You may have heard about the film A Quiet Place. Everyone's talking about it because it's hellishly scary and because the premise is clever and unimaginably awful: in order to survive, a family must keep absolutely quiet. If they make a single noise – so much as the tap of a Monopoly piece on a board – they are toast: breakfast for the sound-sensitive monsters that have taken over the world.
Anyway, it turns out that a 21st-century audience can't even keep quiet for the duration of a film about keeping quiet; a film that will not work if all you can hear is the bloke next to you slurping Pepsi, or the couple behind rustling their popcorn while talking (I would say whispering, but that would suggest they lowered their voices).
At the screening I went to, phones went off (of course they did); someone was amused by something, and saw no reason not to share it with the friend three seats along; and a couple in our row moved just as the film started, clambering over us, it soon transpired, to get away from a man preparing to tuck into a nachos and dips tray snack (roughly as noisy and distracting as taking out a chopping board and spatchcocking a chicken on his lap).
After that, several people arrived, well after the credits, and, instead of sneaking in quietly – mortified at turning up late to a film that relies on building suspense in the pin-dropping silence – creaked around, blinding people with their phone torches and generally behaving as if the lights had been prematurely turned out, before they'd had time to take their seats. It's a miracle one of them didn't just shout out: "Where the hell is H12, can someone tell me? It's dark in here!" They might as well have done.
Then the shushing started. That would be me. And then the counter shushing, because in the modern world being shushed when you are talking in a cinema is met with the same response as if you had hissed: "Want a fight, Lardy Fatso?" Later on – when things were getting really tense and Emily Blunt was expected to give birth in silence – someone went to the loo, unless it was to get a pick and mix refill to rattle in the bag. Like you do.