Andrew Collins: I declare war on popcorn

Asking you to respect other cinema patrons before you buy that noisy snack

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I know I’m not the first to have this moan, but it doesn’t make my plea any less heartfelt: can we all please stop eating noisy food in the cinema? I was going to say that a recent visit to my local arthouse cinema was ruined by the couple sitting next to me who crunched their way through a seemingly bottomless box of something brittle, bitty and hard throughout the film, but the film was Elles. This implausible French film about students working as prostitutes which even Juliette Binoche couldn’t rescue from banality and have-cake-eat-cake exploitation, came ready-ruined, so the crunching was merely an apt irritant to accompany it.

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The crime remains the same. Why would you opt to buy noisy food to eat during a film? I know that popcorn has an iconic place in the history of the cinema and in many ways is the ideal, mindless snack for grazing on when you’re not actually hungry but want something automatic to do with your hands and mouth, zombie-like, while a film is on.

And I concede that the high buttery aroma and the feel of popped corn underfoot is part of the traditional cinemagoing experience, like Pearl and Dean, velour, and having to travel up three escalators to get to the cinema.

Oh, and the cinema chains stand to make more money selling you salty/sugary snacks and pails of fizzy pop than they do selling you a ticket, so we can’t expect them to intervene. But…

I would urge those of you who buy popcorn, or nachos, or crisps, or nuts, or hard sweets … (I’m going to have to exempt hot dogs, as they are silent, if smelly)… to ask yourself two simple questions before you hand over the money for your essential snack:

1) Do you really need it?

2) Are other patrons going to be watching the film with you?

If the answer to question 1) is “yes”, and the answer to question 2) is “no”, crunch away, with abandon, knock yourself out. (Although it sounds to me like you missed dinner and you’re at home.)

My war on popcorn is not based in any kind of snobbery. If it’s a noisy blockbuster, the other patrons aren’t even going to hear your popcorn being masticated. Frankly, if you want to talk all the way through Transformers or the latest Marvel marvel, it’s not going to spoil anybody’s enjoyment. It may even add to the “event picture” atmosphere. I expect this is why we consider them “popcorn movies”. It is not necessarily a pejorative term.

But anything approaching a talky drama, whether it’s Elles, or Damsels In Distress (gosh, that was a quiet film), or something atmospheric and challenging, like The Turin Horse (forthcoming black-and-white Hungarian meditation on rural subsistence and the end of the world), why would you wish to impinge upon the experience of your fellow cinemagoers by doing a human beatbox with processed carbohydrates?

I know I sound like an old man here. But what the hell, it’s a game of Russian roulette as it is, going to the cinema, what with the ever widening range of possible impediments to a restful experience: people talking, people texting, people actually having conversations on phones, people having tall hairstyles and sitting in front on you … To reduce my stress levels, could you please think before you buy that metre-deep box of industrially heated maize kernels. That’s all I’m asking.

My ambition, one day, is to open my own cinema, where only quiet, soft, mushy food is sold in the foyer, and mobile phones are actually taken off you on your way into the auditorium by jackbooted security guards. With a bit of luck, nobody will come to my cinema, and I’ll just watch the films on my own, in peace.

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Policemen are getting younger, too, aren’t they? And I don’t understand the modern music…