Don't Be That Guy: Basic Summer Outdoor Screening Etiquette
Lounging with wine and cheese sounds civilized, unless you're picnicking at one of Los Angeles dozen-plus outdoor summer movie screenings. The crowds at Cinespia and Electric Dusk look relaxed, but are roiling under the surface with unspoken - and unagreed-upon - rules for proper social conduct. Failing ushers to maintain order, nature screenings are mostly self-policed. But sometimes the enforcers can be as aggressively wrong as the behavior they're trying to stop. After all, if you must see a movie in controlled silence, we're all better off if you skip Hollywood Forever and cruise around the corner to the Arclight. (Or better still, go to the drive-in where you can talk as much as you please.)
Before another person gets a red plastic cup of Malbec "accidentally" spilled on their blanket, let's establish some literal ground rules as Patt Morrison and I recently tried to do on Airtalk.
10. No dogs. Not even cute little dogs. If you can't 100% swear that Bowser won't be so overstimulated by the smell of pre-sliced salami and squirrels that she launches into a barking fit or dashes across the field tipping over bottles of iced tea, leave her at home. As much as your friends assure you that they really don't mind if she comes, they kind of do. Unless they bring their puppy, too, and the resulting dog double team will make sure everyone near you secretly hopes your mutt chews up your seat cushion.
9. No babies. Not even cute little babies, for the same reasons as above. The one exception is for actual kids movies where everyone tacitly agrees that they'll ignore your baby if you ignore theirs. What's an actual kids movie? Think Monsters University, The Sandlot, Frozen, Despicable Me 2, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (all of which are playing this summer) - and not The Goonies, Back to the Future, Labyrinth and The Princess Bride, which have been co-opted by nostalgic adults.
8. No smoking. Yes, you're outdoors and it's technically legal. Still, the person-per-square-foot ratio is so condensed that stashing your cigarettes is simply polite. As for vaping, cover the light-up tip - it's distracting.
7. Yes to weed, but only if it's edible. Flaunting your pot card with a fat joint is a beginner's mistake - you're just asking for a fight. Take advantage of your picnic basket and prevent a showdown with your nose-sensitive neighbors.
6. Make out as much as you please. Outdoor movies are romantic, and prudes who can't deal should be focusing on the flick.
5. Share your stuff. Wine openers, extra plates and silverware, cookies, spare cans of Coors Light. Yes, your picnic basket is a militaresque masterpiece, but there's no need to roll your eyes at the under-prepared college kid who just wanted to impress his date.
4. Know your surroundings. Before it gets dark, figure out the shortest way to the bathroom and get a loose sense of large clusters of people to avoid stepping on. The goal is to get from point A to point B and back without shining your cellphone in anyone's face (or face-planting in their hummus).
3. Respect the proper person-to-blanket ratio. Here's how to tell if your group is hogging up too much space: If everyone lays flat like a tin of sardines, do you just barely fit on the fabric? Perfect.
2. Chairs are for old people, the infirm, and jerks. If you fall into one of those three categories, it's okay to bring one - as long as you sit in the back. At Cinespia, your chair can't be higher than six inches off the ground, about the height of a beer can. Even so, don't be that row of bozos who blocks the view for three-dozen people.
1. Don't care about the movie. Because let's face it, you won't really able to pay attention, and getting upset that the rest of the audience is talking won't help. Nobody likes a shush-er. Accept that outdoor screenings are social events first, cinematic events second. And if you're that eager to see Badlands or The Party, rent them on Netflix first. (Related: Don't try to introduce someone to your favorite movie at an outdoor screening - you'll just get annoyed that they're a Philistine who isn't giving it proper respect.) Remember movie-lovers, you're supposed to be having fun.
Amy Nicholson on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter:
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Los Angeles.