Modern Guru: Can people say ‘shush’ before a movie has even begun?

Q: At the cinema, I was shushed during the ads. Can people legitimately say «shush» before the movie has even begun? J.S., ELSTERNWICK, VIC

A: Shushing during the ads does seem a bit extreme, though with the current state of Hollywood movies, the ads are often the best thing about a cinema outing. If I don’t get a badly acted real-estate commercial, an over-acted movie trailer starring Emma Thompson and a hum-along Val Morgan jingle I just don’t feel like I’ve had my money’s worth.

Illustration by Simon Letch.

Illustration by Simon Letch.

But I’m sure most cinema-goers would agree that a pre-movie shush is too much, too early. It leaves The Shusher nothing to build up to when the movie actually starts and someone is still talking; they may have to rip off an armrest and wallop The Talker on the back of the head, which could be a bit of a mood-tainter for both parties.

A Shusher should stay shushed during the pre-movie ads, although they should feel free to fidget in their chairs, just to make their presence felt and show they’ve got some vitality. Then when the cinema lights dim and the movie trailers start, The Shusher can throw a two-second warning glare at The Talker, even if The Talker is sitting in a row in front (if a warning glare is delivered with enough intensity, The Talker should feel the eyeball heat on the back of their neck).

Only when the actual movie titles begin can a shush be emitted – a soft shhhhhhh during the studio logos, building to a sharper SHHHH! at «Directed by …». If a shush comes any earlier, The Talker is within their rights to give a two-second «Are you serious????» huffy-sneer, then turn to their cinema companion and low-mumble for seven seconds, putting extra emphasis on the words «unbelievable!» and «jackass!»

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