January 21, 2022

"I’m an African-American man, so I speak plainly. It was a Black theater. You yelled at the screen, and folks would talk."

"A major component of Black existence is forced comportment in white spaces. There is a comfort derived from taking off the disguise, if just for a few minutes in the cinema." 

Said Cyrus McQueen, a stand-up comedian, quoted in "The ‘Shouting Back’ Theater Abruptly Closes, and Brooklyn Mourns/A rowdy movie house suddenly goes dark, inspiring an outpouring of dismay and reminiscences" (NYT).

The theater closed last Sunday, taking regulars by surprise.... Dean Fleischer-Camp, a filmmaker, said that his favorite movie experience ever involved people “screaming, laughing, singing” and “throwing popcorn” during a 6 p.m. screening of “Drag Me to Hell.” Lincoln Restler, the newly elected councilman whose district includes Downtown Brooklyn, shared a picture of a moving van parked outside. “For the shouting-back-at-action-movie experience,” he wrote, “there was no place better!”

75 comments:

holdfast said...

He might try the movie theater at Newport Mall in Jersey City.

Anyway, that was always consistent with my experience there.

Kay said...

I like talking during movies. Maybe not at all times or with every movie, but there are lots of instances where it feels right.

madAsHell said...

I've noticed that........blacks tend to express themselves verbally during a performance. It could be a movie screen, or a theater performance.

My mother would have backhanded me if shouted during a performance. It's rude.

EAB said...

My first experience of the crowd “talking back” to the movie screen was Trading Places. Saw it a theater in DC behind the Hilton where Regan was shot. I still remember the scene where Jamie Lee Curtis takes off her top and bares her breasts. Someone down front yelled out, “Oh! She want it!” Best laugh of the movie.

Lars Porsena said...

If only it was confined to this theater.

TheOne Who Is Not Obeyed said...

I didn't realize talking "plainly" was an inherent characteristic of Africans. Considering some of the black talking heads (Obama and Sharpton are prime examples) I would say speaking "plainly" is very much not a racial characteristic.

Either that or my German grandfather was black as they get.

Howard said...

Talking back and making a ruckass was the essential jwaw du vivre of Rocky Horror Pitcher Show @ #Midnight

gahrie said...

I've noticed that........blacks tend to express themselves verbally during a performance. It could be a movie screen, or a theater performance.

That's because everything is constantly and consistently about THEM and their urges; and fuck you, your expectations, the performers and the performance.

The second biggest problem in the Black community (besides the lack of fathers) is a lack of self control.

gahrie said...

Talking back and making a ruckass was the essential jwaw du vivre of Rocky Horror Pitcher Show

At showings set aside specifically for this type of behavior.

By the way, the most surreal experience I've ever had in a theater was watching Rocky Horror in a theater (In 1985) when I was the only one in the theater attempting to interact with the movie. People actually companied about me to the theater management.

Gravel said...

One of, if not the, best times I ever had at a movie was seeing Die Hard 2 in a black neighborhood. "Don't go there! Don't go there! (McClain goes there, nearly dies) I TOLD you not to go there!"

rehajm said...

If only it was confined to this theater

I was going to say every theatre with black people in it was a black theater.

…and isn’t one if the reasons to schlep to the movies is to share the experience with other movie goers? I saw Silence of the Lambs at a rowdy house with black people talking back to the screen. It was magical…

…nowadays if this type if thing irks you, please stay the fuck home, asshole.

Big Mike said...

Our theaters, our rules. You don’t like it? Stay home until you can watch it on Netflix.

gahrie said...

…nowadays if this type if thing irks you, please stay the fuck home, asshole.

So we've reached the point where politeness and consideration of others is unnecessary?

When did it switch from "If you want to be loud, rowdy and rude, watch the movie at home where you won't bother others?"

The dude shouting at the screen isn't the asshole anymore, now I'm the asshole for getting upset at him?

Explains so much.

Gospace said...

Is that the same reason music is played loud enough for neighbors to hear through closed windows and doors?

Lem said...

