The Weekly Moviegoer - So What's the Solution?

May 28, 2009

The Weekly Moviegoer

When it comes to certain problems at the cinema, we can easily and concretely put the blame on the movie theater staff (be they managers or projectionists). But some issues affecting the business of moviegoing are not so clear-cut when it comes to determining who is at fault. Sure, for the most part we can complain to and criticize the managers for anything that ruins our experience. However, the lack of definite rules and etiquette combined with the ever-increasing amount of inconsiderate and ignorant people going to the movies makes it difficult for us to wholly condemn the theater for every problem we may encounter there.

Figuring out who is to blame, though, is often a moot concern anyway. The more pressing matter is who is responsible for the problem. We may easily point fingers at who or what causes a problem, but in the end it's more important to figure out who must remedy that problem. And again, it's not always clear-cut who this primary problem-solver should be. Let's take a look at three common fuzzy issues we've all experienced at the cinema and attempt to determine what should -- or at least could -- be done in such situations.

Situation: The movie is sold out and it's hard to find two seats together because many couples have left a single empty chair between themselves and the next couple.
What To Do: Ideally, the "inconsiderate" audience members who've left the single seats empty should be accommodating and move closer to the other couple to allow you and your date to sit together. But it's not against any rule for them to refuse, even if you may think it's rude for them to stay put. They got there earlier, chose their favored seats and should be permitted to be comfortable. The only thing the management can do in this situation is ask nicely for them to move, but he/she can not order anyone to change their seat. It's not a good idea for the manager to make those customers have a worse experience so that other customers can have a better experience. If we don't like this kind of situation, we can avoid going to movies on opening weekend or get to the theater earlier or go to a cinema with assigned seating.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a better solution?

Situation: A young child is in the audience, talking, crying and/or making other kinds of distracting, disruptive noise.
What To Do: Obviously the parent or guardian is responsible for keeping the child quiet, though there seem to be a lot of people today who don't care that their offspring (or wards) make noise during the movie. This is likely part of the general problem with moviegoers bringing their living room behavior to the cinema. If there's no stated rule at the theater that says people can't bring babies to the movie, there's probably not much the management can do other than request that the disruptive audience members leave the auditorium. But they can refuse to leave on the principle that they've paid for the whole movie and don't want to miss anything. As far as I can tell, there is no legal justification for forcibly removing them from the premises. Meanwhile, it's definitely not other audience members' responsibility to yell at the parent/guardian, especially since this only adds to the problem. The only options we really have are to try and ignore the kid or find a theater where there's a clear rule against babies.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a better solution?

Situation: The auditorium is a mess from the previous show, and it's difficult to find a row to sit in that isn't littered with popcorn bags, soda cups and other trash.
What To Do: Don't necessarily blame the theater, despite the fact that cinemas employ "ushers" to clean up after people. Really, this is more our fault than the management's, because we the audience ignore the requests to toss out our own garbage. The reason for this collective inconsideration is unclear, especially for a society that frequents fast food restaurants and is used to busing its own food trays. Yes, the cinema should have cleaned up any trash left behind by the previous audience, but that audience also should have cleaned up after itself. The only thing we can do now is lead a good example, clean up after ourselves and hope that our fellow moviegoers will similarly learn to be more considerate to both the cinema and the audience that follows them into the theater.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a better solution?

Remember that in any of these situations, no matter who is at fault, if your moviegoing experience was not great you can complain and attempt to get free passes or a refund for your trouble. If the cinema has good customer service, you should be compensated in some way, even if you sat through the whole film -- don't ever take the "but you never came out and complained" crap - it's never appropriate in any situation.

Popcorn pouring photo courtesy of Anthony Skelton on Flickr.

Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Opinions



Come on.... if a little kid is crying, screaming or disruptive, OF COURSE it's the theater management's obligation to deal with it, by refunding your money, up to removing the offenders. If asking for the later, you might point out that just because you're the one ticked off enough to make an issue of it, the manager should realize that most in the theater, despite being timid, are bothered too and the whole audience would like the offending disrupter removed. It's actually a matter of law. You've paid your money and voila... it was accepted... so now there's a contract... I pay, you show the film, if I can't reasonably watch the film because of screamers.... the management must either give the money back [none of that "rain check" garbage] or require that the kid leave, parents too I guess. The kids parents don't actually have much financial recourse either, tho management can chose to refund. But once you misbehave, you've become a disruptor and you've breached the contract.

macca on May 28, 2009


Another thought ... as Campbell mentioned, the real problem is that people are inconsiderate and treat the theater as if they were home, in their own living rooms. I don't want to be ageist either. My schedule allows me free afternoons and so that's when I go to the movies. The most rude and oblivious people in the theater are seniors. They talk, ask questions, disrupt... more than young people. The only saving factor is that they're less likely to pop you in the nose if you ask them to please be quiet and stop talking during the film. You may get a "harrrumph!!" but that's better than a stream of obscenity and threats such as you get from some young people these days.

macca on May 28, 2009


Chill out - anytime you get in a crowded place with 300 other people you have to expect some to be uncouth.

Matt on May 28, 2009


Problem #1 is easy. If this happens to my partner and myself, we find a couple of seats that aren't TOO far apart, and then we lean over and talk to each other annoyingly until the people in between us give up and move.

boriskat on May 28, 2009


...and if it wasn't clear, we talk to each other BEFORE the movie starts. If the people between us don't move until after the previews have begun, then we give up ourselves.

boriskat on May 28, 2009


#1 These days the cinemas are never sold out because people get the pirate copies faster and as the food costs more than a film ticket these days I don't blame people who watch movies on their home computers or on dvd. #2 Kids making noise can be dealt with by punching them in the throat or if a parent is there, force them to the ground and kick them in the face til blood comes out their ears. I know there are actually days dedicated to screenings that are baby friendly, so they can cry and not disrupt the screening, I think this is cool. But really who takes a baby to see a film? I leave my kid in the car, I can't even leave the window down as people keep trying to steal him. #3 You have to accept that these days most people are retards, properly stupid. Telling someone to put their litter in the bin is like telling a redneck he can't have sex with his sister, wither way he's going to do it, even though he knows it's wrong and won't work out for the best. The only thing I hate at cinemas is the price of the food, it's obscene, 3 nachos and a squirt of some shit sauce and 5 m&ms cost £10 and that's for one portion. It pays to sneak your food in. I'd rather see less cinemas than the horrible mess that is multiplex hell, I think those places are the reasons for remakes, just more crap to fill in the blanks.

Crapola on May 28, 2009


Well, wow. Reading this article makes me wonder whether it's really become so difficult for people to ask rather than avoid. And also, there are really theaters that have assigned seating? Or ones with "clear rules against babies"? Didn't know those even existed. And would you really have a noisy kid "forcibly removed" from a theater, whether it could be justfied or not? Maybe if the kid was dumping popcorn or soda on people, kicking people in the shins, harrassing other patrons. But if it's a crying baby, what do you really expect? As #3 said, people should chill out. If the hassle of the movie theater outweighs your interest in the actual movie, then what are you doing there anyway? Situation 1: Rather than complaining to management, you could ask the couple to move a seat down. Do you think they'll actually say "NO." to your face, especially if you have a friend with you too? No. They might grumble, but in the end they'll be considerate, and all will be forgotten once the previews start rolling. People just need to get over the embarassment of asking/feeling like they're a nuisance to others. Being intentionally annoying to couples in order to make them move solves nothing, btw. Situation 2: Go to a different showing. Go later. If it's about paying the matinee prices, then go during lunch when kids/families will likely be eating. If you want to be eating but not paying cinema prices, then bring food in your purse, or in your jacket pockets. And if it's still irksome, then take the complaint to management. It will only become a management problem when enough people complain. Otherwise, stick it out.

