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5 Things You Should Never Do in a Movie Theater

Much like public transportation or fire drills, moviegoing is an institution that brings people together. Sometimes, one person’s perception on how to behave in said situation differs from another, and that’s where you run into problems. In my best attempt to alleviate this conflict at the cinema, please read on to see things you should absolutely not be doing as a theater-goer.

Eating Smelly Food


Technically, you shouldn’t be eating anything from outside the theater, but any frequent movie-goer knows that this is an oft-ignored rule. If you are going to rebel against the outside food policy, do everyone else a favor and keep it to something that doesn’t invade my nostrils as I’m watching video games invade the Earth.

Extreme Reactions

Source: Dude Perfect

I have to confess I tend to be guilty of this sometimes. I can’t help but guffaw at some of the horror trailers coming out these days because they can be so predictable. However, during the movie, if you’re laughing during a heartstring-pulling moment, try to stifle it if you can. Some of us romantics are trying to enjoy Paper Towns.

(Indiscreet) Phone Activity

Woman using phone during movie at cinema

We hear this one time and again before every screening to please silence or turn off your phones, but this is probably still the most prevalent etiquette breach in the modern theater. I actually qualify this as “Indiscreet” because I think it is possible to give your phone a quick check without distracting anyone else in the theater. If you’re having two separate, loud conversations with someone on your phone during the hard-to-watch scenes in 12 Years a Slave (sadly, I actually experienced this), you’ve crossed the line.

Also, props to Alamo Drafthouse for calling this out in a impressively bold and funny way.

Bringing Small Children


To head off some of the flak I anticipating getting from this, no, I’m not a parent, and no, I don’t mean all children. Inside Out is a kid’s movie, and if your kid can sit through a movie without screaming or needing to run around, I would love to share a theater with you and your child. I will happily put on my “daww” face when the theater explodes with children laughing and even allow the innocent questions kids ask about what’s happening. But if a game of tag is going on in the aisle next to me, there’s going to be a problem.

Frequent Bathroom Trips

Bathroom Sign

I get it, when you have to go, you have to go, but you’re the kind of person that has to go A LOT, maybe try to grab yourself an aisle seat so everyone you have to get by to leave the theater doesn’t have to get up and go through the awkward process of letting you through. Ben from the STASHED recently wrote about this particular annoyance as part of his NerdyForThirty challenge, so I know I’m not alone on this.

If you get stuck with a middle seat, I would suggest getting RunPee on your phone to avoid a climactic sequence or consult this handy flow chart below.

In conclusion, the Golden Rule for these situations is please try to respect everyone else’s experience with the movie!

Everyone will be happier and have a better moviegoing experience. We go to the movies to become completely absorbed into another world, and nothing hurts that more than disruption from your fellow viewers.


23 thoughts on “5 Things You Should Never Do in a Movie Theater Leave a comment

  1. Remember, be careful not to kick the seat in front of you every time you move your feet and don’t crunch each individual popcorn with your mouth open!!!

  2. All of the above actions are annoying at the movie theater. BUT remember, if you REALLY want to control everyone around you when you watch a movie, watch it at home all by yourself. That is what these modern times afford one to do. Besides, there are worst things happening at movie theaters these days. Just watch the news.

    • There may be the occasional bad thing happening in theaters but there’s many more murders and deadly accidents going on at home. Statistically, you’re safer at a theater than at home. Thanks to moviepass, I’m able to extend my life by staying at a theater much more than any of my dead ancestors were able to!

  3. The one about bringing small children is perhaps the biggest issue. Especially when it is a non-kids movie, and yet people are bringing their babies and little kids. I get finding a good babysitter is hard, but if you know your child isn’t the type which can be quiet throughout a movie, and instead will scream to their hearts content, then don’t inconvenience others.

  4. Two comments (one more a plug for an app I adore):

    1) I was seeing a 70mm screening of The Sound of Music at Cinerama ( and during intermission parents were letting their kids run all over the place in the auditorium. I was mortified and to this day have nightmares.

    2) RunPee (I must confess I was an early beta tester) is an awesome little app to make the occasional restroom breaks less annoying to all –

    • Wow, I’m so sorry about #1, Sean. Sounds like a rare experience that was avoidably soured.

      And yes, RunPee is great, I cited it in the article! As long as you’re trying to be discreet when you leave, I’m always fine with that.

      • No getting that app isn’t really what you should be doing as then…you guessed it…you have to check your phone and THAT is annoying.. you don’t need to even ‘quick check’ your phone..if you seriously can’t live for 2 hrs without checking your’ve got issues WAY beyond what a movie can take you away from.. Just don’t do it. period.

  5. I hate it when people are checking their phone even during PREVIEWS. You may not be interested in previews or the beginning of the movie but others are. This happened to me this weekend. I wish people were more respectful, but they were not raised by my parents who taught me good manners.

  6. Sitting in the wrong seatObviously, if you’re in the decision-maker’s office, you wouldn’t sit behind the desk. But frequently, meetings are held in conference rooms or other places where the decision-maker’s chair isn’t immediately apparent.

  7. “I think it is possible to give your phone a quick check without distracting anyone else in the theater”

    No. The light is just too bright to make this even possible. Unless you have a thick cloak to put over you to check the phone under.

    • Sometimes a quick check is necessary, like during the most recent Paris terrorist attacks I was watching Specter in a D.C movie theater and my mother became terribly nervous, so I wrote her a quick replying letting her know I was safe and I would be home after the movie. We live an hour towards the country.

      At the start of every movie we should all not only silence our cell phones but also LOWER the brightness of the screen all the way down to it’s lowest setting and only reply to messages deemed utterly important. If a movie is boring you enough to check your friend’s latest status’ on Facebook, just leave the theater and hop over to a different movie.

      • WRONG! It’s NEVER okay to make a quick check during the movie. LEAVE the theater FIRST and then do whatever the f’ you want to do with your annoying cell phone. Sheesh.

        • Based on the demeanor of your response, Janet, I imagine you’re likely infinitely more annoying and impatient as a driver on the road than you assume one would be for checking their phones in a theater during an international terrorist attack, as mentioned above. For that I will quote an overly-boisterous commenter, you, “Sheesh”. >_>

  8. I sit in the back/top row every time no matter what and check my phone whenever I want. If there are people in the back/top row then I’m mindful. This is my number one way of rating a movie…use your phone more than 3 times terrible movie, less than that the rating goes up

  9. Why don’t you just step over toward the theater entrance to check your phone/send a text/whatever? At my theater, you’re behind a tall wall an no one can see the light – but you can still see the screen.

    Talking through the movie, kicking the back of my seat, using the phone, and bringing noisy kids are my pet peeves.

  10. I have to comment on the phone statement. I hate it when people check their phone during a movie. It is distracting to see the phone come on. I always put mine on silent before the movie. I do have certain people who I have on a fife rant ring vibrate that if an emergency arises I can go out and check it in the hall. I also try to set in the back closer to the door just in case. Generally at the theaters I attend here it’s not the younger kids that are the problem. It is certain groups of teen age kids. I say kid because if they act like they do than they are a kid.

Make yourself heard!