I wiped off my shoes at the entrance carpet to Walmart, it had been raining. The sitting greeter, black lady says with a a big smile, “oh, come on, you ain’t coming home.” I laughed and say “you know where that’s coming from.” My instinct was not to get hung up on what her words could have meant, had I been on an anti-Wokeism warpath.

If we’re going to celebrate, and we’re going to celebrate something, let’s celebrate the stuff everybody is obsessed with. Our differences.

Temujin said...

"…nowadays if this type if thing irks you, please stay the fuck home, asshole."

I do. And I hate when people talk or crinkle bags of potato chips while I'm trying to hear the dialogue in a good movie or series. I hate it at home, and I most definitely used to hate it in movie theaters. Just one of the reasons I quit going. The other had nothing to do with supposed "Black culture". I just got tired of trying to find movies made for adults playing in the movie theaters.

Avengers III or Rocket Man VI doesn't do it for me.

Cheryl said...

I was just at a lecture this week where one audience member, not far behind me, interacted with the lecture in this way. It was really strange and seemed inappropriate given the context. Honestly, I have seen it in some churches, and that's great if that's your thing, but it was not okay here. Very odd.

rehajm said...

Explains so much.

Yep. You got it…

Jason said...

Actually, that kind of theater sounds fun!

mccullough said...

Talk-Back-At-Movie-Screen Desert

rehajm said...

At home the screen and sound are better, the seats more comfy, the popcorn is fresher, the company better…

…one of the benefits of covid is first run movies at home.

Christopher B said...

Like Howard, my first thought was this guy evidently doesn't know the history around Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's not like white audiences never do this.

I haven't been to a theater in ages but I think I could probably roll with this if it happened during some MCU flick or something like Die Hard. Everybody wants to yell "Don't open that door!" in the middle of some cheezy teen-age horror flick. Would seem a bit out of place during Schindler's List though.

When in Rome and all that.

Xmas said...

gahrie,

I had the same experience when RHPS came out on video. Someone rented it and a bunch of people on my dorm floor decided to watch it. None of them had seen it before.

I started saying lines, and they tell me to shut up...

After about 30 minutes, half the people left and I started saying the lines again.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

any noise in a movie theater is annoying.
If the movie is good enough - it usually quiets even the noisy inconsiderate.
But I too no longer go to theaters. why? the movies suck, the experience sucks...
some nut job might show up to shoot everyone and then get life in a soft cushy cell with 3 square meals.

I've have not stepped inside a movie theater in well over a decade. Do not miss the experience. at all.

Hollywood is crap anyway. total crap. Most of the actors are leftist and I have no desire to help pad their bank accounts.

I do think the paid propagandist ladies on The View and Steven Colbert and Maddow should team up and make a HUGE pro-democrat/communist party movie - where they all line up to lick Biden's regions.

Joe Smith said...

'...forced comportment in white spaces.'

Honestly, it's just good manners.

I'm there to watch the movie, not listen to your reaction to the movie.

But you could also make the Spicoli argument.

Gator said...

First instance of I noticed of talking back was watching Basic Instinct, in one of the scenes where Sharon Stone was coyly seducing Michael Douglas a guy in the crowd yelled "awww, hell no!"), and that was a few years before that phrase became a Will Smith meme. I have to admit, much of the audience thought it was funny.

Joe Smith said...

'And I hate when people talk or crinkle bags of potato chips...'

I was at a play last night.

The theater was barely a quarter full, but two ladies sat down behind us.

One had a horse laugh and kept crinkling her candy box lining when she dipped her fingers in for a piece.

How hard is it to take it out before the show and put it in your pocket?

I didn't move seats only because my wife and our friend were settled in and don't care about that stuff like I do.

rhhardin said...

That's why blacks can't learn anything in school.

gahrie said...

Just to be clear, I would have no problem with reserving certain theaters or showings for those who do wish to be loud and rowdy during a movie.

Balfegor said...

A major component of Black existence is forced comportment in white spaces

Wait till he experiences Asian spaces . . .

But to be fair, if your culture is A, it can be stressful to be stuck in an environment dominated by culture B. If you like order and quiet, New York is going to be quite stressful. I would find it stressful to be embedded in a culturally "Black" environment, myself.

