January 19, 2019

Consuming food inside Auditoria

What one experiences, most of the time in a cinema hall/ theatre  in Sri Lanka, is rather irritable  and annoying. The majority of cinema/drama goers being egocentric does not seem to be concerned about others privacy, who have paid  good money and entered the hall to enjoy in a quiet ambiance. 

In cinema halls particularly, despite full display of requests on the big screen to switch off all mobile phones, the innumerable tunes and tones bother others with flashing screens. The most irritating aspect would be when such cell phones  keep on buzzing, and the user keeps on talking aloud with the perception that the person from the other end cannot hear!  Another area  of disturbing the person seated in the next seat in a cinema  hall is the continuous chattering of others while a  performance is in progress. This type of behaviour naturally  irritates and frustrates others.

On the other hand, when someone seated in the adjoining chair  inside a cinema hall opens a bag of potato wafers, and starts munching loudly, the very crunching noise is capable of disturbing others who are  peacefully absorbed in  the show – Needless to say that  anyone is bound to go bananas! The worst is when some parents bring young babies to stage plays ( may  be out of  choice, but equally not willing to miss a specific show), and during an interesting moment of the drama, the child starts shrieking. It is a moment when one of the parents is obliged to  take the child away from the performing  hall, yet it creates  such a din that puts off  everyone and those  who are absorbed in the audience have no choice but to put up with such annoyance. 

Twitter Panel Discussion

This  very topic was discussed in a twitter panel recently with regard to one of the prestigious theatres in London imposing a restriction whereby everyone had to consume food and drink only in the auditorium of the theatre. This was apparently decided by the Management of the theatre due to the main reason being to prevent unnecessary disturbances to other theatre goers whilst enjoying a play. Many considered this action as being fair, considering the fact that theatre tickets in London are considerably expensive than cinema halltickets

Harold Pinter Theatre

Harold Pinter Theatre in London is one of the modern theatres, where mostly the selected group of the society enjoys stage drama in preference to the cinema. This Theatre offers every comfort  from fully air conditioning facilities to a variety of snacks and drinks served in plastic containers within the auditorium of the theatre.. The Management of Harold Pinter theatre adopts a ‘plastic container policy’in preference to  a ‘glass policy’even within the auditorium. 

The other reason for imposition of such a rigid restriction is due to the fact that this vast theatre has an array of merchandise outlets across the building accessible at every seating level. Equally, everything is expensive in this theatre; For example,  a programme booklet of a play costs  £4 (Rs.920); 2 cocktails cost £10 (approx. Rs.2300) – that is also between 6 pm – 7 pm. Bottled water is priced at £2.50 (Rs.575 for 250 ml); bottled beer cost £4.80 (Rs.1104), and a glass of 250 ml wine costs £7 (Rs.1610) at the current rate of exchange ( Rs.230= £1). Since theatre goers are made up of an ‘exclusive’ perception, such  restrictions of consuming food and drink inside the theatre could be regarded as justifiable. However, there are many rational and irrational arguments, for and against the issue.

Harold Pinter plays

Pinter Pinter series

The Jamie Lloyd Company presents an extraordinary season of Harold Pinter’s one-act plays on their tenth anniversary of the Nobel Prize winner’s death, performed in this particular  theatre that bears his name. The season started from September 20th2018 and ends in February 2019. A play named “Pinterat the Pinter’‘ will be a unique event featuring all of the twenty short plays written by the greatest British playwright of the 20th Century that have never been performed before in one season in this manner.


The  primary argument put forward  in favour of the Management decision  is said to be  that  when a theatre goer pays as much as £100 (approximately Rs.23,000) on his/her entry ticket,  how could a fully air-conditioned  theatre be considered as a public place? The million-dollar question arises when one attempts to define what  a ‘public area’ is,  with unfocussed boundaries?  Some of the concepts that have emerged out of this debate in the internet forum were quite interesting,  for example:“ If a hot dog or an ice cream could be consumed inside a cinema hall, then why not bacon rolls  or a sandwich, during a play at a theatre?”

A strong  a demand against eating inside theatres seems to be in the rise. Unlike in a film where actors appear on a screen, the thespians in a stage drama have to perform on stage and various actions by the audience can easily distract stage performers and lose concentration on their lines!

However, every argument seems to vary. Some may accept that eating indeed is a hedonistic pleasure, as such, it is considered as delightful as enjoying the theatrical performance simultaneously; and it does not matter if one indulges in munching during a theatrical performance, as long as one does not spill the food or litter the carpeted theatre floor, or at least by tidying up any mess one has created inside the theatre.

Cultural attitudes.

In Western societies, particularly in the UK, the senior folks seem to consider eating in public as generally unacceptable, horrendous, rude and ill mannered. Perhaps, it could be compared with a passenger in the London Underground railway attempting to consume fish and chips, and its pungent smell becomes nauseating to olfactory organs of Asian commuters, as much as the stale (oily) curry odour that emanates from some of the Asians’ finest clothes (absorbed into their clothes) become intolerable to the British. However, due to the sangfroid of the British, they  always manage to put up with such inconveniences. In both  of these examples, many may agree to a greater extent that consuming  food in public is not a good practice.

International Concept

Eating pope corn in cinema

It has become rather habitual for people to take at least a bag of popcorns into the cinema to keep them busy munching during their enjoyment. However, various countries  have their own preferences, Greeks, for example, take their traditional souvlaki ( similar to kebabs) to outdoor cinemas.  Israel movie goers enjoy tasty and nutritious  balls made out of ground chick peas.  Mexicans take their traditional tortilla chips topped with hot sauce, cucumber, jicama, lime juice, beans, and peanuts. In Finland, tostilocos are popular among theatre goers, while Chinese like snacking on dried salted plums; some like to  munch sunflower seeds and dried squid while watching films. Healthy liquorice candies are in great demand inside  movie theatres in Netherlands. South Korean moviegoers prefer eating roasted chestnuts during screenings.

Colombian movie goers preferto munch roasted ants, known as hormiga culona, which  probably are not the most appetising, but as an  alternative to popcorn. Ants seem to have a unique taste that some people compare to that of bacon! In Indian movie theatres one could find the traditional street food like samosas and vadai. The dish called ‘chicken popcorn’ is very popular in Taiwan amongst cinema goers. Japanese movie theatres offer their visitors Iriko – a snack made out of dried sardines or anchovies. Fish balls are a hit in Barbados and other Caribbean countries, also a popular snack, made out of salted fish, flour, baking powder, and herbs, is available in open-air movie theatres.

A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbour’s”.

Pic. credit: Google photos & Capril Kando ( stock free photos)

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