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Movie Watching Etiquette: At Home and in the Cinema - Part II

Updated on April 22, 2015
An empty cinema. This would be ideal for some people.
An empty cinema. This would be ideal for some people. | Source

Welcome to part II in this series on movie watching etiquette. If you haven't yet read part I, please proceed there now before reading this. Because this series is laid out in a particular order of events as might occur during a film-watching experience.

Thank you.

Toilet breaks

When watching DVDs with the family, my one brother irritates me when it comes to going to the bathroom. He will get up about three or four times (at least!) and run across the room, past the screen, usually during one of the best moments in the movie. And while he’s running across the room, he shouts: “Toilet!”

Don't tell us, please. You'll ruin the suspense...

Go to the restroom before watching the film. If you are the type that goes to the toilet a lot for whatever reason, then make sure you are the one nearest the door if you can help it, so you don’t have to obscure others’ view of the screen by walking or running across continually. And please try to time your trips to the toilet if you really need to go. Don't run across flailing your arms when the best bit of the film is on. Some mundane dialogue or other boring scene will do nicely.

Getting lost

If you do get up to go somewhere during the film, then make sure to make a mental note of which particular theatre you’re sitting in, so as to avoid disturbing others by sitting down, realising you’re in the wrong place, getting up and going out again. If you have the memory capacity of a goldfish (yes I know it's a myth, smart Alec), then write the number of the theatre and seat on your hand.

And don't sit in someone's lap, for goodness' sake.

Public affection

Luckily I haven’t really come across this too often, but I’ve heard many stories over the years about how people use cinemas as little more than areas to engage in public nookie. Call the rest of us prudes, but we don’t really want to see (or hear) that sort of thing. I’ve never liked public affection of any sorts, especially when it gets to really heavy petting and so on. If you must do this, then go to a dark corner somewhere in the cinema and do whatever it is you want to do there… and stay there for the rest of the film. And a word of warning: if someone reports you or calls an usher, you will more than likely be asked to leave. Make sure nobody sees you.

But preferably don’t do this sort of thing at all. I know a lot of you can’t control yourselves, but just because you like fooling around in public doesn’t mean we all do. I’m personally disgusted by it. I was raised in a time when manners and decency still existed… barely.

As for doing this at home, I’ve also read tales of people fiddling with each other under blankets on the couch and so on. If it’s just the two of you, then fine. But don’t do any of this sort of thing when the room is full of other people. It’s utterly irritating to hear people sucking face when you’re trying to listen to what’s going on in the film.

Get a room, please.

Bad habits

We know that people tend to fart and burp, but try not do it in the room with family or friends when watching a film. The rule is that if you have to fart, then go the bathroom or outside and let rip – this was my aunt’s rule as regards my uncle anyway. And if you are struck with the screams on a given day, then rather just set up a TV in the bog, instead of coming and going to the living room the whole afternoon.

If you’re in the theatre, then only do it if you’re alone, or far away from others. Here’s a tip: part your cheeks so it doesn’t make as much noise – a trick I learned from overhearing a bunch of women talking about the tactics they use in public restrooms. There’s the possibility of a smell though, but it might be hard to tell who did it, especially in the dark, seeing as they can’t see somebody’s face blushing bright red from embarrassment as easily. And don’t try to cover it up by blaming someone else either.

“He who smelt it, dealt it.”

Don’t spread your germs

One of the chief reasons I stopped going to the movies years ago is because it’s a breeding ground for germs. I don’t want people coughing or sneezing all over me. If you’re sick or recovering from an illness, don’t go to the cinema, please. Some of you might not like “germophobes” (not the proper term, anyway), but we don’t like your bad habits and disregard for proper hygiene, either.

There’s almost nothing worse than the smell of catarrh on somebody’s breath as they’re shovelling food in to their mouths, laughing, or talking to somebody, and sitting right next to you in the aisle.

Years ago, coughing and sneezing in public wasn’t tolerated, and was considered to be very rude. Not only because of the possible spreading of germs, but because of its loudness. It was just plain bad manners. It’s okay to clear your throat, but do so when there’s a loud bit in the film.

"If you have the memory capacity of a goldfish, then write the number of the theatre and seat on your hand."


No smoking

Most cinemas have a no smoking rule. So that pretty much covers that. If you light up, you get chucked out.

What I’m talking about is smoking in a room with other people while watching a film. If they’re all smokers, then fine. But not all of us want our lungs polluted by your filthy habit. Go outside, or in a place where smoking is allowed. In the country I live in, smoking in public is not allowed, so it had better be in your car, or on your property.

Also, before re-entering the room to continue watching the film, make sure to spray some deodorant on, and maybe use a breath mint. I hate the smell of smoke that lingers in a room or on somebody’s clothes. Maybe even consider a change of clothes if it’s that bad.

