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Movie Etiquette: How to Behave in a Movie Theater

Updated on February 29, 2020

Just like picking your nose in public, burping while you kiss your woman, or not putting the toilet seat down, there are things to remember while you are enjoying a movie. I'll break this down by before, during and after, so that you uncouth and crass movie-goers can figure it all out step by step.

These things may seem like they are common sense, but they really don't appear to be, especially where it concerns groups meeting to attend movies together. So read closely, and learn about proper etiquette for all movie-going events.

Before the Movie

Alright, so you're on your way to the movie. Whatever you do before you head off to the theater, there are a few things you -have- to do.

  1. Make sure you have time to arrive at the theater 15 minutes before the film starts. This way you have time to hit up the concession stand and find a good parking spot.
  2. Before you go get snacks, visit the restroom. Even if you don't feel the 'pressing need,' make a visit anyway. It would be awkward for you if you had to get up and leave the theater in the middle of the movie.
  3. Wash. Your. Hands.
  4. Head to the theater where your movie is playing five minutes before the start time on your ticket. The lights are on during this time, and this will allow you to find a seat without stumbling over anyone or blocking anyone's view of the movie as you look for a seat.
  5. Once you've found a seat, pull out your cell phone, pager, Blackberry, iPhone or whatever else may make noise, and completely power them down for the duration of the film. You are there to watch a movie, not take calls.

During the Movie

So, you have your snacks, you've taken care of a potty break, and your electronics are off. The movie has started, and you're set for an hour or two of fine cinema entertainment. If you have good movie manners you will:

  1. Not interrupt the movie with conversation. Anything you have absolutely got to say to the people nearby you can be whispered, but chances are unless you're on fire or bleeding, it can definitely wait until the end of the movie.
  2. If for some reason you need to leave your cell phone or pager turned on, please for the love of Pete turn it to vibrate or silent. Whatever emergency causes your phone to go off, there is no need to break the ambiance of the theater with your P. Diddy ringtone.
  3. Having a potty emergency? Don't make a big production of it. Get up, whisper the phrase 'Excuse me' to the folks you have to move past, and go. When you come back, get back to your seat without fanfare or expectation for applause. We stopped applauding your pee skills when you started wearing big kid pants.
  4. The whole world knows that jokes are funny. Now, I'm not telling you not to laugh, but a little restraint goes a long, LONG way. You'll have plenty of time after the movie to yuck it up with all your friends.
  5. While snacking on your Junior Mints or popcorn, or slurping down that 44 ounce Diet Coke, be mindful that there are other people in the theater. Chew with your mouth closed. Leave that last 1/10th of an inch of soda in the bottom of the cup, it is likely flat anyway.

After the Movie

You've made it, Mister or Misses Manners! Now that the movie is over, feel free to stretch your legs, comment on the movie, whatever you'd like... so long as you remember the following five things.

  1. Be courteous to the folks around you as they get up to leave. Wait until those who are obviously a group are together before standing yourself and moving out of the theater.
  2. As you move away from your seat, make sure you take your trash with you. All your snacks, your empty drink cup, everything you brought with you that you're now done with should be picked up and taken to the nearest trash can.
  3. Wait until you are out of the theater and can step out of the way of other movie-goers to pause and turn on your electronic devices.
  4. Now would be a great time to return the calls of those who have tried to contact you while you were enjoying your movie. While your eyes adjust to normal light again, call back Cousin Alfred who called four times just to leave a voicemail full of breathing and then hang up.
  5. When you get back to your car, watch closely for other people coming out of the movies and possibly walking around your car. It would be terribly rude, and not to mention painful for the victim, should you ram into them right after they've spent two hours in a dark theater.


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