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Trust me, you're not Henry Kissinger

Barry Koltnow
The Orange County Register (MCT)

Road rage gets all the headlines, but I wonder why we don't hear more about movie rage?

I'm not trying to equate the two. I know that it's a lot more serious when someone cuts you off in traffic than when someone kicks the back of your seat in a movie theater, but that doesn't lessen the annoyance factor. Having someone waste two hours of my life by ruining a movie-going experience has to be worth something.

I am reminded of annoying things that happen in movie theaters each time I sit in a movie theater, but the subject really hit home the other day when I received the results of a very interesting online survey.

Conducted by a Los Angeles-based marketing company called Pet Peeves on its Web site of the same name, the survey concluded that "talking in the movies" is the most annoying thing that can happen in a movie theater.

Of the nearly 1,800 people who responded to the survey, 35 percent cited talking as their biggest pet peeve.

I have no problem with that finding. I am constantly amazed when people treat a public theater as if it's their private living room. I can't tell you how many times I feel like screaming: "You're not home!"

In descending order, the survey respondents listed "kicking your chair from behind" (27 percent), "price of theater snacks" (25 percent), "people walking into a theater late" (7 percent) and "having to sit in the front row" (6 percent).

All worthy annoyances, I must say.

The only fault I found in the survey is that the researchers only offered those five options. There are so many other annoyances that could have been included.

For instance, what about the commercials?

I believe that commercials are the worst thing to be added to the movie-going experience since sticky floors.

Theater owners will insist that they had to go with commercials to offset the money they lose on tickets prices because the studios take so high a percentage. Wasn't that the same lame excuse they gave to explain the exorbitant concession prices? They keep piling on the commercials, and the cost of popcorn keeps going up.

I read somewhere that theater owners conducted a survey of their own, and discovered that people actually liked the commercials. This is the same survey that found that people were willing to have bamboo shoots shoved up their fingernails if it meant that they could get a free upgrade in the size of their soft drink.

Since no one surveyed me, allow me to offer my own conclusion: I hate the commercials, and will go out of my way to arrive late so I miss them. In fact, allow me to suggest that movie ads be required to list the starting time of the commercials, as well as the real starting time of the movies. Theater owners shouldn't be afraid to do that if they really believe that people enjoy the commercials.

Not all my hostility is directed toward theater owners. I have plenty left over for annoying theater patrons.

Besides the annoyances mentioned in the online survey, I would like to add cell phones.

I have nothing against cell phones. They are a modern convenience, and modern conveniences can be a good thing, even to a dinosaur like me.

But I object to their inclusion in the movie-going experience. I don't like looking over a sea of flickering lights before the film starts. With the advent of stadium seating, it's even worse.

People love to check their cell phones for messages as soon as they sit down. Didn't they just check their messages in the lobby? Didn't they also check while walking from their car? Didn't they check when they were parking their car?

I've got news for those people: You're not that important. Nobody is desperate to reach you to operate on a dying patient, to negotiate a truce in the Middle East or to bail Paris Hilton out of jail.

Some people like to play video games on their cell phones before the movie starts. I approve only if it is meant as a protest against the commercials. But they must be turned off during movie previews. And it should be a law - punishable by death or being thrown out of the theater - that people must turn off their cell phones during the feature attraction. Checking your cell phone in the middle of a movie is just as annoying as talking.

Finally, a few words about hard-candy wrappers.

Yes, I understand that some people suffer from a condition called "dry mouth in the movies."

But if you know you are afflicted with this condition, why don't you unwrap your candy before the movie starts, instead of waiting until the first line of dialogue to begin your crinkling explosion?

See you at the movies.

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