No drinking

I personally wouldn’t watch a film if I were surrounded by drunks. I am sober most of the time, and like my father, and his father before him, I have little tolerance for jackassery, which is usually what ensues once the drinks start flowing. Drunks are generally rowdy and will laugh and carry on, making teetotalers a little nervous. Needless to say, being drunk would more than likely increase the chances of bad habits being put on display, as the inhibitions start to flow away.


When going in to a cinema, switch your phone off, or at least put it on silent. Nobody wants to hear you talking to someone during the film. And if you really must communicate with someone, then do it by text – but make sure to put your phone on silent so that there are no button noises. That is the most annoying thing about texting. And also make sure that you cover up the screen, even if it’s by holding your hand partially over it, like a visor. You want as little light as possible catching someone’s eye.

But just rather do one of the aforementioned things (off or silent), please. Do this with any electronic device. If you have a feeling that you’re going to receive a call or text for something important, like a funeral, then perhaps reconsider going to the movies in the first place. You could always watch the film on your phone instead... crackberry.


People at the cinema usually make a bloody mess.

Once they’ve finished eating, they’ll throw their packets and bags and so on on the floor; they’ll stick their spent chewing gum under the chair; there’s popcorn on the seats and elsewhere else. Please, take a container with you to the cinema, or stuff things in your pockets when you’ve finished eating from them. Then when you get out to the foyer, throw those items in the bin. Have some consideration for the people who enter the cinema after you have graced it with your majestic presence.

I just want to add that when you watch a DVD or something at home, once you've finished watching it, then clean up properly - but this time, technologically speaking. Put the TV back on the standard channel, put away cables, and turn the sound down the volume on the TV. It makes it more convenient for the next person to watch the TV.

Crying children, pets

Nobody likes the sound of a crying child. Not even the parents – especially in the middle of the night. And so the rest of us hate it even more so.

Don’t bring babies to the cinema. Rather get someone to babysit the things until you get back. Because there’s a big chance they will cry or soil themselves and ruin the experience for everyone. And people would likely become very annoyed if you start changing the thing’s diaper right there during the film.

The same goes for dogs. I’ve read stories of animals being smuggled in to the movie theatre, but generally if they catch you with a dog or cat or something, it won’t be allowed in. Because they are liable to roam around the theatre, and dump wherever they please. The last thing anyone wants is to step in some on the way to their seat.

"When you get out to the foyer, throw those items in the bin. Have some consideration for the people who enter the cinema after you have graced it with your majestic presence."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The clever people waiting until the credits finishing rolling, so they don't get trampled in the stampede for the exit.Germany is big on movie theatres.
The clever people waiting until the credits finishing rolling, so they don't get trampled in the stampede for the exit.
The clever people waiting until the credits finishing rolling, so they don't get trampled in the stampede for the exit. | Source
Germany is big on movie theatres.
Germany is big on movie theatres. | Source

Shushing people

I know it’ll be hard to control yourself, but there’s something to be said today about shushing people. They take it very personally. I’ve read a story about some kids who were told to keep quiet by some woman. During the film, they plotted their revenge, and once the film was finished, the kids followed her, managed to stop off at a store somewhere, got some hydrochloric acid which they then attacked her with.

*Insert gasping noise here*

Another story recently involved a woman shushing some woman who was playing with her cellphone, and her boyfriend, who happened to be an ex-convict who had just gotten out of (or escaped from) prison, stabbed her with a blunt object. Back to prison, pal.

Shushing in a theatre is like hooting at someone in traffic. It provokes some nasty reactions, as most people seemingly don’t realise they’re in the wrong and get peeved if you try and tell them off.

Rather call an usher or someone else in charge over, and let them do it. If they are that bad, I’m sure the usher will do something without being prompted – if he’s worthy of his or her position. If he doesn’t, then go to the manager after the show. Or else, just wait for someone else to shush them. As long as you, the sensible one reading this, don’t end up getting attacked later, then that’s all right.

Don’t rest your legs on people’ seats, or kick them.

Once a funny thing happened when I was in the local cinema years ago. I was in there with my brother, and all of sudden, his head lurched forward, and bounced back on the seat. Some person behind him had kicked the chair very hard - to the point where I thought it had been on purpose. I thought my bro was liable to take his gun out and shoot him or something.

Don’t kick other people’s chairs, and don’t rest your shoes on the top of them either. This also goes for resting your shoes on the arm rest of the chair in front of you. Not only is this an inconvenience to the person in that chair, but also to a person trying to get past your seat, as they will trip over your legs, you selfish git.

If you want to sleep, then go to bed

If you’re tired, then don’t go to watch a film. The darkened room is probably a sure way to make you sleepy. People don’t want to hear you snore. And you’d better not use more than one chair to lie down on as a bed.

If you’re at home and you feel tired, you wouldn’t watch a film (unless it helps you sleep) - you’d go to bed instead. So apply this rule when it comes to the theatre as well.

