Theatre Etiquette: The 7 Do's And Don'ts Of Going To The Movies

Published by Shah Shahid on

Going to the movies is a communal experience, therefore it comes with a certain theatre etiquette to follow. The movie-going experience is a good time for casual audiences and cinephiles alike. However, with it, comes a social agreement that many often ignore, thereby undermining and essentially ruining the experience for everyone else. 

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If you’ve followed me on all my social media, you know I regularly have issues with audiences at the film screenings I frequent. More often than not, I will complain about the attitudes, actions and behaviour of the public around me during a movie. This is less due to the ramblings of a grumpy old man, and more because of a social agreement that is constantly being broken by some who choose to have this shared cinematic experience.

With the rise of streaming and on-demand services, the act of leaving the comfort of one’s own house, at times in bad weather, paying money, which includes the inflated concessions prices, to sit elbow to elbow with random strangers to watch a movie, is an actual experience. In the right company, a pleasant experience.

But there are certain things that we, as members of a society and as cinephiles sharing the love for movies, need to adhere to in order to have that pleasant movie going experience. Not just for ourselves, but for others around us as well.

So here are 7 simple rules to follow to maintain proper theatre etiquette.

No Such Thing As Fashionably Late

One of the biggest aspects of theatre etiquette is the start time. It’s literally the first thing you need to be aware of when making plans to go to the movies; second only to which movie you’re seeing. So there is absolutely no excuse for strolling in minutes after the movie has already begun, with all your snacks, stomping all over the place with your new found sense of Shrek-like spatial awareness. 

Arrive on time. Respect others who made the attempt to do just that.

While on the subject of being on time, there is no such thing as ‘skipping the previews’. The trailers before a movie are part of the experience. Some trailers are premiered, for the first time, with certain films. Anticipation of that trailer is built into the ticket price for some of us. Not a silhouette stumbling around in our line of sight. 

Know Your Seat

There’s nothing wrong with coming early, settling into your seat, then heading back out for a washroom break (or whatever) prior to the movie starting. What affects others, is when you forget where you sit, and have to stumble around in the dark, distracting others while you try to find your seat. 

And don’t you dare start calling out to the others in your group to signal you where they are. If they can’t see you falling overs others helplessly in the dark, interrupting everyone else, then they are embarrassed of you and don’t want you there either!

Put Your Phone Away!

This is self explanatory. And if the hoards of signs, multiple pre-show videos, and even celebrities taking the time from their movie telling you to shut your phone off doesn’t affect you, then you deserve the eventual sterilization that comes with staring into the blue light of your phone, all the live long day!

No One Wants Your Commentary Track

Movies are a visual and auditory experience. No one is there to hear audience members commanding characters on screen to do what they want, as if they’ll magically oblige. I’m looking at you Horror fans. Nor are we there to hear your hot takes on the story unfolding in front of our eyes!

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Those reactions and comments are for social media, after the movie. You want to talk to the person besides you, go to dinner. Sure, the occasional question here and there if you have trouble following the story is fine. I myself am known to make hilarious one-liners between scenes myself. But don’t attempt a conversation, and use your indoor voice for crying out loud!

Be a little aware of your surroundings and practise some restraint.

The only person allowed to talk during any movie in a theatre, is Morgan Freeman. So unless you’re him…

Snap, Crackle And Shush!

Obviously snacks and drinks are part of the movie magic that makes us pay $37 for a $2 bag of Nachos soaked in artificial liquid cheese. But the hollow crunching as you eat, reverberating through the theatre, is not what those good people came for. 

I enjoy the bag of Maltesers and Almond M&M’s as much as the next guy, but don’t be a slob. That advice can also be applied outside of the movies as well. You’re welcome.  

Making Out At Movies Are No Longer Part Of Theatre Etiquette

Apparently, some people still come to movies and display disturbing amounts of PDA. Stop it! 

While movies used to be a haven for youth that had no other opportunities for privacy than the darkness of a movie theatre to… display mutual affection, it’s all changed now.  Not to be a prude, but it’s rude, uncomfortable and oh so distracting to be having make out sessions while others are trying to watch a movie. 

There’s a reason it’s ‘Netflix and chill’, and not ‘large auditorium full of a hundred people and chill’. Let’s keep those hands on your arms rests people. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s just basic theatre etiquette. 

Seat Kicking & General Dickish Behaviour

Darkness, unlike the internet, does not provide anonymity. So how you behave when the lights go out, is still going to reflect poorly on you and who you’ve chosen to come to the movies with. 

So it should go without saying that you should not be kicking seats in front of you, or behaving in a way that is just plain disrespectful and disrupts people’s enjoyment of the movie. You wouldn’t go up to a random stranger and start repeatedly poking them with your finger, so why do something similar during a movie? 

If it’s behaviour that’s unacceptable in broad day light outside of a movie theatre, it’s unacceptable inside of it. 

Be courteous. Not a dick.

Let’s Talk About Kids Baby

One of the best things about kids is being able to experience your favourite movies through their eyes, for the first time, again. But there is a time and a place. A public movie theatre, where the movie may not interest a child, at an age where they cannot sit still for more than 30 minutes… it not the time nor the place. 

Now before anyone freaks out and accuses me of being a child hater: I have two kids of my own, ages 9 & 5, as of this writing. I have been taking them to movie theatres since the age of 3. But in preparation for their first time, we had a conversation about the topics in this very article; theatre etiquette.

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A movie theatre is one of the first public places you can take your child where they’ll be exposed to crowds, like-minded people, others their own age,  and become a place that brings them joy for years to come, even into adulthood. So it makes sense to have a conversation about what’s appropriate behaviour in such a place. It’s the perfect time to explain the concept of respecting others, using your inside voice, and conveying your love of movies at the same time. 

Theatre Etiquette For Kids

We love movies. This is apparent. It’s why many of you can relate to the frustrations outlined in this article. We love going to the movies. It’s why some idiot decided to ramble on in this article in the first place. These behaviours by others illicit an emotional response within us that gets in the way of this thing we love. 

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So why not start off the theatre experience for our kids the right way. In a way that doesn’t bore or intimidate them. Parents know their kids best. If your kid won’t be able to handle the social contract that comes with going to the movies, wait another year. Don’t ruin the experience for them, and others. 

What do you think should be basic theatre etiquette for everyone?

Let me know in the comments below. 

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad

1 Comment

TULLY (2018) - An endearing and hilariously smart look into motherhood · April 23, 2018 at 12:53 AM

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