Wonder if Siskel and Ebert ever have these problems?

You've hired a baby-sitter, had an enjoyable, leisurely dinner, paid for parking, tickets, popcorn and sodas and are now kicked back watching the feature film. As if on cue, the people behind turn into Andrew Dice Clay clones.

They talk, they giggle, they laugh at the romantic parts, make kissing sounds during the tender scenes, and they give away plot points at the most suspenseful moments. They put their feet on the back of the seat next to you, inches from your face, or they sit under the no-smoking signs, casually puffing away.

Recently in San Bernardino County, a judge who was trying to watch "Pretty Woman" in peace was incessantly disturbed by a couple of overactive teen-agers who just wouldn't be quiet. Having reached his breaking point, the 69-year-old justice smacked one of the boys in the face and choked the other.

"That's certainly not recommended," said Michael Tieger, general manager of the AMC Orange Mall 6 theaters. But short of facing possible misdemeanor battery charges, what's the best way to deal with discourteous patrons? How do you get people in a movie theater to behave without leaving a mark?

Moviegoers have a few options:

* Firmly and politely tell the offending party they are disturbing you.

* Change your seat.

* Inform the manager.

* Ask for a refund and leave the theater.

"That's a tough situation. We want all of our patrons to know they're in a comfortable, safe atmosphere when they go to the movies. It disturbs me when patrons have to get out of their seat and come get us, but what seems to work for us is proactive management," Tieger said.

"Proactive management" is cinematic jargon for how theater managers get people to comply with standards of common courtesy. The following are some of Tieger's suggestions as to how managers can either avoid an incident or effectively handle it once patrons have alerted them to a problem.

* Conduct auditorium walk-throughs and check not only the quality of the picture and the temperature of the theater, but look for people talking, smoking or with their feet on the seats.

* Politely and firmly tell loud talkers and other potential troublemakers they are disturbing the people around them.

* Ask smokers to go outside or into the lobby to smoke.

* Ask smokers to surrender their cigarette so it can be extinguished for them in an ashtray. This usually stops startled smokers from just putting the cigarette out on the floor and creating a possible fire hazard.

* In a worst-case scenario, managers can ask truly obnoxious offenders to leave.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World