Movie Theater Etiquette for the Modern Day Audience

Published 4 years ago by

etiquitte header Movie Theater Etiquette for the Modern Day Audience

It’s very sad that I have to write an article like this in our day and age. One would think that society has grown and matured over the years to the point where we wouldn’t have to be told how to act around other people. Well it would seem that courtesy has been thrown out the window and a new day is dawning where people couldn’t care less about others around them. Back in 2003, Screen Rant founder Vic Holtreman wrote a great rant about people talking during films. I’ve decided to expand on those thoughts.

We could talk for hours about how rude society has become and how we ultimately got to this point, but that is a discussion for a different time and place. I want to discuss some of the issues facing the modern day moviegoer and what they can do to make everyone’s movie watching experience more enjoyable. So, I will be discussing the 3 biggest problems in movie theaters today: cell phones, babies and talking during films.

Although technology has improved our lives, it sometimes degrades our theater going experience. Take cell phones for example: these are wonderful modern day gadgets that allow us to be in constant contact with everyone and everything around us. Car broke down? Use your cell phone to call a tow truck. Want to order a pizza and pick it up on your way home from work? You can do that too. Miss your mom, girlfriend or boyfriend and want to catch up with them? You can now do it from anywhere in the world. However, “anywhere” does NOT include the movie theater!

Cell phone interruptions has become such a problem in theaters that the original “Please refrain from talking during the movie” slides that used to be shown before a film have now been replaced with “Please silence your cell phone.” Unfortunately, people didn’t respond very well to that because it was still happening on a consistent basis; theater groups and studios then upped the ante by producing very elaborate fake movie “trailers” that grabbed the viewers attention. Some of them are so well done that I’ve often wanted to see an actual film based on those fake trailers.

cell phone pic Movie Theater Etiquette for the Modern Day Audience

The problem with cell phones (as I see it) is that people think they are the most important person in the world and therefore the “common” rules don’t apply to them. They think that their phone call is SO important that it just absolutely can’t be put off for two hours. Unless you are a doctor, detective or district attorney (it would seem those people are constantly getting phone calls that they just can’t ignore – at least in movies) then you don’t need your phone on. At the very least put it on vibrate; no one is impressed that you have the latest P. Diddy, Dixie Chicks or Adam Lambert song as your ring tone.

I can understand if it slips your mind and you forget to put it on mute or vibrate – accidents happen, but the sake of everything fuzzy, grab it and hit mute when it starts ringing! Don’t sit there and act as if you can’t hear it ringing. The people outside the theater can hear it ringing! And do not answer the phone and say “Hey bro/mom/honey. What’s up?” or “Hey, I can’t talk now.” Just mute the ringer, and let it go to voicemail – that’s what voicemail is for.

So be courteous please and remember to mute your ringer before going into the theater.  It shows how much you care about other people’s theater experience. After all, we paid to watch the film on the screen, not listen to your ringer jam out to MC Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit”.

Click to learn why babies and movie theaters don’t mix…

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  1. I hate hate hate when people sit next to me when there are plenty of available seats. When I saw Rush Hour 3, a group of about 15 ROTC military teens/college kids sat directly next to me. Split up. You all dont have to sit next to each other. Reassemble after the movie.

    Another time, I saw The Dark Knight during opening weekend. I’m sitting 4 seats away from a dad and little junior that has running commentary and questions during the entire movie. Hey Dad? It’s ok to tell little junior to shush. No, really it is.

    People with babies need to just get a dang babysitter. How hard is that?

    I generally go during the very early morning when I’m either there by myself or sharing a theater with senior citizens.

  2. When I went and saw the new Transformers movie, there was a man and his son who was probably about 5. Through the WHOLE movie the little boy was saying “it’s Bumblebee! it’s Bumblebee!” like everytime Bumblebee appeared on the screen. The first time, it was cute, by the 5th time it was annoying. And then towards the end of the movie in a really intense part where I was about start sobbing I was so into it, that little boy goes “is he dead Dad? Is he dead?” I felt like picking up my bag and hurling it at him!

  3. Nowhere Man, I like your style!

    For the few of you who mention how you sat in a theatre for an entire movie while some brat kicked your seat, or whoever that joker was whose friend took calls during the movie–you are more crazydriving to me than the idiots at the movies. I mean, you TOLERATE that crap. By doing so, you enable them.

    No one has mentioned overpowering cologne or perfume. That’s something I really don’t want to deal with.

    I went to see Frequency on my own. It came out in 2000, so cell phones were popular but not universal like they are now. Someeone received a call and actually *took it* rather than (what I would do) embarrassingly slink out to the side and talk outside the doors. But it was a dumb montage that had no audio, and I was not incredibly annoyed.

    As the movie concludes, timelines and plotlines converge. It’s a rather complex culmination. But sometime near the beginning of the end sequence, this chick gets ANOTHER call. She takes it and stays in her seat, talking loudly-right?-to be heard over the movie. I was alone, so no moral support, but I turned and shouted, Hang up! I gave her about 10 seconds and I said it very loudly and insistently–it was no request, it was a command–HANG IT UP! She did, and I thought I got some non-verbal signs from others that they were grateful (sighs, murmurs). I felt incredible pride in myself for speaking up, but the adrenaline, my heartbeat, and the psychic energy it took to do that, consumed my mind for over a minute. By the time I settled down and really “heard” what was on the screen, the elements had come together and I could only know on superficial level, what had happened.

