Walter Mencken 12:34 p.m., July 24
Tips on how to survive a kiddie matinee
Studios want critics to see children's films with an audience, generally at 10am on a Saturday morning at Edwards Mira Mesa. It's a strange custom, as if the sound of children's laughter will somehow add an additional star to a review.
Of late, the critical masses have been getting restless, what with all the crying, talking, and seat back-kicking going on at screenings. Let's begin by stating the obvious: these are word-of-mouth screenings specifically designed for parents and their children to hopefully tout the picture to their friends and classmates. You would have to be stark raving mad not to expect some type of minor disturbances from the toddlers.
The crowd generally seems to settle in after the credits roll. In extreme cases where a parent refuses to remove the offending tyke, a studio rep will immediately usher them into the lobby and gently read them the code of conduct. It will do no good to give the parent a 15 second pep talk on movie theatre etiquette. If mom and/or dad haven't already prepared their tot for the theatre-going experience, they have no business inflicting them on those there to enjoy the show in peace.
If all else fails, here are a few pointers for my colleagues on how to survive the next Dreamworks Animation atrocity.
1.) There are generally 3 to 6 rows taped off for the press. See to it that you arrive early and take refuge in the first row of reserved seats. Unless it's Lickona, chances are the critic parked behind you is not a jabbering seat-kicker.
2.) Most critics bunker down in the stadium seats. On the multiplex battlefield, I'd rather have a quiet German division in front of me, than a whiny French one behind. That is why you will always find me seated fourth-row-center on the main floor. There is an aisle in the Mira Mesa auditorium where most of the kidpics screen. It separates the main floor from the raked seats. Unless you have a mule seated behind you, it is virtually impossible for anyone to kick the back of your seat.
3.) Get to know your neighbors. Before the show, talk to the potentially offending families seated around you. Turn to little Bobby or Betty and ask, "You're not a Mr. Bungle who talks during movies, are you?" Explain to them how privileged they are to be among the first in San Diego to see the wonderful picture that's about to unfold before their eyes. Remember: If they're nobody, threat them like somebody and if they're somebody, threat them like nobody.
A mother sat between me and her adorable daughter a few months back. During the movie, the babe let out what I like to think was a test squeal. Leaning forward, my mock-angry scowl caught her eye. She smiled, pressed a finger up to her lips as if to say "Shhh," and didn't utter a peep for the rest of the show.
If all else fails, I had my neighbor kid make me one of these. It's a little honey, isn't it? May I recommend Sunoco 260, the cinephiles fuel of choice for keeping them little buggers quiet.
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