stein on May 28, 2009


We have a different problem at the theatres in my city. People here come to a movie without any idea about the movie. While deciding to watch a movie, they just see the name, the image shown on the poster and the celebrities involved in the movie. Based on that, they assume that the movie is your usual commercial entertainer and buy the tickets. Once the movie starts, they realize that it was nothing like they had imagined & so they start to shout, make so-called funny noises & deliver one-liner replies to the character's dialogue. Best examples would be Sweeney Todd where the people had no clue that it was a musical & when they realized it, they started shouting. The other was the most recent Watchmen, which I guess people expected would be like Spiderman, but when the slow moving scenes hit them, they started shouting. The movie can be good or bad, that is different, but people shouting just because they don't like it is absurd. I feel like I'm sitting inside a monkey's cage when in the theatre. This is the situation at the best theatre in my city (Chennai in India). I'm starting to regret going to the theatre for anything other than commercial action/comedy movies.

Deepak T on May 28, 2009


i had a kid kicking the back of my chair during beowolf. i asked him to stop, he did. at a screening of up, all the seats were reserved, but there was a single seat between me and the next guy. some other dude took the seat by himself. when i went to see star trek, some chick on a date asked me and my friend if we could move down one seat, really, we were too stoned to think about someone else's moviegoing experience. but she asked, and we moved, and i ended up in a slightly better seat, and her date probably got laid. the girl behind us in that same theater was loud during the movie and screaming and laughing but it just added to the experience and it didn't bother me so much. but it's all about communication. what happens before the lights dim is the customer's responsibility. what happens when they go down is management's.

musicsoup on May 28, 2009


#2 I have alot of problems with.I rarelt see any PG or below movies so when I went to see Angels &Demons I was suprised when I saw a 3 year old child sitting in the front row.Know I think that for PG-13 there should be a rule in theaters that no one under 6 can enter a PG-13 cause some people expect to escape from the talking,singing,obnoxious laughing,getting up and down from the seat,throwing popcorn everywhere etc.that I experienced in Night at the Museum:Battle of the Smitsonian

Jack on May 29, 2009


Groups of kids, why do they go to the cinema if they cant sit for 2 hours without talking to each other or on their phone. Depending on age and numbers id go over during a movie and tell them to shut it but the danger is always that they will be smart arse little shits and get louder. I'd like to see adult only screenings of blockbusters even if they are pg13 or whatever

Ross on May 29, 2009


#2 I once had an extremely aggravating theater experience with a not so young child-ish man and his family. They were talking loudly and swearing for a good portion of the film, so I asked them to be quieter. They ignored me the first time. The second time I asked they told me to f*** off, so I went and talked to management (and let the offenders know I was doing so). The manager told me to let him know if it continued. It did, so I went and told him again, and this is where it got fun. They actually called the police, and an officer came into the theater and took the guy out into the lobby and lectured him. Once he came back he was quiet the rest of the show. So I got what I wanted, but I missed probably 1/3 of the movie, so they gave me my money back. Fortunately the movie (Paycheck) sucked anyway, so I didn't miss much.

Pete on May 29, 2009


If you have children and come to a movie and they scream and cry, TAKE THEM OUT TO THE FUCKING LOBBY. Yeah, sure they paid too, but they also had the option not to have children, or not to bring them. I have a child (even though she's a teenager now) and I would never ask someone to basically pay the exorbitant ticket prices to hear my kid act like a little shit. When I see a cartoon or family film, I expect there will be some disruption, so I don't usually complain. But you'd be surprised at how many people think it's perfectly okay to bring their child to an adult-rated film, especially if it's an infant. I don't want to say that people who have babies aren't entitled to go out and have a little entertainment...but if you bring the child and they cry, you must go outside--I didn't have your child, and I shouldn't have to deal with your child. And for those who bring toddlers or young kids...same goes. If your kid's obnoxious, take them outside, or you and I will be having a very loud argument. While we're on the subject of irritating movie things...cell phones. YES, THEY ALL HAVE A VIBRATE FUNCTION, TURN IT THE HELL ON!!! And NO, DON'T ANSWER AND THEN TALK IN THE THEATRE, BECAUSE IT'S NOT OKAY. One time, some dude did this and I leaned over and said, "If you don't stop talking right now, I will shove that phone down your throat." (This was after I asked him politely to not talk in the theatre....which, to be honest, I didn't need to--this is something everyone should know better than to do.) And another thing...teenagers. When they act up (talking loudly, cursing, cell phones, messy, acting stupid in general), I have no problem going over and telling them to shut up. One time, I had an entire row of those idiots behind me. I stood up and told them that they didn't pay for my ticket, so they had better shut up, or I would get the manager to eject all of them. I can't stand it when teenagers come to movies...there manners are non-existent. One kid threatened me once (and I was with my daughter, who was asking me to please sit down...we live in an urban city and these kids weren't the kind you messed with) and I stood up for myself. I wasn't going to take that crap. Needless to say, I got a round of applause when I finally got him to leave. @Pete...I love that the cops came. I think I will use that option one day 🙂

