How Not to Be a Jerk in a Movie Theater


I’ve noticed an alarming trend in my recent trips to the movie theater: Behaving like a total jerk is slowly becoming acceptable behavior.

I’ve witnessed audience members talking and texting, bringing babies to the theater, allowing their cell phones to ring, and other forms of douchebaggery. And perhaps even worse than all this, no one says anything. Other audience members don’t ask them to be quiet, and there are no longer ushers who will tell you to shut up or get out.

This sort of behavior needs to stop. Movies are expensive, and everyone is there to enjoy the show they paid good money for, not to silently tolerate the inconsiderate antics of the other theater patrons.

Since the concept of having basic good manners doesn’t exist anymore, here is an easy guide to follow on how to not be a jerk at the movie theater:

    * Silence your cell phone. In theory, this should be the easiest step — since a reminder to do this is played before the start of every movie — but I have yet to sit through a screening where some jerk’s cell phone doesn’t go off. (Cell phones are even going off during live theater performances, which is beyond appalling.) So just silence your phone; it’s easy, and usually only requires you to press one or two buttons. If you don’t know how to silence your cell phone, you’re clearly too stupid to have a cell phone or to even leave the house to go to the movies.

    * Don’t text during the movie. Just because your cell phone is silenced and you aren’t actually talking on the phone, texting can be just as distracting. When sitting in a darkened theater, the eerie glow of dozens of cell phone, iPhone and BlackBerry screens is annoying. You’re there to watch the movie, and there is nothing that is so important that you can’t wait until afterwards to text about. Trust me. So tell your BFF you’ll TTYL — and STFU.

    * Don’t talk to your friend/date/whatever during the movie. Another step that should be easy to follow, but people still feel the need to chatter during a movie. No one cares what you think of the movie, or what you think the characters should do, or about anything you have to say until after the movie is over. Then you can go out for drinks and talk about it all you want, where I will be far away and not have to overhear your inane observations.

    * Don’t talk to the movie screen. Similar to the above step, but slightly different. The people in the actual movie can’t hear you, and even if they could, they wouldn’t care what you had to say. So don’t talk to them or try to help them figure out how to solve the dilemma in their life.

    * Don’t sing along with the movie. Unless you’re at “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or one of those sing-along versions of a movie musical, do not sing with the movie. This applies to both musicals, where the songs are a part of the story, or regular movies that may have a soundtrack of totally bitchin’ tunes that you want to make sure everyone knows you recognize.

    * Unless you’re seeing a children’s movie, don’t bring your kids. It’s true that I don’t like children, but if I’m going to see a movie that’s geared towards a younger crowd, I can anticipate that kids will be present and deal with it. What I can’t deal with is going to see a movie that is in no way appropriate for kids and watching people drag their spawn into the theater. Case in point: When going to see Pixar movies, there are plenty of kids there, and I expect a certain amount of chatter during the movie. When going to see “X-Men: The Last Stand,” a family brought their toddler, who started to cry during the movie, so the dad stood by the exit door, jangling his keys at the kid to make him stop fussing. This was not a good time for anyone.

    * If you arrive after the movie has already started, take the first empty seat you find. The movie has already begun, and you arriving late is a distraction to everyone who cared enough to show up on time. So sit down in the first empty seat you find, even if that means splitting up your party, rather than walking up and down the aisles, scanning the dark theater for empty seats that are together. And do not ask people already seated to move over so you and your date can sit together. They got there in time to pick out the seats they wanted, and you are stupid and can’t tell time, so you sit where you find a seat and deal with it.

By following this guide, and by passing it on to anyone you know who violates any of these steps, going to the movie theater can be an enjoyable experience for everyone. And if you ever find yourself at the movies sitting near someone violating a step, I encourage you to tell them, “Quit being a jerk, jerk!” — and then bludgeon them with something heavy. Because really, how else are they going to learn?

. . .

