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9 Rules for the Movie Theater

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

1. Silence/Dim/Turn Off Your Phone.

This should be simple, but it is apparently not. The movie theater is not the place for you to be texting or scrolling through Facebook during the movie. If you can’t go 2 hours or so without being on your phone, then you need to wait for the movie to come out for home viewing. And whatever you do, absolutely no talking on the phone in the movie theater.

2. Turn Off Your Smart Watch!

Closely tied to the issue of smartphones in movie theaters are the peripherals that some people are wearing now. Look, I think it’s great that technology is bringing us closer to a world where the stuff we saw in Star Trek is becoming more and more a reality, but that smartwatch has got to go in the movie theater, buddy. That thing lighting up on your wrist is just as distracting as the phone in your pocket that you’re not looking at. Just take it off or turn it off for the sake of the people sitting around you.

3. No Talking. I shouldn’t have to explain this one, but clearly, I do. I can deal with the occasional whisper to a friend during a movie. I do that myself. But I actually whisper. I’ve discovered that there are two types of people in this world: people who can whisper and those who think they’re whispering. Some people just can’t whisper. If there was a spectrum of speaking that went from whispering to shouting, talking would be in the middle, and some people’s “whisper” only gets to the low end of the talking range of the spectrum. You know the people I’m talking about. Know thyself. If you can whisper, be judicious with it in the theater. If you can’t whisper, zip it. But I digress.

4. Clean Up Your Trash.

Just this past Friday I walked into a movie theater to see Ocean’s 8 and discovered that people from the previous showtime had left their soda bottles and candy wrappers in the armrest holders in the aisle I was sitting in. Apparently the staff had not gone in between showtimes to clean up. But their job should just be to clean up the big messes, like soda or popcorn spills. There are trash cans just outside in the hallways. Some theaters have their staff bring in garbage cans that you can toss your trash into as you leave. Just take it with you. It’s not that hard.

5. Speaking Of Candy Wrappers…

Wrappers are loud. They’re crinkly and they make noise, people. Open that stuff before the movie starts even if you don’t start eating it right away. You’re never going to be able to completely avoid making noise with a wrapper, but do the best you can.

6. Keep The Bathroom Trips To A Minimum

This is less of a no-no and more of a helpful tip so that you don’t miss out on anything. Look, I get it, sometimes you just gotta go. Some people’s bladders are smaller than others. And some movies are longer than others. The trips to Middle Earth are not short. Be self-aware. If you know that you’re the kind of person that isn’t going to be able to hold it, sit closer to the aisles so you don’t have to step over half the row to get out. There are also helpful apps that can tell you when the best time is to make a bathroom run during the movie. Just check that before the movie starts, not while you’re watching it because, remember, keep your phone turned off.

7. Don’t Be Too Comfortable This is a more general one, but it covers two things.

First, don’t feel so comfortable in a movie theater that you have outbursts that are distracting to others. When I went to see The Nice Guys a few years ago, a man in the very front row was loudly laughing at every joke in this action comedy. Now, it is an action comedy and I had plenty of laughs myself during this movie that I loved and would go on to own, but whether the joke called for a chuckle or a loud laugh, his reaction was always the same, a rip-roaring belly laugh that let everyone in the theater know that he found that funny. Be aware that not all moments in movies require the biggest responses from their audience. Modulation is our friend.

Second, don’t be so comfortable that you fall asleep and start snoring. At one movie I went to a few years ago, a woman walked in, late, to a movie and sat in the same row as me. Her husband arrived 5-10 minutes later, a big dude, and proceeded to break every rule of the social contract that we have of movie theaters. He talked to his wife. He was checking his phone. He took a phone call on his Bluetooth to say he was in a movie theater and couldn’t talk. And then he fell asleep and started snoring and his wife had to elbow him to wake him up. I was apoplectic but also completely dumbfounded by this man.

8. Do Not Bring Your Toddler At Night

The days are for the kiddos, not the nights. I go to see a lot of movies by myself, so I try to go later at night when I’m seeing a Disney movie or something geared for kids, because it would be weird to be catching a matinee as the only adult in the theater without a kid with me. On the flipside of that, kids should be in bed by a certain time of night, and if they can’t sit in their seat then you shouldn’t be taking them to regular showtimes of movies. Plenty of movie theaters offer showtimes in the mornings or during the day where parents can bring their kids for a “sensory and family friendly” showings.

The worst example of this is when my friend Jeremy and I went to see Toy Story 3 on a Tuesday night. We got tickets for the last showing of the night, probably around 9:30. In the theater with us? A couple of their toddler. NINE THIRTY PM! ON A TUESDAY NIGHT! WHAT KIND OF PARENTS ARE YOU? THAT KID SHOULD BE IN BED! THIS MOVIE WON’T GET OUT UNTIL 11PM! Making matters worse? The kid was constantly running around the theater, up and down the aisles, through the rows, directly behind us even, and the parents just sat there the whole time. I’m not one to publicly condemn people, or tell them how they should raise their children, but these were objectively bad parents.

9. Be Considerate

Ultimately, this is what it is all about. This sums up all the others. Be considerate of others. As I wrote earlier, the movie theater is not your living room. People did not buy a ticket to see and hear you. Movies are not video games, they’re not interactive. You are there as an observer of someone else’s work. And you’re usually not the only one there. Common courtesy is a valuable and precious resource that we need to make a habit of doing more frequently. Just be aware of others and try to keep anything that would interrupt their personal experience with a movie to a minimum. As a wise men once said, be excellent to each other.

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