A Simple Guide to Movie Etiquette

If you’ve gone to a movie theater in the past few years, you’ve probably had a bad experience — and not because the movie wasn’t what you wanted. It’s all too common for just one or two audience members to ruin an experience for all those around them.

But why does this seem to be such a popular phenomenon recently? People have been going to movie theaters to see highly-anticipated films for decades, and movies are only more expensive these days; that might lead you to believe that those paying for it would be even more likely to want an unsullied experience. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s even been the subject of much discussion on Twitter.

Here at Shuffle Online, we see A LOT of movies. We love film, and we love writing about it. So of course, we are also subject to these annoying audiences. To maybe help quell the issue, or at least bring light to it more publicly, we figured posting a list of movie rules might be the way to go.

1. Don’t show up late.

Late arrivals are hard to understand for those of us who love planning ahead. But even aside from the planning, what do late arrivals get out of this? You’ve paid more than $10 (in most cases) and you’re going to miss the beginning of the film? There are people who don’t want to watch trailers, which is fine. But try to plan so that you get in the theater before the actual movie starts rolling, or else you’re making your way through aisles and disturbing people who got there on time. This applies to movies with and without reserved seats.

2. Don’t use your phone.

In fact, silence it so there are no buzzes or rings. And consider putting it on do not disturb or airplane mode, since you won’t need to use it anyway! It’s also ideal if you can keep it in a pocket or a purse so that your screen doesn’t light up. With watches and fitness trackers, it can be distracting for a moment, but those screens are much smaller and less bright. A phone can light up several aisles of the theater and ruin the ambiance.

3. Don’t talk during the movie.

Sure, talking during the trailers is pretty widely accepted as a normal thing to do. Maybe you’re excited about an upcoming movie, or want to tell your friend just how horrible you think it looks. That’s fine. And during the movie, if you lean over to your friend and whisper something once or twice during a movie, so that no one else is bothered, that’s also fine. But having full-on conversations during a film — especially those that are barely whispered — is just not okay. And again, why would you want to miss the movie you paid so much to see?

Some editorializing: This is the big one that happens pretty much every time I’ve seen a movie in the past couple of years. I even had talkers behind me during the actual world premiere of “Us” at SXSW this year. The cast and crew were in the room! And if you can’t stay quiet during that, I don’t know what will make you. I’ve talked to employees at multiple theater chains about it and haven’t had anything useful ever done either. So I’d also like to ask that theater managers actually try to stop it instead of just saying they will.

4. Don’t take your shoes off.

Yeah, we shouldn’t even really have to say this one. You’re in a public space, so please keep all of your apparel on. It’s germ-y, it’s potentially smelly and it’s weird! So please don’t take your shoes off at the theater. I’ve seen this happen multiple times, and it’s always baffling.

5. Don’t allow your kids to misbehave without taking action.

Whether you’re bringing a three-year-old or a 15-year-old, please pay attention to how they’re acting and whether that’s affecting the moviegoers around them. Don’t allow them to talk, be on their phones or take off their shoes, as we mentioned before. But also make sure they’re not kicking others’ seats or being otherwise disruptive. As a parent, that’s your responsibility when you take your children in public. And you could always get a babysitter and go to the movies without them instead.

That pretty much covers the gamut of issues we’ve seen in theaters. And the rules all boil down to this basic premise: You’re not in your living room at home, so please don’t act like it. You’re sharing a public space and an experience with other people, so let them enjoy it in the way movies in theaters have traditionally been enjoyed, which is dark and silent. (To editorialize yet again, this is especially true for horror/thrillers and quiet dramas. We have to hear the dialogue and feel the tension!) And yes, we could stop going to theaters for these films, but then…spoilers! Not to mention we want to write about them ASAP, of course.

One final thought

It’s basically summer blockbuster season, and the rules are sometimes different there. These movies often do have their emotional beats and quieter moments, and the same respect should be paid to those. But there are often fandoms who love cheering on their team, and that’s fine too. Just don’t overdo reactionary applause, laughter, etc. to the point that everyone around you misses the next 30 seconds of dialogue or action. Movies are (often) to be enjoyed, not suffered through. But we all need to be respectful of one another.

Are there other weird things you’ve experienced in the theater? Do you have ideas to make modern theater-going better for everyone?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Featured photo credit:

unsplash-logoErik Witsoe

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