Movie Theater Etiquette for the Modern Day Audience

Published 5 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.

    • So in your opinion children should be seen not heard? I am so tired of seeing people complain about a little kid asking a question. I did that when I was little and no one seemed to have an issue. I asked it quietly and beyond that didnt make a fuss. I get that with a kid…I have no tolerance for it with an adult. Nor do I have tolerance for ppl on cell phones during a movie. But really, little kids have just as much right to be at a movie so long as they behave…and behave does not mean that they are perfectly convenient for you so long as they do not throw a fit, kick seats or actually throw things chill out. As for parents bringing your kids…if they do that take them out of the darned theater and be a parent.

      • How about teaching your children that movies are quiet places and to save all your questions for AFTER the movie. Teach your children courtesy and patience. That is what we were taught. If your child cannot not talk during movies then simple solution stay home and rent one, or go to only kid friendly movies where they are a total circus and everyone with children expects that.

    • So you own your own theater? People are people, get use to it. No one has to cater to your likings. Grow up and stop crying, the word isn’t perfect. Ranting like a whiny kid only makes you look stupid. If you’re so tough, say something and see if you don’t get your face pounded. If you get annoyed of people sitting next to you then you must be an outcast loner. Stay home and what for redbox kid.

      • People are people? What does that mean? No some people are kind and courteous and some are rude and selfish and stupid. The people that everyone seems to have a problem with are the latter. Talking about someone getting their face punched in tells me you are likely the latter too– not educated. The problem with you and many selfish and entitled people out there is that they think the world revolves around them, and that it is their right to be a jerk. It is your God-given right to be whatever low class “punch your face in” clown you want to be– but the rest of us should not have to be around your types. YOU stay home and rent your own movies and invite all your friends over– then the rest of us will have a more pleasant movie experience.

  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*
    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.

    • 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 >:)

    • I read another person who needs to take a chill pill. Intolerance for others is just as bad as openly being rude.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    • I get the frustration, but the over exuberance of your post makes me feel like you’re exaggerating. I rarely encounter problems at the theater with others being rude unless I’m at a midnight premiere with a bunch of giggling teenagers. You are either entirely unlucky or need to take a chill pill

      • No, Amber. He is not exaggerating at all! It has gotten to the point where at least every other time I go to the movies, I am having to shush someone who thinks they are sitting at their couch at home watching a video. Apparently some people are compulsive talkers and think their every thought must be expressed out loud to whoever will listen.

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  16. I will have to agree to disagree with your ridiculous post here. There are children and infants who can make it through movies. Not everyone can afford a babysitter and we shouldn’t have to give up the pleasure IF and that’s a big if, our child can sleep or behave through the movie. Yes there are parents who should sit in the aisle and be prepared to remove their child. Fine, I’ll give you that one, but we live in a free country and just because you don’t like it doesn’t make you right or even realistic. Try it the first time. If your kid can handle it then do it. If they can’t take them outside and cut your losses. You never know until you try. Other than that you can shove your rant where the sun don’t shine.

  17. Who ever wrote this must not have kids or other major responsibilities. I remembered when I had to baby sit my friend’s kids. The youngest was about 5 and he was running and tripped and fall. He busted his lip and his teeth cut right through under his lip. He was bleeding so much I rushed him to the hospital and called his dad who was at the movies. There are emergency cases that people need to text or call someone. Stop being such a Nazi about things. If it’s not major than don’t be a tough guy, someone might get hurt. It’s like road rage, people are too serious and they feel safe because their in a car. Just because there should be an etiquette doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about a simple silent text that didn’t bother you but you made it to be for no reason.

    • So from what you’re saying, everybody, every time, can justify their cell phone use during a darkened showing of a movie or play, because we all have a loved one that might be injured. So every time someone just wants to chat, or find out the latest twitter post, I have to be distracted by their cell phone lighting up!?

  18. Great article. SO true went to a movie yesterday and cell phones were everywhere– not just the ring, but also constant texting (who cares if you are at a movie!!) which is also very distracting as the bright lights everywhere takes away from the ,movie and is distracting and rude. Of course many people were talking away. Getting to the point where it is not worth the money (12+ snacks/drinks, 2 people = $35!) and I should begin staying home. You ask people to shhhh and you get yelled at– after all we are in the entitled world and everyone is entitled and no one cares about others–
    What are the solutions? How about suing the movie theater? Then they would hire people to be in the theater to handle these morons who talk, and text throughout the movie. Or maybe new technology where everyone will have their own personal movie googles and headphones and we can tune everyone out and watch our movies in peace.!!

  19. “.. remember to mute your ringer…”

    That’s NOT ENOUGH! People mute their ringer, then feel the vibration, reach for their phone, and the light distracts those around them!

    If you MUST check your cell phone when you get a call, sit in the back row, away from others.

    Somehow we survived as a society without cell phones.