No clapping or clicking, howling or tapping feet

I can’t stand clapping for the most part. Why is that whenever I watch a show on TV, I can barely hear what’s going on, and yet the sound of the audience clapping in appreciation is always so loud in comparison? But clapping is for live audiences during at a TV sitcom, plays at the theatre, as well as outdoor activities like golf. Don’t do that in the living room while watching a film, or in the theatre when surrounded by others.

And this also goes for clicking your fingers, or tapping your feet when a catchy song comes on.

And absolutely no howling or whistling, unless you’d like your next mouthful to be a knuckle sandwich. This might be tolerated if it’s an adult film – you know, where you have a bunch of sweaty perverts who get together to... you should know this by now. Not that I’ve ever been to one of those “functions”.

I also can’t stand it when people crack their bloody knuckles while watching a film, or play with their belt, or pull their zipper on their trousers up and down. I usually stare at them until they receive the message… telepathically.

Walking in late

When at the cinema, there’s almost nothing worse than when the film is showing, and you have people walking in late. Being late is being arrogant for not showing any consideration for others’ time.

Plan ahead: make a note of the film you want to see; the time it starts showing; which timeslot you want to see it in. Don’t show up at 8:30 pm for a film that started at 8:00 pm. By the time you buy your tickets, get your food and walk in to sit down, the film’s all ready going to be half-way done anyway.

One rule they should implement, is to actually close and even lock the doors to that particular room once the film has started; maybe a five minute grace period. Then the late comers will be left out in the foyer, and they must just either wait until the next showing, or leave. This tactic would sort that bad habit out, believe me.

You generally want at least half an hour to walk in, queue to get get your tickets, buy your food, take a leak, and find your seat.

And DON’T, whatever you do, start asking questions about the plot, who stars in it, and so on. You came late – that’s your fault you missed what was going on. And it’s not our duty to tell you either.

"When moving past people, you should preferably move sideways, like you would when you walk normally. Don’t move facing them, or away from them. No one wants to see your fat thighs blocking their view of the big screen."

Probably one of the most well known theatres in the world - Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California
Probably one of the most well known theatres in the world - Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California | Source

Be polite when moving through occupied rows

When moving to get to your seat, say “Excuse me” in a polite fashion. Do not shout “Move!” Once, an old man was trying to get to his seat, and he said to me “Skyf op, man!” (move up, or shift over, man!) in a rude manner. And when moving past people, you should preferably move sideways, like you would when you walk normally. Don’t move facing them, or away from them. No one wants to see your fat thighs blocking their view of the big screen.

Switching seats

A lot of people buy tickets to see a film and then once they get it in, they promptly sit anywhere they wish. There’s a row and specific seat that is printed on your slip you would have gotten at the kiosk. Sit there, please.

There is one unofficial rule when it comes to switching seats. Sit in your allocated seat, and then wait at least half an hour, preferably more, before moving. Don’t try the seat moving thing if the place is packed, because you’re going to be in trouble with numerous people and the usher. You could even end up being thrown out. People will start to recognise you as a snake.

If you want good seats, rather go on a day when you know it won’t be busy. If you go on a holiday, or a weekend, or when a film has just started showing on the circuit, then the place will be packed.

If you go on a week day when most other employed people are at work, and the kids are at school, or the film has been showing for a while and everybody else has seen it, you will have considerably less people in there. Then the seat switching thing actually works. If you get crap seats at the back, but want a nice front or middle row seat, then make the move. There’s still a chance somebody’s going to come in late, but there’s less chance that it’ll be the seat that you’re occupying. And there’s less chance that anyone will care that you’re switching seats – because they’re probably doing it too.

Trampling and stampeding

When the film finishes, don’t trample other people in a hurry to get out. If you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you should leave a few minutes before the film ends. It sucks because you don’t get to see the ending unless you wait at the top of the stairs or something (you might need the usher’s permission to do this, and he’ll likely tell you to sit down anyway). Otherwise, make your way to the exit in an orderly fashion – be courteous and let others through where necessary. I tend to sit down and wait for everyone else to leave so I don’t have to be trampled.

And lastly…

If you’re going to be miserable all the time, complaining about the film; complaining about the service; the people – then don’t go to the cinema. Don’t watch the film being played on your own TV. I usually give a film between fifteen and thirty minutes, and if I can see that I’m not going to like it, I leave. I just excuse myself and go. There’s no reason why you should make the experience poor for someone else who wants to actually enjoy the film.

So what’s the best way to enjoy a film? Get your things, your eating material, and plonk yourself down in your favourite chair in your own living room. Draw the curtains, turn up the volume, and watch a movie on TV, or on DVD, or Blu-Ray… by yourself. Then you can make all the damn noise you want!

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© 2011 Anti-Valentine


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