
Date:January 8th, 2004 02:32 pm (UTC)

Keith Hopkins

Okay, that was just freaky. Sounds like there's a loose bolt in her skull.
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2004 03:54 pm (UTC)
that is totally wild.

we had a guy sitting next to us at return of the king who was some frat-type. after every preview, he would go, "BOOOOO!" usually the previews were awful so whatever. but then the spiderman preview came on and everyone was cheering and happy. (i thought it was something to do with harry potter.) then after that ended, the guy next to us: "BOOOOOOOOOOOO!" everyone laughed. i was hoping he wasn't going to be weird through the actual film and he wasn't.
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2004 05:32 pm (UTC)
My opening-day audience was very vocal during the previews. Harry Potter got loud cheers of approval, The Butterfly Effect got murmurs of interest, and The Mask sequel was booed like Barry Bonds at a Dodgers game.

But everyone was quiet during the movie, apart from reaction noises - muted squeals of delight at the appearance of Aragorn or Legolas, laughter at the subtle funny bits, wild applause anytime a hobbit or elf or dwarf or woman kicked ass in any way (though in some cases the clapping started before praise-worthy action was even completed, which got to be annoying given the large number of praise-worthy actions).
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2004 05:56 pm (UTC)
The trailer to the Mask sequel was greeted with stony silence. It was pretty amazing, considering the other trailers we saw generated some kind of audience interest, be it positive or negative.

But we DIDN'T GET NO HARRY POTTER TRAILER. We did get one for The Rock's "Walking Tall" remake which looks positively dreadful, though. BUT NO STINKIN HARRY POTTER.
Date:January 9th, 2004 12:22 am (UTC)


Only one person spoke during our set of previews. Me--much to my wife's chagrin.

First, I hiss during the blatant commercials. Not enough for a disturbance, mind you, but if everyone would follow suit it would be a nice thing. From Coke to Levis to Feminine Hygiene, if I pay $25 for a night out, I should be able to do this.

Second, at the end of "The Mask" sequel preview, I (in actual, projected stage voice) uttered a single pronouncement--"No." What I should have said, in retrospect, was "Sweet Jesus! In the name of all that is holy, why are they making this? Who has pictures of New Line's president and the goats?" But I didn't.

I also didn't break into my Lord of the Rings song at anytime during the picture.
Date:January 9th, 2004 09:10 pm (UTC)
I quote Styronate:

"It's Dancing Baby, the Movie!"

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