The two men were halfway across the large theater and a couple of rows behind me. Though I couldn't smell their breath, it was fairly clear that they were drunk.
It's what else I couldn't smell that proved to be shocking, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
This happened last week, at a fairly full promotional screening of Seth McFarlane's raunchy comedy "Ted" at the Megaplex theater in Centerville. Now, I'm fairly adept at tuning out irritations while I'm watching a movie (a skill that can be attributed either to my years on the job or the fact that I'm a father of two Pokemon-obsessed boys), but these guys were making their presence known with a loud conversation that had little to do with the movie.
About halfway through the movie, I heard the two men loudly depart the theater. I thought no more about them until I was in the parking lot. There, I ran into the studio representative who was overseeing the screening. I mentioned the two drunk guys, and he told me the theater employees escorted them out of the building.
The rep also told me that, just before they left, one of them had urinated in front of his theater seat.
I've seen a lot of goofy things happen in a movie theater, but someone over age 2 urinating in the auditorium is a new one.
But while the specifics are unique, I'm afraid the general attitude of bringing the manners of your living room (or, in this case, bathroom) into the communal experience of moviegoing is pervasive.
Take another example, something a Tribune colleague witnessed this weekend: a fistfight breaking out at the Broadway Centre Cinemas after a screening of Wes Anderson's charming coming-of-age romance "Moonrise Kingdom" (possibly the last movie and the last venue I would expect to incite people to violence).
It started, my colleague said, during the opening credits, when a young woman nearby still had her cellphone on. A man, apparently in his 60s, kicked the back of the woman's seat, urging her to turn it off. The woman's boyfriend traded some insults with the older guy. Then they went back to watching the movie, though apparently fuming all the way through.
After the movie, the boyfriend chased the older guy into the lobby. After some pushing and shoving, the younger man punched the older (and, according to my colleague, much larger) man in the face. Eventually, the two separated and went on their way.
As a movie fan and a lover of the moviegoing experience, I agree with the older man's anger at someone having a phone on during a movie. Kicking a chair is an overreaction, though and the boyfriend's response, while chivalrous in a caveman sort of way, was an overreaction to the overreaction.
So many things already conspire to keep older moviegoers home. Parking is a hassle. The concession prices seem ludicrously high, and the popcorn is fattening. The movies are aimed at teenagers, who are too rude to stop texting during the movie no matter how many public-service announcements the theater plays before the film. And we older moviegoers are already tired from a long day at work, and it takes a crowbar to get us off the couch.
Incidents like this, unfortunately, reinforce the couch-potato feelings. Those feelings are the beginning of a vicious circle, because the people who are more likely to behave respectfully in a movie theater cede the territory to the jerks who don't know how to act in a public place and the theater becomes a less-friendly place to be.
It's time to reclaim the space. Everyone who loves movies should get to a theater this weekend. Hire a babysitter if necessary. Turn off your cellphones. Politely shush anyone talking once the credits start.
We can make the moviehouses of America safe, civilized places. We just have to want to do it.
Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/seanpmeans.