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Keep lips zipped at the movies

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I'm not really a movie usher, but in today's column I'm going to pretend to be one so I can cover a few ground rules for the theater, thus making it an enjoyable experience for all of us, namely me.

Perhaps because of the invention of home video rentals, some people have forgotten public-theater etiquette. They still act as if they're in their living room, answering phones, making repeated trips to the kitchen, talking. Which brings us to the most important rule. How can I put this delicately?

Shut up.

During the movie, it is not necessary to give play-by-play for family and friends because modern movies — and maybe you noticed — COME WITH THEIR OWN SOUND. It's the latest thing since the phonograph. If we need commentary, we'll sit with Al Michaels. Recently, I sat in front of what I believe was the entire crew from Monday Night Football.

(I won't use their names, but only because I don't know them. It was New Year's Eve, Row 3, and the movie was "A Beautiful Mind," and you people know who you are. May you be banished to the front row and forced to watch Woody Allen reruns for the rest of your lives.)

Man On My Left, speaking in a normal speaking voice (as in, not a whisper): "I'll bet she's a spy."

Man On My Right: "Yep, she's a spy."

Woman Behind Me: "She's a spy?"

Man On My Right: "This is a true story."

Man On My Left: "He's in on it."

Man On My Right: "Oh, yeah, he's in on it."

Man On My Left: "This is a true story."

Man On My Right: "He's a genius. Look at that formula."

Man On My Left: "This IS a true story."

Note to Man On My Left: She wasn't a spy after all, was she! Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!! Au contraire, you weren't even close!! (Not that I'm bitter.)

At some point during the movie, Russell Crowe, the star of the show, kisses Jennifer Connelly full on the mouth, which triggered a new round of commentary.

Man On The Left, sounding as if the home team had just scored a touchdown: "Thatta, boy!"

Man On The Right: "Yeah, thatta boy."

Man On My Left: "This is a true story."

(What would these people have done if it had been more than a kiss, if you know what I mean? A little passionate wrestling probably would've brought them to their feet, clapping, blowing horns and ringing cow bells.)

(Before we go further, can someone tell me why this movie was called "A Beautiful Mind?" If that's a beautiful mind, I'll keep whatever it is I have, thank you.)

By now you are saying, Doug, those yokels in the theater couldn't have been that bad. Point taken. At least they didn't have a crying baby — that was four rows back. And they didn't save an entire row of seats for late-arriving friends — that was everywhere in the theater except Rows 1, 2, and 3 (rule: In the last two minutes before the movie begins, there is no saving seats. The two-minute, hurry-up offense goes into effect, and it's every man for himself).

And they didn't trample on our feet, making repeated trips to the bathroom and concessions — that was the people down the aisle from us (rule: One trip out of the theater per family).

And their cell phones didn't ring — that was somewhere on the other side of the theater (rule: no cell phones in the theater unless you're the head of the CIA or president of the United States). And they didn't kick our chairs and put their knees in our backs.

Oh, wait, yes they did.

It was like flying in heavy turbulence at 10,000 feet in a middle seat. My friends and I almost got airsick.

"You ought to write a column about this experience," a friend whispered to me as she bounced around in her chair.

So I did.

Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesdays. E-mail drob@desnews.com.