And some of it is just personality, I think, not racial or cultural at all. Some people like noisy restaurants. Some people like quiet restaurants. And it's a pity if both preferences aren't being met by the market in some form.

Andrew said...

I watched Titanic in a movie theater that I had never been to before. It was primarily an African-American audience. And they could not shut up. They shouted weird comments that were non-stop distractions. Whenever there was a moment that was supposed to be emotional, like when the string quartet began to play a hymn as the ship sank, you'd have people shouting out sounds to drown it out. Not even words, just sounds. It wasn't enjoyable, like Rocky Horror. It was a competition to see who could be the most obnoxious a-hole in the audience. Let's just say, that culture is not for me.

First Tenor said...

Several years ago, at a Times Square movie theatre, I attended a screening of The Sound of Music where we were instructed in how to heckle the film, ala Rocky Horror Picture Show. I've never laughed so hard in my life.

gahrie said...

Historians will label this period as "The Age of Self Indulgence".

Lem said...

That theater could have been an inadvertent challenge to peoples toxic relationship with their phones. Posing the idea that we can have fun with each other in each other’s presence.

Rabel said...

Plain-speaking Cyrus McQueen, an African-American man, also said:

"The M&M characters are being redesigned for a “more dynamic, progressive world”? Wow! They want us focused on brown M&M’s when brown people are about to lose their right to vote in some places… Ain’t that America…"

So in addition to being a plain-speaking AA he's also either a brainwashed idiot or a liar.

Or, possibly, both.

Rory said...

"his favorite movie experience ever involved people “screaming, laughing, singing” and “throwing popcorn” during a 6 p.m. screening of “Drag Me to Hell.”"

Try Poltergeist.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Never had to deal with this in the past. I did go to see one of the original Star Wars trilogy films once and had two Hispanic couples sitting behind me. The men were obviously there to see the film, but not the women. They had a conversation in Spanish throughout. I kept wondering why they'd even come instead of going off and doing something else.

Bilwick said...

I used to live near Times Square, which had (not unjustifiably) a reputation for porno theaters and live sex shows, but also had regular movie theaters where one could see second-run movies--usually action movies--on the cheap. I think they're now called "grindhouses." Eventually they became "black theaters," or more accurately "mostly black theaters," with much audience participation, to the point where it got annoying, although sometimes amusing. I remember a screening of "Enter the Dragon" where I could hardly hear the dialogue (such as it was), with all the commentary from the ghetto folk in the audience. Finally a big guy with a voice like James Earl Jones said very loudly, "I wish people would just watch the movie!" Instantly the audience got significantly quieter.

Nowadays someone would whip out a 9mm, yell "Watch this, mother--" and shoot the complainer dead.

Stephen said...

Call-and-response worship has been a feature of black churches dating to the 19th century. Contrast that behavior with Catholic or mainstream Protestant churches up to the postwar era where there was absolutely no talking. For those of us who are not white Americans, behavioral norms change when a group gathering largely consists of "our people." IMHO, talking back at a movie screen or preacher is just part of black culture and is especially okay in black gatherings. (If that's racist, please tell me whether it's the kind of racism where I have my declarative statements wrong or whether it's the kind where I have the facts right but I'm not supposed to talk about it.)

James K said...

Reminds me of Richard Pryor's bit about the difference between a white and black funeral. He depicts a prim and proper white lady quietly sobbing with a hanky, and then a black mourner screaming at the top of her lungs. It was funny at the time, though probably pretty dated now that there have been so many imitators of that kind of humor (John Leguizamo for example).

Tina Trent said...

Ahouse: how classy to tumble in on the shooting the Holocaust camp victim thing.

rcocean said...

OMG, I've been cancelled!

OR Althouse is improving the blog.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Tina Trent,

I too balked at the "call-and-response" thing. You get it in musicological circles all the time: the griot and his (it was always "his," fwiw) choir or congregation or what evs. But "call and response" was the whole basis of the 17th-18th century concerto grosso. I mean, what we have there is just two cultures independently hitting on the same (obvious) idea. Unless you think Arcangelo Corelli borrowed his entire technique from Africa.

bobby, are you including me in this?

