It has become evident to me that many people are unaware of the proper etiquette for attending a movie. Recently, many theaters have started having less subtle messages to create a more enjoyable movie going experience, but I felt I should provide a step by step instruction sheet for those who might be confused or uninformed. Feel free to copy this and print it out to take to a movie with you, and if you see someone being rude hand it to them after the show. I will attempt to put this in a chronological order, with individual guidelines for each stage of the movie going experience.
– First and foremost, do not be rude. If you are doing something that you think might have the potential to disturb someone, then do not do it. If you are doing something that would disturb you should someone else do it, then do not do it. Above all else, think of others before yourself.
– Movies are not social events. You may be social before or after the movie, but a film is a work of art to be appreciated both on an individual level and as a group. If you are with a group of your friends or family, all of you focus on the film and save discussions for later. If you are not enjoying the film as much as you would like do not attempt to supplement it with socializing. If you are bored with the film, leave, otherwise enjoy the film and enjoy the feeling of a shared artistic experience, leave the socializing for later.
– Do your best to arrive on time for the feature. It is better for all involved if everyone is comfortably seated and situated before the houselights dim. If you must arrive late, do so without talking or excessive wandering. Take the first available seating and be satisfied.
– Many people have particular seating locations that they prefer (e.g., I like to be as close to center as possible). However, at a showing that is not sold out, please refrain from sitting directly behind, in front of, or next to other patrons if at all possible. It is immensely frustrating to be alone in a theater and to have someone else come sit directly in front or behind you. Please also decide on seating arrangements, so that there is no playing of musical chairs once the lights dim.
– At a sold out showing, please fill in all available seats, sliding towards the center and leaving no empty seats. This allows late comers to fill in at the aisles with a minimum amount of disruption.
– I will skip the commentary on the ridiculous state of the concessions at most theaters and simply say this. Please get all food arranged before the lights dim. If any candy needs to be opened, now is the time. If food is to be shared, arrange this so as to do it silently once the film starts.
– It is understandable that people will want to discuss a trailer for a particular film, and their desire (or lack thereof) to see such a film. Please follow the guidelines in the film section, however, for all discussions during trailers. If you feel you must discuss something with your companions, the best time is between trailers. Many people very much enjoy the trailer portion of the movie going experience, and it is equally as rude to disturb them during this time as it is to disturb them during the film itself.
– To me, one of the most important things to be aware of is attitude. Those who know me know that I take my movies very seriously. That does not mean that I do not laugh or have a good time, it just means that I get very emotionally involved in a film. One of the things that is the most frustrating is when someone laughs at something that is not meant to be funny, especially if done repeatedly. I have seen many a film, serious dramatic films, where what would have been a heart-wrenching scene is spoiled because someone lacking in maturity thought a character’s pain was funny. Perhaps modern movie goers have no empathy for others and therefore find inappropriate things funny. If you want to laugh at or relish in the pain of others then see a slapstick comedy, or a horror movie designed for that purpose. Otherwise, appreciate the movie for what it is and not what you wish it was. One suggestion is to try to involve yourself in the movie, and if you can not empathize with the characters, at least sympathize, and you will find that you will have a much more fulfilling experience.
Cell Phones/Electronic Devices
– By far the most common rudeness involves the use of cell phones, and other such devices. The guideline for such devices is very simple. TURN THEM OFF. If you are unable to be out of contact with the world outside the theater for the length of the film, then you should not be there. DO NOT put your phone on vibrate or silent modes. Vibrate mode still makes noise and shows those around you that you are so rude as to know that cell phones disturb others but you still are so rude as to leave it on. I understand that if you turn your phone off it will not show you any calls that are missed, but if the calls are important they will leave a message. Do everyone around you a favor and just turn it off. The remaining guidelines should be moot if this one rule is followed. DO NOT send text messages, DO NOT check your missed calls, and DO NOT even open your phone. Cell phone screens give off an unreal amount of light, even if you hold it down by your hip. They can light up the entire theater and distract and annoy everyone sitting behind you, the same goes for watches with glowing faces. Your phone should be off. DO NOT call people or answer your phone during the film. DO NOT play games on your phone. DO NOT be rude in any way. Your phone should be off before the film starts and should stay off until you exit the theater.
