I was dismayed recently attending a show at the [Insert Name of Large Boston-area Theatre Here]. I had not been in some time and two things struck me. First, so many people arriving late, being let in after the first song, looking for their seats in the dark, climbing over people to get to their seats. Just be on time. Very distracting. I've never seen so many tardy people.
Second, while it's an interesting concept to offer beer and wine for sale in the lobby, I found it so odd for people to be walking into the performance hall with cans of beer (and glasses of wine). Someone's empty beer can fell to the floor during the performance. There were cup holders! (and I kept hitting my knee on it). I love wine but can't people just take a break from consuming long enough to watch a show!? What do you think of this?
Food, Entertainment, and Bad Manners have gone together "since Thespis first stepped in front of the chorus," to quote the late Addison DeWitt. One has only to think of the orange wenches of the Restoration theatres, ahem proffering their wares, and of Marguerite Gautier with her bag of raisins glacés perched on the rim of her box with her bouquet of camellias and her opera glasses. And haven't theatres always had bars and/or refreshment rooms? Heaven knows they used to have smoking rooms.
Somewhere along the line - Etiquetteer cannot be sure when, but the rise of the widescreen television is likely involved - theatre owners started relaxing the rules in order to keep business from falling further. This is manageable whlie people can manage to enjoy their refreshments without inconveniencing others and carrying out their plastic cups and other detritus when they leave. But when they cannot manage, the entire practice comes into question. Etiquetteer will not forget the story told by a friend in Manhattan of a man in a cinema who spilled a cardboard tray of gooey, cheesy nachos in the aisle.
And of course Etiquetteer has been Wagging an Admonitory Digit these two weeks at That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much, who knew better than to order a manhattan in a Perfectly Proper glass at the theatre! One third of it sloshed all over the floor, and even if he did mop it up with his handkerchief, he shouldn't have brought it to his seat, and he knew that.
As to arriving late, indeed, it's getting worse and worse. Etiquetteer deplores late arrivals; they truly inconvenience everyone else. Many orchestras and other performing arts organizations will accommodate late arrivals at a given pause early in the program. Others follow the practice you witnessed, when late arrivals are accommodated at a given point without a pause. Etiquetteer has a shade more sympathy than hitherto with latecomers, because of traffic. Traffic has always been bad, but it's reaching a state of Perpetual Gridlock. And if even Etiquetteer, who doesn't have to drive in traffic, notices this, it must be bad!
Now, all that said, Boston is much more tolerant of latecomers than New York is. but then, New York was laid out in a grid, and Boston was laid out by cow paths, so there you are. Etiquetteer will look forward to toasting the Moral Rectitude of Early Arrivals with you in a theatre bar, and then not carrying glasses back into the theatre.