"Oh, do ya? Well, that's funny, because I happen to have Mr McLuhan right here."UNITED ARTISTS

Why do people go to the cinema? The answer is blindingly obvious: to see a film. Not to use phones, eat, talk, or copulate (you know who you are), but to immerse themselves in the wonder of visual entertainment, without distraction or worry. For many, it is the ultimate form of escapism, an essential part of dealing with the perils of daily life. Here, then, is a guide to ensure you can switch off for your own benefit, and the benefit of those around you, in four simple steps.

Rule No. 1: Never talk to anyone, especially about the film.

Perhaps the easiest way to avoid this is going to see a film alone, an absurd notion to the more sociable cinemagoer. However, the best way to isolate yourself in the world of the screen is to have no association to anyone else, forming a unique collective appreciation. Too often you hear people wrestling with each other to recall who an actor is (if you care that much, show some appreciation and watch the bloody credits), or asking friends to explain a joke that involved a cultural reference they were too ignorant to understand. Needless to say, there are times when whispering in someone’s ear might be permitted, such as if one is having a heart attack or a stroke, but try not to make too big a fuss.

“The noise is unbearable, from the rummaging to the masticating, and that inevitable moment the box flies from your hands and scatters itself everywhere.”

The best explanation of this is in Annie Hall, because no one understands these pains better than Woody Allen. The man behind him is spouting his opinions with vulgar authoritative pretence, and, as he starts to criticise Marshall McLuhan, the media theorist himself comes forward to correct him, embodying the fantasy of any film lover. “Boy, if life were only like this.” That is not to say people should not have opinions on films – I would be a massive hypocrite to suggest that. Yet it rarely occurs to us that other people may not give a flying monkey what we think, especially in the context of the cinema. Typically, this conversation goes: “Did you enjoy that?”, followed by, “no, didn’t get it, too talky,” or, “yeah, he was so hot.” Fine, glad you got that off your chest, but maybe keep it in until you get outside. Everyone will thank you for it. Golden rule: try not to be the prick in Annie Hall.

Rule No. 2: Turn off your phone.

Not sure how cinemas could be clearer about this one. Of course, so many people now show up late to a film (if one arrives once the film has started, go home or wait for the next screening; another invaluable lesson from Allen) they might miss the announcements. But this should still be obvious. Nowadays everyone seems so addicted to technology that the thought of only looking at one screen at a time is incomprehensible. Thank God, very few hold actual conversations, but those that do are quite possibly the most wretched human beings alive. Night mode or not, the screen glare is incredibly distracting and can be ruinous for other people. Glossy popcorn boxes are similarly annoying in reflecting light from the screen, although that is a sin of the cinema itself, so audience members cannot be wholly blamed.

Rule No. 3: Leave eating and drinking for later.

A simple solution to the popcorn issue is, obviously, to not eat popcorn at all. The noise is unbearable, from the rummaging to the masticating, and that inevitable moment the box flies from your hands and scatters itself everywhere. Odours from hot food are often nauseating, which highlights the dire need to use deodorant when forced into such proximity – few things are worse than being pressed against a stranger’s sweaty armpit. The same goes for drinking, especially alcohol (just why?), so precariously balanced that too often clothes are ruined by red wine spillages. Unfortunately, if we are to keep cinemas alive and kicking, food and drink are vital to profits and keep down already excessive ticket prices. Still, it would not hurt to limit the snacks from time to time

Rule No. 4: Refrain from moving.

Expanding on the drinking point, it is understandable that some people have genuine conditions that require regular bladder evacuation. If that is the case, would it not be considerate to ensure you are sitting near the exit? It might also be advisable to go before entering the cinema itself, and not have anything to drink in the meantime. To most of us it is obvious, but after being asked to stand as people stumble past one too many times, it seems people are stupider than I thought. Being six-foot-two, I know how uncomfortable sitting in a cinema can be (here’s looking at you, Odeon), thus people occasionally might need to readjust their position. But some take it a step too far, shaking themselves, walking about, removing shoes (this is never excusable). The cinema is not your home, and while some of us spend a lot of time there, it is not a hub for languishing as one might while on the sofa watching TV. I cannot labour this point enough.

Some people think going to the cinema is a bit of fun. A place to have a laugh or cry, maybe suck their partner’s face off (I think I would rather watch Dinner for Schmucks again than listen to you exchange saliva). It is not. The cinema is a cultural forum through which we throw ourselves into another world, and sometimes find something truly special there. To do so, we have to leave this world behind, and any reminder of our humanity is to be discouraged. Call me a grumpy old film critic, but that is exactly what I am. Oh, and if you haven’t already, please watch Annie Hall – preferably in rigid silence

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