Should You Talk During Alamo Pre-Shows?

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SXSW 2009

On KGSR morning radio earlier this week, the hosts were complaining about an problem one of them had at Alamo Ritz when he saw The Hangover last weekend. He was annoyed that he couldn't hear the pre-show. For The Hangover, the Alamo Ritz pre-show consisted of stand-up comedy clips, and this guy felt that part of the Alamo experience is getting to watch the pre-show in relative peace. Instead, the pre-show comedy was drowned out by audience members were "shouting at the top of their lungs."

The morning-show hosts felt that people should keep their voices down as soon as they enter an Alamo theater -- make the minimum noises needed to get into seats and order food, but then treat the pre-show like it was the actual movie.

I have to disagree. When people go to movies in groups, they like to chat and have social time before the movie starts -- it's part of the fun of going to movies in groups. I think of the Alamo pre-show as a conversation piece, like a coffee-table book or the thing your aunt gave you that you don't know what it is. I do agree with the KGSR guys that you should use your inside voice in the movie theater, but I think that's true generally.

I also think the best Alamo pre-shows aren't too intrusive and don't require full attention. One thing I like about the Alamo pre-shows is that they're not as loud as the pre-movie commercial crap blasting in many big-chain theaters -- at Alamo, you can talk without getting shouty or annoying others. Perhaps stand-up comedy that requires focused listening is not the best pre-show material.

But you know, I argued with Scott Weinberg last year about whether or not people should talk during trailers -- he wants absolute silence, and I think that quiet remarks and even conversation should be fine because trailers are commercials, not movies. We compromised on subdued murmurs and whispers for new and heavily anticipated trailers. Until the movie itself starts, I'm relatively laid-back about noise levels.

But enough about what I think and what the KGSR guys think. Do you talk during Alamo Drafthouse pre-shows, and do you get annoyed when others do so?

Happy medium? Or at least a tolerable one.

Personally, I think conversation is OK, but I have been to the Ritz a few times recently, where there were small groups who seemed to think it was a party, not a theater, right up until the QUIET ZONE sign.

I think normal conversation is fine before the lights go down, and between the dimmed lights and the start of the actual film, quiet conversation wind down is OK.

Sunday at Alamo Lamar, some people were still talking as the QUIET ZONE sign went up. I think the glares they got shut them up more than the sign.

should you talk during "pre-show featurettes" at the Alamo?

Yes, I think it is perfectly acceptable to talk during pre-show bits at the Alamo. While it is part of the ambiance and culture of the Drafthouse to have quirky show clips on before the main movie, it is not something that should require your full attention.

Would you be quiet during the (god-awful, IMHO) trivia commercials before a main feature at a Tinseltown or Regal Cinemas? I am not. That is the time to pick seats, catch up on which scenes you are looking forward to seeing, gathering snacks and drinks, and generally making yourself comfortable so you can be quiet during the main feature.

I love the pre-show clips at the Alamo - please do not mistake me as a "who cares what is on the screen" kind of gal. I regularly giggle at them, and they become their own topic of conversation while we are waiting on our food and drinks. But, they are filler material, meant to create an atmosphere for the patrons of the Alamo, not command your attention in strict silence.

In my experience, the voice lowers when the lights lower. :)

Compromise sounds good to me,

Compromise sounds good to me, too, Jette. I try to be silent during the film and not to be loud at the preshows at the Alamo South or Village (cannot believe we still haven't made it to the Ritz).

But no way should there be absolute silence during the previews - the feedback from the audience is not only part of the fun, it can give you an idea of what will happen to the actual film when it's released.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

I'm all about using indoor

I'm all about using indoor voice indoors, but I paid for the show, not the pre-show. It's a movie theater, not a library.

And on to the previews...

I think chatting with inside voices during the pre-show is fine. Come early and you will see that usually the whole pre-show is repeated at least once if not twice. You can watch it in peace, order food and drink and be the one to stare down people noisily being seated as movie begins and trying to order. During previews I confine myself to sotto voice reviews such as "Must see that" and "Wait for cable or Netflix" and the extra-damning "Cancel cable as insurance against ever seeing."

Gimme a Break

I think we're starting to brush up against a couple of weird lines here.

1) The line where some folks have such a need for a controlled environment that they shouldn't watch a movie in a theatre.

2) The line where the silence Nazis are actually starting to infringe on other people enjoying the movie with their friends.

Are we not allowed to speak once we enter the theatre? I get that you like silence. I get that you like the pre-shows (I do too, but I've never had a problem watching one). And now it's time for you to get over yourself and recognize that some people have different preferences than you.

Talk away

I have a unique perspective on the subject, as I am the person who creates and programs all the Alamo preshows at the original Alamo theaters (Ritz, Village and Lamar). I have done it for 5 years and I've given it an awful lot of thought.

My idea is to put material on screen that can be enjoyed or ignored, depending on the audience. If you show up for a movie before your friends do you can pay intense attention to it. If you're with a group and want to talk and have fun and ignore the preshow or pay glancing attention to it, please do so.

I'd actually hate it if people felt like they needed to shut up and watch the preshow exclusively. Have fun, enjoy the whole experience. If no one in the audience is focusing on the preshow for a particular showtime I am fine with it, because fun is the goal, whether preshow-induced or preshow-independent.

I have to say it's very gratifying to read comments about the preshow. I really appreciate the caliber of audiences we have at the Alamo. Thank you all very much for coming to the theaters.

Thank YOU

Thank you for putting the preshow programs together. They're a lot nicer than the ones in national chains. The special ones associated with films (particularly Watchmen and Serenity) make it worth getting there early just to catch them.

Only I'm still traumatized by some of the Japanese TV clips I first saw at Fantastic Fest years ago... particularly one of a pregnant monster in a small apartment oozing sparkly ooze.

Preshow content is a factor, too

Cool to see Lars commenting. :)

For me, one of the relevant variables is the type of preshow. If the preshow is a montage of 1950s-era commercials or crazy J-pop gameshow madness, I have no problems with people howling nonsense at their friends like they've just been electrocuted.

However, I take issue with people who are so insensitive to their surroundings that they don't notice a special preshow narrative or featurette that a moviegoer probably will never get another chance to see.

And yeah, soft chatter during a preshow doesn't bother me. It's just the screamers who prevent my enjoyment of some of the more serious preshow fare.