The white folk here describing their fun and entertaining experiences in a screaming black theater all sound like "My Trip To The Zoo."

I am "white folk," if you like, but I would not call that experience "fun and entertaining." It was horrifying, and despicable. If you think anything else, you are misreading me.

What's emanating from your penumbra said...

…nowadays if this type if thing irks you, please stay the fuck home, asshole.

I didn't need your encouragement.

But even at home, it's so annoying when people talk during the movie. Ask a question, get the stink eye back. Then, because you were talking and didn't hear the dialogue, you stop and rewind the movie. WTF. I'll just go watch it in the other room.

I'm not watching a movie to hang out with you, I'm watching a movie to be transported into the world on the screen. If you want to hang out and chat, no problem. I'd love to, instead of watching a movie.

William said...

Ir's kind of distracting when it happens during Bergman movies. It interrupts the flow of the film when the audience yells for Max Von Sydow to brood more intensely or for Liv Ulmann to show more skin.

Bender said...

God forbid that someone would want to simply and quietly watch the movie without being attacked for "acting white."

The real systemic whiteism is the learned and group-imposed cultural expectation that being a shuckin' and jivin' knucklehead is a "black thing, you wouldn't understand."

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

Alamo Drafthouse.

Not all theaters have to be the same.

Bender said...

Meanwhile --

So I was at the Met to see an opera last summer. First act wasn't too bad, but then some idiot started this practice that washed over half the rest of the audience of roaring applause after every aria and scene.

Needless to say, I didn't pay and go all the way to the Met to hear a bunch of almost entirely white folks to clap and cheer a couple of dozen times.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Stephen said...

Call-and-response worship has been a feature of black churches dating to the 19th century.

Evangelical white churches, too. Especially in the South. Of course, when they do it they get tagged as deplorable instead of vibrant.

As MDT says above; it's not unique to any one culture, but more of a human thing.

Ceciliahere said...

Oh, and this is done at Broadway plays as well. I remember being in a theatre in NYC to see “Into The Woods” and two Black adult women sat behind us with two children. They proceeded to speak out loud, lean against the back of my daughter’s seat where they caught her hair under their arms, eat their candy while crinkling the cellophane wrapper loudly. It was like they thought they were in their living room with no other paying customers in the theater. It was the most aggravating theater experience I’ve ever had. It would have been the same if they were white people. But, I go to the theater fairly regularly, and this was the only time I witnessed such rude behavior. After spending a good deal of money to enjoy a broadway play, To say that I was really pissed off at them is an understatement. You would think that people would model their behavior on the majority of the group in the audience. My impression was that they really didn’t give a shit about the other theater goers. And, I really don’t give a shit if this is their “culture”. They should learn how to behave and teach their children to behave in an acceptable manner when in a public venue. If you think that I’m a “racist”, I really don’t care.

Achilles said...

The great thing about a free market is that people can make quiet theaters for people who like quiet movie going and talk back theaters for talk back movie goers.

I do find it really entertaining that some people have decided that black people talking back during movies reaffirms all of their generally racist beliefs about black people.

Because all black people and all black cultures are the same and they all talk back during movies.

But they do the same thing to Asians believing that all asians a re the same and the same thing to hispanics.

Racism is just part of being a primitive mind.

Mason G said...

"And, I really don’t give a shit if this is their “culture”."

What are the odds that they would say "Ok" and shut up if you got in their face about their behavior and followed up with "this is MY culture, b!tch"?

Not good, I bet.

FullMoon said...

Kinda uncomfortable when done during Schindlers list. So, Spielberg made an appearance at Bay Area high school to discuss where some sneezed "AhhJew".

That's the rumor anyway.

FullMoon said...

Bender said...

Meanwhile --

So I was at the Met to see an opera last summer. First act wasn't too bad, but then some idiot started this practice that washed over half the rest of the audience of roaring applause after every aria and scene.


Sparsely attended afternoon movie theater had one guy who would laugh uproariously at every attempt aton screen humor. I assume he was paid to do it, but not sure why.

FullMoon said...

Let those among us who do not comment while watching TV.....

Admirably, father in law actually put a bullet through one of his when the broadcast was unbearably aggravating.