Toni on May 29, 2009


In my area, Tampa Bay, on opening nights, particularly in movies where there are likely to be a lot of teens, they keep a police officer in the room until things are settled in and quiet. I see a teenager or group of them get escorted out at least once a month. They even warn people at the beginning of the blockbusters that they will be escorted out. It's also not an option to not move over and fill empty seats. You can claim you got their first, but its not your house and you can't sit anywhere you want. Sorry. The theater makes money per seat. Try leaving an empty seat next to you in an airplane. As for cleaning the theater, we should certainly all do our part, and I make sure I always carry my stuff out, as do the majority of the people in our theaters, but, its the theaters responsibility to ensure the floors and seats are clean, as it is in a restaurant, or any other place you pay to enter.

Brian on May 29, 2009


I'm in the Miami area, and the main problems I see in the theaters are people (all ages) talking loudly to each other or on the cell phone and teens that feel like they MUST text while in the theater. I don't think they realize (or don't care) that their cell phone is like a bright flashlight to the people sitting behind them. Ok guys, who hasn't heard this line from anyone talking on their cell phone during a movie - "Hello, oh hey, I'm at the movies, yeah, yeah, I'm watching ______, yeah, uh huh" - its nearly the same line every time. As for the trash problem, the theater management should really take care of that problem whether or not it was wrong for the customers to leave it behind. If the management really cares for their customers and their theater, they make sure it is pretty clean before letting in the next group of customers. A couple simple ways to help reduce this problem would be either to add more trashcans toward the middle of the theater (the area between the front rows and the stadium seats) or to just have the staff empty the trash AFTER EVERY SHOW. There have been too many times that I'm entering the theater before the show and I see the trashcans overflowing from the previous showing(s). I can tell you from experience that a lot of this does not happen at those "luxury" theaters where the seats are assigned, its a 21+ crowd, and the higher ticket price scares away most of those types of people who don't know good etiquette. And they serve beer. I don't go all the time due to the cost, but for special occasions or dates TRUST ME it is well worth paying $ to have a decent theater experience. Did I mention they serve beer? Unfortunately, due to the changes in manners and decency of general society over the years, these issues have become the norm in the theater. I've been going to the movies for over 25 years, and I can remember back when I was a small kid when most people didn't leave their trash behind, mothers took their crying babies outside, and people SHUT THE HELL UP when the movie started. Just my 2 cents.

Steve on May 29, 2009


Commenter #6 makes no sense at all. "Theaters are never sold out these days..." What? Anyway, pretty much everything you stated up there I agree with. In most cases (barring some kind of over the top moments) there is little a person can do about the problems one sees at the theater. Most of these problems are the reason I thank god that I live in Austin, Texas and can go to The Alamo Drafthouse. There, babies are never allowed (unless it is a special matinee screening, which they warn the other patrons of far in advance), and the moviegoers seem to be more interested in sitting down and watching a movie than talking on their phones/leaving huge messes on the floor/generally being dicks. I only to to a Regal or AMC theater now if there is either no choice, or if I have a free pass to an early screening. (The past three times I have been to an AMC, my theater has had projection issues that have almost ruined the entire movie)

WhattheWhat on May 31, 2009

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