    Other than that, I’ve not had too many bad experiences. I’ll have to remember the flashlight(s) trick!

  4. @ Azza

    Dude, get a job at Manchester’s AMC, you’ll have your work cut out. Bunch of ignorant teenagers go there who talk all the way through. Went to see fourth kind t’other week, people were talking and laughing, phones going off etc. Boiled my blood. If you want to talk go to a mates house, or your local street corner, or a playing field. Not in a Movie theatre. Went to see Ice Age 3D at the same theatre. People sat behind us talking at the beginning, you think they’ll shut up once the film starts rolling. Do they heck, they carry on, then they start pegging sweets and popcorn at people, (and me) sat in front of them. Talking on the phone, basically – not watching the film. Seems they like to pay a premium to deliberately sit in the theatre and annoy everyone. Why waste your money? Anyway, I go to the Odeon mostly, the extra 70 pence you pay usually scare most of the little scroats away and you generally have a hassle free screening. AND it has an IMAX – roll in Dec 16th, and Avatar. Bought my ticket yesterday, so stoked!

  5. @Sylar, I hope you’ve watched that movie again later when you can really concentrate on it, it’s a great movie. :-)

  6. The worst experience ever was some guy laughs out really really loud when

    *Spoiler alert*
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    Rorschach was killed by Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, he totally screwed up the shock.

    The next worst thing would be someone constantly kicking the back of your couch

    Last one would be complaining about how the last audience made a mess on the floor, seconds later your gf drops the whole pile of popcorn on your lap

  7. I rarely ever go to opening shows, as I hate sitting right by someone I don’t know, but Terminator 4 was a movie my brother wanted to go to. We arrived early and happened to get great seats all together (5 of us). There was a reason why…an overweight native sat next to us and he had the worst body odor imaginable. Every time he reached for his popcorn a wave of stench drifted over us. There was even people complaining about the smell three rows back. It was the worst movie experience ever. I just wish I reported it and got my money back.

  8. My pet peeve is when parents bring their kids but don’t sit with them. I went to Transformers and this little kid sat directly in front of me while his father sat at the front. The child was continuously moving and flailing his arms about, so I started to kick his seat. Each time he did it I kicked harder, and eventually the brat moved and sat with his dad.

  9. Might have missed it, but couldn’t see that anyone has mentioned the UK’s ‘Mark Kermode/Simon Mayo Film Review’. Their weekly show/podcast, sometimes called ‘Wittertainment’ published a ‘Code of Conduct’ earlier this year raising many of the same points. Poster is here:

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/148885_173865022643094_173864479309815_480035_3547750_n.jpg

    Have to say I just listened to your podcast and felt such immense sympathy for you guys. This year alone I have also suffered from 127 Hours beng ruined by a first date couple 2 rows back talking and flirting endlessly, Tinker Tailer being ruined by a persistent rustling of carrier bags to reach massive bag of crisps that then proceed to be rustled for 15 minutes and X-Men First Class being ruined by mobile phones to the side of me endlessly lighting up as texts are noticed/responded to. SO annoying!

    • Went to a showing of Winter Soldier… some guy was messing around with his bright, lit-up phone, fortunately I had the perfect seat and just kicked his chair a few times and he put it away >:)

  10. My boyfriend took me to the World of Arietty for my birthday and I was very excited to see it, being a fan of Studio Ghibli and their films. We looked online for times and saw that there were a bunch of other kids movies playing (whew, we think, all the brats will be seeing Chipwrecked instead). We get to the theater and we have not one but at least five little “vrrteps”, that’s Na’vi for demon and my word for “bratty child” are in the theater making noise. It got worse when Grandma had to narrate for her grandchild everything that was going on and then we had a lady and her brat (already loud and ready for action!)come in thirty minutes in and her kid would not shut up. The icing on the cake….the same woman’s cell phone went off (she did have enough sense not to answer it)! Until theaters enforce a policy of no kids under the age of seven, no coming in late and absolutley no cell phones (I think they should have guests leave them in lockers or cubby holes outside the theater and then pick them up after they leave), I will probably wait for the movie to come out on DVD. On a good note, The World of Arrietty was awesome!

  11. Quite apart from the auditory assaults posed by whispered conversation, bouts of coughing, sweets being slowly and studiously unwrapped, cell phones ringing and the restlessness of the bored, the strident flickering of the lighted screen in a darkened performance space represents yet another invasion into the consciousness of audiences struggling to focus their attention on what is unfolding on stage. The proposal to corral Twitterers into one section risks agglomerating the dispersed and sporadic coupling of twinkling screens and busy fingers into a dense concerted glow that proves far more intrusive and distracting. The situation is reminiscent of being seated in a dark cave emblazoned with blinking glow worms or around the prickling embers of a camp fire, but with none of the charm. In accommodating the compulsion to broadcast opinions into cyberspace in real time, show organizers risk shooting themselves in the foot by alienating audience members for whom the stage is the world.