Bender said...

Admirably, father in law actually put a bullet through one of his when the broadcast was unbearably aggravating.

I don't like NBC Sunday Night Football with the insufferable Cris Collinsworth either, but that's a bit extreme. Just change the channel.

Leora said...

Well the Regal place wasn't around long enough, but I as a white person, vividly remember going with my husband (then live in boyfriend) to see The Exorcist not far from where we were living on St Felix Street (very near what became the Fulton Mall) at a theater filled with talking, shouting black people. We were not ready for the relaxed comportment and left because we couldn't hear the movie. The crowd wasn't hostile, just really, really loud. We eventually saw the movie while on vacation in Vermont.

It was not as uncomfortable as the time I saw Battle of Algiers on the Cornell campus in 1969 with an audience who cheered whenever a white person was shot.

rehajm said...

Yes the movie theatre experience has become overrated. Broadway has always been bad…

…but Into the Woods? Gee…

bobby said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

"bobby, are you including me in this?"


Couldn't find either note, so I'll guess here.

My background informs me on this issue. Grew up in Compton, CA. Moved to North Minneapolis while in school. Spent about ten years of my legal time as a crim defense lawyer, some paid, some PD.

And in all of those times, I watched the most self-defeating, debased behavior - learned behavior, behavior that those communities encouraged and taught to their kids, to the huge huge social detriment of those kids. And it still ticks me off. Social rules have developed across the world that made human interaction smoother and less hostile, but they're cast off for attention.

And so, I read people here talk about the cute social differences and how there's this tradition, etc etc, and I want to bang my head on the floor and yell "how about we encourage cultures to take part in society instead of being fun exhibits that make us feel noble and accepting?" It's not about us. At least, it shouldn't be.

Thus, the zoo comment. Aimed at the viewers, not the viewed.

Ceciliahere said...

Mason, you’re right it would not turn out well. That’s why I put up with their rude shit cuz I didn’t want my child exposed to some crazy ass violent behavior from these big mouth “cafones”. That’s Italian for low classs.

AZ Bob said...

I don't like to hear people coughing when I'm at the philharmonic. It's not like we are expecting to hear you speak. So don't clear your throat.

Mason G said...

"Yes the movie theatre experience has become overrated.

Saw "Jaws" and "Alien" in the theater. Maybe these days, but not overrated then.

Gahrie said...

I do find it really entertaining that some people have decided that black people talking back during movies reaffirms all of their generally racist beliefs about black people.

Because all black people and all black cultures are the same and they all talk back during movies.


I bet almost as entertaining as I find it to be told I am a racist merely because I am White. That I have privilege because I'm White and I owe Black people reparations because I'm White. Apparently I'm also racist because I believe Black people can and should behave politely and considerately in public.

Ceciliahere said...

I think the Apollo is still operating in Harlem. Perfect place to talk, shout, throw stuff, etc. Just don’t come to a theatre that isn’t known for “black talking back” and ruin it for everyone else. Maybe just STFU for a couple of hours?

Richard Aubrey said...

Best movie dialogue comes from the seats in military theaters.
But, otherwise, good behavior.

Bunkypotatohead said...

They do the same thing when they're looting Macy's or shooting Burger King employees.
So don't take it personal.

Rosalyn C. said...

"A major component of Black existence is forced comportment in white spaces..." Oh please, it really all depends on the white spaces: I have a black neighbor who would accuse you of racism and threaten you with a lawsuit in a second if you ever suggested she not yell at the top of her lungs when she is conversing with friends and family members in the parking lot. There's nothing to be done but tolerate (what I consider to be) her rudeness. We're so progressive around here, we accept being forced to accept her standards.

On the other hand I recall a story from a few years ago where a group of Black women were asked not to yell so loudly on some Napa wine tour and were suing because they were asked three times to keep it down and finally asked to leave the train. Women Kicked Off Wine Train File $11 Million Suit: 'All We Did Was Laugh While Being Black' and Wine tour apologizes for kicking ‘boisterous’ book club off train I wasn't there so I can't say if they were being exceptionally loud or not.