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15 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    It’s gotten to the point where I rarely want to go to the movies due to the other people in the theater. I always seem to get stuck right next to two middle age women who talk to each other in their regular everyday voices.

  2. Jon #

    Amen! I’ve been finding myself at the secondary theaters recently due to the convenience and comfort. The pricing in whole (tickets and concessions) make more sense, the feature is still new to me, and the crowds are minimal.

    They also give me a reason to see romantic comedies alone. I just say it was all they had. 😉

  3. Vanna #

    I wish the people who really need to see those rules do but somehow sadly, I doubt that they will.
    I try to go to the first Matinee showing during a weekday. Usually there are very few people there.
    I agree cell phones are the worse. I wish the theaters would block the darn things altogether.

  4. Linda #

    Can you have this posted on the doors used to enter every movie?

  5. 5

    Ha! If I didn’t have to work for a living, I would gladly drive around the country, posting poster-sized print-outs of this list on theater doors.

    As long as we’re dreaming, I’d love to own my own chain of movie theaters that employs bouncers. As soon as someone causes a disturbance, they’re out!

  6. 6

    I have to admit, I took my 18month old child to the cinema once. But it was Cars that we went to see, and my wife took him outside after half an hour as he wasn’t as quiet as we (naively) hoped! One thing I thought was bad tho is once someone brought their child who was 2 or 3 years old to see The Dark Knight! WROOONG!

    But agree with the rest.

    Nice article!

  7. 7

    They should make one of those cute commercials with the dancing popcorn boxes to explain these rules to people. I think everyone has gotten so used to watching movies at home, that they forget there are 300+ other people who want to enjoy the movie without hearing tell your friends “yeah man, I’m at the movies” or hear your SCREAMING baby!

  8. 8

    I agree with everything stated here. I sometimes feel that movies, in a theater setting, should only be available to true movie lovers. Very elitist of me I know and I’m usually not an elitist kind of gal.

  9. pirfle #

    Totally agree with all the rules stated here. I have actually told people to shut up in theatres. I was recently at a movie with 3 of us in the entire theatre and two 20-ish guys came in and sat directly behind me even though the theatre was empty! They then proceeded to kick my seat every ten seconds and talk loudly. I very impolitely told them to F off and to move or shut up and to STOP KICKING MY SEAT! Ruined the movie.

  10. Myles #

    Agreed. I mean, these should already be a given for most people.

  11. Rob #

    Personally, I hate showing up to a movie late. For me, the “sweet spot,” as far as arrival time, is right after the damned local commercials are over and just before the trailers start. I know that, for some movies, that’s an unrealistic timeframe if you want to get a decent seat though.
    I have no problem with people bringing their babies to a theater provided said babies don’t deprive someone else of a seat and can be kept dependably quite throughout. We used to take our newborn up until he was 8 months or so, but we timed it so he’d always be asleep. It required a bit of planning, but we never had any problems. He’s around 14 months now though, and I wouldn’t even consider taking him to ANY movie for a while to come. He’s the cutest little guy ever–at least, to me–but I understand that people in a darkened theater wouldn’t find his antics near so cute–not cute at all, in fact, and I never want to be “that” couple; you know, the ones you leave the theater complaining about because they brought they’re screaming baby with them to mew “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

  12. cathy #

    Gosh. We must have the best movie goers at our local cinema. Not experienced any of this stuff yet. Long may that continue!

  13. 13

    Great article. I agree with everything you listed. I’ve noticed a ton of people talking, using their cells, etc. I live in the UP of MI, but it isn’t a major occurrence here. Yeah we have the occasional person who talks during the movie, or the occasional person on their cell phones, but it doesn’t seem to happen much up here.

  14. Mary #

    I loved your comments! Great rules all movie goers should go by. I hate being the bad person by shushing people, but it must be done!

  15. j #

    Your instruction to silence cell phones in movie theaters is incorrect.

    Cell phones should either be powered down completely during a movie. There is no correct usage of a phone during a film.