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Enforcing civility in cinemas

In December 2019, I went to the cinema in Luxembourg where movies/films are screened in original versions and subtitled in French and/or German. There was still full lighting when I got in, so it was easy to find my allocated seat; but there was already someone on it. I showed politely my G8 ticket to a man in his 50s; to my surprise, he stared at me and said in English, “Is it really important” (it sounded as a cynical remark rather than a question). Yet, I responded politely — “it should be otherwise there would not be such a policy and the cinema attendant would not have asked me where I wanted to sit”. The woman next to him held his hand and leaned her head on his shoulder. I looked at the vacant seat next to him and suggested I could sit there if he removed his belongings (i. e. expensive-looking coat and hat). He shook his head and commented “It’s idiot”. Luckily, it was “It’s” because I do not usually let unreasonable, insensitive statements go by unchallenged.

If they did not move, what would have happened? I like the idea of fairness, justice and respecting policies and regulations; so, I would have gone out and complained to the staff spoiling my and their cinema outing. Is seat allocation in the cinema necessary? If yes, why is there no staff to enforce it? It is quite embarrassing to deal with “it’s my seat” situation.

My personality favours seat allocation, however, I know that others are happy to sit where there is space. As a movie enthusiast, I always go to the cinema during its first week of showing. I enjoy choosing a seat that is in the middle of the room where I get most of the visual and audio features; as well, it ensures that my companion/s and I sit together. When there is no seat allocation, it is “First come, first serve”, which is alright when the cinema is only half full.

When there is no shortage of empty place, seat allocation becomes unnecessary. Thus, should there be a seat allocation only for sold out films? I am not sure about this because there are other intervening factors, such as time of the showing (e.g., 10 am session often attracts less people) and the length of time the film has been in the cinema.

The principle behind seat allocation is sound when there is someone who enforces it (as in theatres and concerts with ushers). It does not work when people do not sit in their allocated seats and there is no one who ensures that this is respected. It becomes even more complicated when those who sit in the wrong seats refuse to move.

For me, going to the cinema is a leisure activity and watching a good movie (particularly those based on true stories) is a form of relaxation. Unfortunately, this was not the case last December. What are the explanations to his behaviour and comments? Perhaps he always gets what he wants disrespecting other people (environment plays an important role in this: family/upbringing, education, etc). Maybe he is a manager and used to bossing people around and dislikes being told what to do. Though I was the one who asked him to change seat, I felt intimidated and uncomfortable. Consequently, it ruined my afternoon of lone cinema treat before the busy holiday period of cooking, tidying up, entertaining and visiting Christmas markets. Are you for or against seat allocation? Have you been asked to move or vacate a seat? Have you taken someone else’s seat by mistake or deliberately?

(This article also appears in my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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