– Generally, there should be no talking during a film. All discussion can take place once you have exited the theater. However, it is understandable that through the course of 2-3 hours, some talking might need to occur. If you must talk to someone, ONLY talk to the person sitting directly next to you. When you want to talk to them, tap them to get their attention, lean in and place your mouth within an inch or so of their ear, cup your hands around your mouth so that no sound can escape, and whisper as quietly as you can. If you follow this simple procedure, no one else should be able to hear even the slightest noise. DO NOT provide your own commentary on the movie, this is a public theater not your private living room. DO NOT make comments designed to cause others to laugh, especially during serious films. DO NOT attempt to communicate with anyone who is not sitting directly next to you. These guidelines apply to ALL movies, not just serious dramas. A comedy can be ruined by rude behavior just as easily as a drama.
– Avoid going to the restroom during the movie if at all possible. It usually is not necessary to get the largest size drink. Know how long the movie is beforehand and plan your drinking accordingly. If you must go to the restroom, wait until a moment in the movie which would be the least disturbing for those around and behind you. During an action film this could be immediately following an action scene, during a drama it could be soon after a scene of heightened emotion, during a comedy after a particularly funny scene. If you know before the film starts that you are likely to need to use the restroom, try to find a seat on an aisle, and as near as possible to the exit, allowing you to slip away and back with a minimum amount of disturbance. Avoid walking along a walkway across the front of the theater. Most modern theaters have two entrances/exits to the lobby; use the one nearest to you. Walking across the whole theater is a sure way to bother the maximum amount of people.
– Avoid fidgeting as much as possible. It is understandable that most people will need to shift position during the course of a movie, but do so as little as necessary, and as quietly and smoothly as possible. Do not let your feet tap on the floor, do not kick the seat in front of you, do not raise and lower the armrests, and do not switch seats.
– If you have concessions with you, please eat/drink them as quietly as possible. It is preferable for you to finish all snacks before the start of the film, but if you are unable to, be quiet about it. Do not crunch ice or make slurping noises with your straw.
– If you desire to attend a film while sick, please put considerable thought into whether you can comfortably sit through a movie without disturbing others. Take medicine beforehand if necessary. If you think you will need to blow your nose, have your tissues ready before the lights dim, so you do not have to hunt for them. Only blow your nose, cough, or make any other noise at a time when you feel you will cause the least disruption, preferably during a noisy part. If you have an extended fit of coughing, excuse yourself from the theater and go OUTSIDE to the lobby. You can still be heard coughing in the entrance hallway. If you think you will have trouble with any of these guidelines, stay at home and watch a DVD. It will be more enjoyable for those at the theater and for you if you do not have to worry about making sick noises.
– I go to all types of movies, from R-rated to G-rated, and I am a great supporter of taking your children to a movie as a family. I very much look forward to the day when my wife and I can take our children to the movies. There are several things that must be considered before taking a child to a film.
– Know your child and do your research. There are many sources available that will tell you EXACTLY what is in a particular film (www.kids-in-mind.com). If you are unsure if a film is suitable for a child, then do not take that child. I cannot recall the number of times that I have seen children of 10 or younger in an R-rated film. If you feel your child can handle this film, then that is your choice to make. If you think your child will be scared or bored during a movie, choose something else. If you can not find a babysitter to watch your child while you see a more adult movie, then wait until it is available to rent and you can watch it at home.
– If your child is too young to sit through a movie then do not bring it. Before bringing a child to a movie, find a comparable movie on DVD and sit down with your child to watch it. If the child runs around, talks, cannot sit still, or cries during the course of the DVD, then it is probably not ready for the theater experience.
– Please teach your child the proper etiquette for a film. Teach them not to talk aloud, run around, kick the seat in front, or otherwise disturb people. Just because you might be watching a “kids movie” does not excuse anyone from the guidelines. Pay attention to your child’s behavior and if it becomes unruly, take the child out of the theater. If this means you have to sit outside and wait for the rest of your party to finish watching the movie, or if it means your entire party must leave, then that is what must happen.
– Many people enjoy watching the ending credits of a film. For this reason please keep talking to a minimum at least until inside the exit hallways. Do not stand in front of people who appear to be watching the credits, you might cause them to miss the credit that they were looking for. Wait until you leave the theater to turn your cell phone on. REMOVE YOUR TRASH. The employees of the theater are not there to clean up your trash, this is not a football game. Also, there is nothing worse than getting nacho cheese all over your shoe because someone left their nacho tray underfoot. Hold the door when leaving so it does not slam someone in the face.
Above all things put others before yourself. Be kind and considerate, avoid being rude, and help others to enjoy the film. Remember that you are there to see and hear a work of art, not to participate in a show. Hundreds and sometimes even thousands of people worked hard to bring this art to you, and it is a shame to ruin their hard work and other people’s enjoyment of that work for your own selfish needs.