  12. anyone making a phone call tell them to shut the f*** up because all 150 people hates you.

  13. I’m shocked also that so many of you actually put up with it. GO GET YOUR MONEY BACK!! If you just sit there and stand for it, then there is no incentive for the theater to do anything about it. I stopped going to theaters years ago because 9 times out of 10 I was getting my money back. And sometimes it wasn’t even just because someone had a complete lack of awareness for anyone around them – it could just has easily been for very poor presentation of the film, out of focus pic or really poor audio. Just turned into a waste of time. So now I have the most awesome home theater and LOVE the freedom and control it gives me.

  14. I just had the misfortune of sitting in front of two talkers, one of whom was also a seat kicker, when i watched The Hobbit. The cinema has allocated seating so I couldn’t move seats. I have read the book and know whats going to happen, and I did not appreciate the running commentary behind me. I did not need to hear that Gandalf is there, I could SEE it on screen for myself. I was very cautious as to confronting the couple, as I’m only small and have been in a bad situation similar to this before, when a woman pulled a knife on me for speaking up. Makes me wonder what society is coming to.
    Anyways each time my seat was kicked I thrusted my elbow right back as hard as I could and it shook the seat and hopefully their legs/feet. After the movie finished i was given the stare of death as i gathered my things -As if i was in the wrong.

  15. Out of the last 5 movies I’ve attended, I’ve had the privilege to have a doofus near me who felt the need to narrate the movie. I must have some kind of aura that attracts movie oafs.
    Stares and shushes bounced right off of them. I’ve had to tell the persons to “Be quiet” and sometimes even repeat it.
    What amazes me is these people (mostly men) have seemed truly amazed that I was asking them to be mute. They didn’t seem like jerks, just people who were used to talking to the TV at home and continued it wherever they were. They seemed totally unaware that they’d been broadcasting beyond their seat.

    But can anyone please tell me…Why people have the need to do a running commentary? I could understand if their movie partner was blind or hard of hearing, but these weren’t the cases.

    Someone tell me, why they’re pointing out what everyone on screen can see?

    I truly wish that in addition to those “Turn Off Your Electronic Device” trailers they run, the theaters would do trailers reeducating people on Movie Etiquette.

  16. Why do some people act as though the rules of common courtesy etiquette only apply to others and not themselves in the theater?  I realize that this may be part of a larger problem, but over the past few years I have had some pretty bad encounters with cell phone talkers, crying children, texting, talking, and seat kicking. 

    There is a magic about the theater experience — no matter if it is a movie or a live performance. There is a moment where the audience agrees to suspend disbelief and become part of the story, feel the emotions and engage with the drama. And then it happens. The cell phone rings, the baby cries, or someone kicks your seat and all of a sudden you come crashing back to the reality that you are sitting in a chair in a room full of people. 

    OK, momentary disruption forgiven. Perhaps the guy forgot to turn off his cell phone even after being reminded over and over and over again. Perhaps the mother will quiet the child or, if that doesn’t work, take the baby out to tend to its needs. Perhaps the kick was an accident or the talking was an important message. I’m willing to forgive and forget and hope that whoever it was realizes that they interrupted the show for everyone else around them and will quickly and quietly take care of the problem.

    And then it continues — the light from the cell phone flares bright like a laser beam into my brain. The baby is obviously miserable and needs some care. The kicking continues. The guy won’t shut up.

    My attention is repeatedly yanked out of the enjoyable fantasy of the moment and back into the hell of other people’s rudeness. Back and forth I go, trying to enjoy the play or the movie but being hammered back to reality by the noise, the light or the shoe now being rested next to my head.

    What can I do? I try to give some non-verbal message, a look, or turning my head, perhaps a small cough? No. There is no acknowledgement of the crime, no recognition of the intrusion, no desire to be courteous.

    Auuuuuugggghhhhh!!!! My brain is now screaming and I start thinking of the money I have spent to take my family to this event. If I’m feeling generous, I have even purchased popcorn and drinks, so I have easily spent 80 dollars, much much more for a live theater performance – hundreds of dollars. 

    I did not pay to hear a screaming baby or be blinded every time a text is sent or seen. I have tried to be patient, but now I feel the need to say something. Obviously, this person is not aware of how their interruptions are ruining the experience for everyone around them.

    And now the rub, when I whisper a comment ” please turn off your phone,” or “please be quiet,” or “please take your child out,” I am assaulted with all manner of verbal abuse, as if it was I who is being rude.

    I have tried to leave and find an usher (if there is such a thing) or a manager or someone who can deal with the problem. They can rarely be found or if they can, then they are impotent and don’t do anything about it.

    So now I have turned into the thing I hate. I am now upset and raging inside about what is going on around me and have missed parts of the show. I came for a momentary escape and instead I am drawn down into the purgatory of frustration and anger.

    If theaters will not enforce their own rules to help everyone enjoy the show, they will lose their audiences. There are now very few movies that I will actually go to the theater to see because of the rude and inconsiderate behavior of today’s audiences.

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