It's just funny to see this article now about Black audiences complaining about feeling restrained by the different standards of behavior in white spaces. Those women on the Napa tour insisted they were being as loud as others and only singled out because of race. I kind of doubt it, but I'm guessing the case (from 2015) got them a good settlement and can't imagine anyone in CA would ever insist that a Black group keep it down in a public setting.

bobby said...

The "Never Yet Melted" blog writer wrote this blurb, and I find myself in total agreement with it:

"In New Haven, back when I was at college, locals would “take off the disguise” all the time in the College Street Cinema, drinking beer and smoking pot in defiance of theater rules and the law, talking loudly to one another, shouting at the screen, starting fights, and threatening any normal people who objected.

They were a nuisance and a public hazard and their habitual presence soon led to the normal audience abandoning that theater and its closing. It only took attendance at one or two films to modify my views on Segregation in the pre-1960s South.

If we are going to have “Diversity and Inclusion,” it ought to be on terms of assimilation of the primitive, barbarous, unruly, and inconsiderate of others to normal civilized standards of decorum and behavior. It is an absolute disgrace for an elite establishment institution like the Times to legitimize these sorts of standards and behavior and to provide a forum to people who have adopted a group identity rejecting both self respect and consideration for others."


(Found here: https://neveryetmelted.com/2022/01/21/the-times-normalizing-hooliganism/ )

Earnest Prole said...

You can’t go to a movie the first week it comes out.

Why?

Chris Rock has some thoughts -- or as they call it today, some "lived experience."

holdfast said...

Back in summer of 2000 I was watching the parody Scary Movie in the theater in New York, and there is a scene that makes fun of the propensity of African-American folks to talk and yell at the screen in a movie theater. The African-American folks in my theater thought this was hilarious.

Václav Patrik Šulik said...

Heh - there's something to that. Although I saw the Peter Frampton/Bee Gee's Sgt. Pepper's movie in a white audience. There's a scene where Frampton is on a ledge contemplating suicide and everyone yelled "jump."

But yeah, I used to go to a predominantly black audience theater in DC - it was an experience. I recall the raucous cheers in Independence Day when the White House was blown up. Similar when the lawyer in Jurassic Park gets eaten. I think it's the way movies should be scene. My daughter tells me that's the way it is in the Alamo Drafthouse.

farmgirl said...

“The second biggest problem in the Black community (besides the lack of fathers) is a lack of self control.”

It’s a problem for more people than you’re pegging’… cultural norm, I’d say.

Robert Marshall said...

My recollection of some talk-back movie action . . .

Sometime in the 60's, I went to see '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' at a movie theatre in rural Central Florida. At the time, it was understood that black folks sat in the balcony, so they were above and behind the rest of us whities.

Came to the scene where the sub has stopped at an island for some unremembered reason, and the harpoonist is checking it out while his mate waits for him in a dinghy. Then harpoonist Kirk Douglas comes running out of the coconut grove next to the sea, with an enormous horde of cannibals chasing him, chucking spears and shooting arrows. Boat race to the waiting sub, cannibals climb aboard before the hatches are closed, mayhem threatens.

Needless to say, this caused a lot of whooping and hollering from the balcony behind us, at least until the sub's electrified shell was activated, resulting in an electro-shocked cannibal retreat of great hilarity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvW9HKgZGmQ

Good times for one and all!

farmgirl said...

“We eventually saw the movie while on vacation in Vermont.”

Exactly. Talking back in a theater or anywhere else is foreign, to me.
We talk after the show- it’s too expensive to ruin there.

W/all the people moving into VT- property values 100,000+$ over actual appraisal… who knows?
It may soon be coming to a theater near me…

Bilwick said...

Regarding that "deportment in white spaces," I'm guessing that was never much of a problem for Clarence Thomas or Thomas Sowell.

Once on "30 Rock" the Alec Baldwin character reveals that he has been secretly dating Condoleeza Rice, and that a big problem in their relationship was her propensity, when they went to the movies, to yell things at the characters on the screen."It's a cultural thing," he says. The humor, of course, came from the absurdity of Ms. Rice or any educated, cultured African-American behaving like low-class ghetto folk.