Movie Theater Etiquette

Due to my active membership with one of the movie subscription services, in the last two years I’ve seen more films in the theater than the rest of my life combined.

I’ve got some notes on the experience.


My fellow movie-goers, listen up.

1) Don’t look at your phone. Yes, this is the most obvious movie theater note that can be made, but people still check their devices all the time while the movie is playing. If you can’t go a couple hours without scrolling on your phone, you’ve got to look inward and consider tackling that addiction. Use the time in the theater to practice breaking the muscle memory in your fingers by leaving your phone in the car.

2) If at an “assigned seat” theater, don’t sit in a different seat than what’s listed on your ticket! People show up late to movies all the time, and it’s always more annoying and embarrassing for everyone involved to change seats after the lights have gone down.

3) On that note, arrive on time! Of course there are obstacles that make for valid excuses and a delayed arrival time, but far too many people are late because they have no sense for time management. Just because the big chain theaters have a minimum of 20 minutes of trailers beforehand doesn’t mean it’s an invitation to try to get yourself settled at the last second. Control what you can and avoid being the person obstructing views after the movie’s begun.

4) Take your trash with you and discard it as you leave the theater. There is always a garbage receptacle positioned at the exit, and you always walk out of the exit to leave. Don’t be lazy, don’t be a slob!

5) When attending a showing that isn’t crowded, choose seats that give everyone gathered their own space. No one wants to be seated right next to a stranger in a fairly empty auditorium. Boundaries!

6) Don’t look at your fucking phone!

Movie Theaters:

While we’re here, there are also areas where theaters could be doing a better job curating the guest experience.

1) Delicately light the seat numbers so guests can see them better in the dark. This could also be accomplished with glow in the dark numbers stuck to the ground directly underneath the seats. The reason to do this is because too often people who show up after the lights have gone down default to using the torches on their phone to find the seat number. Unacceptable.

2) Clarify to those assembled that a theater employee will be walking through the auditorium to perform safety checks at regular intervals during the movie. Sometimes it’s a theater employee in a recognizable polo, but other times it’s a security guard, who, appearing suddenly and in low light, can be startling and enough to take you out of the experience.

3) Do a better job before the movie begins of reminding guests that they should be sitting in their assigned seat. The idea is to get people thinking about how their actions affect others more, but in a low stakes away. Be more proactive instead of reactive.

4) Cheaper concessions! Or at least offer specials that are actually special. With ticket prices already out of control, do something to encourage an affordable option for families. Dynamic pricing, tiered pricing, discounts for regular customers are all methods that could be implemented by theaters of all kind. Really the only wrong answer is avoiding experimentation entirely.

5) Prepare for a future where guests return to the theater more often due to subscription services. This means things like playing fewer trailers beforehand, or creating special event nights that are open to the regulars. Start building the experience to cater to repeat customers.

6) The movies are way too loud. If the sound is still banging on eardrums in the last row of the auditorium, that’s a problem area in need of examination.

End Notes.

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