Four simple rules for how to behave at the cinema

Judi Dence and Steve Coogan in Philomena

Did you go to the cinema at the weekend? I did. I went to see Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Googan, which was enjoyable if not spectacular, and made me genuinely ponder if its director, Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity, Dirty Pretty Things), has ever made a bad film.

It also made me ask something else: why do people continue to be so annoying when they go to the cinema? For the first ten minutes of Philomena, I could barely hear Coogan’s comedic mumblings over the grating din of plastic bag rustling and popcorn munching from the two women to my right. In their defence, they ate with their mouths closed after I’d leaned over and told them as politely as I could to keep the noise down – I even gave them a highly patronising thumbs up – but they were outdone later in the film by a rustler/muncher supreme a few rows back, who ruined the film’s key scene with some of the loudest chewing since Al Pacino in the finale of The Devil’s Advocate.

Unfortunately, I deemed I couldn’t tell him to shut up as he was sitting too far away. Although that hasn’t stopped me before – in a late showing a few years ago, a gang of lads in their early 20s burst into a screening two thirds of the way through, evidently bored with the different film they’d actually paid to see, and practically started shouting about seven rows back from where I was sitting. On that occasion I turned round and hissed as loud as I could, ‘Shut the *** up!’ I don’t normally swear at total strangers in public, but this fire needed fighting with fire. Then my heart started pounding, as this gang of blokes indignantly strode down the steps, snarling as they went, ‘Who shouted that?’ To my relief, they kept on walking out of the theatre, content with their noisy one-minute cameo. It crossed my mind for a second that I might get beaten up. The film, by the way, was Toy Story 3.

My point is that you shouldn’t have to let anger build up inside you before telling someone you don’t know that their cinema etiquette is unacceptable. All they need to do is follow some simple rules….

1. Eat your bleeding popcorn before the film starts

In cinemas… no one can hear you eat. Well, at least they shouldn’t. If you want to sit down and eat for two hours, shove off and go to a restaurant.

2. Turn your phone off

James Bond is in a tight spot here – will he be able to get out of this jam and save the day…? Oh, what’s that, a lit up square five feet to my right, totally taking me out of the movie-watching moment. Having your phone on silent isn’t good enough. And as for the, ‘I’m expecting an important call’ argument… if you are expecting an important call, don’t go to the cinema.

3. Sit still

A more difficult one this, as cinemas are a bit like Ryanair flights on the legroom front sometimes – I’m looking at you, BFI IMAX – but do try not to knee the person in front of you for the entire film.

4. Shut up

No talking allowed. It’s like issuing instructions to take on board plenty of oxygen when they leave the house, but you’d be surprised how many people can’t get their head round this concept when they sit down in a cinema screening.

Any more rules you want to add? Tell us below…

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3 Responses to “Four simple rules for how to behave at the cinema”

  1. Another thing that really pisses me off. Arrive on time! I hate getting comfortable as the film starts just to have the screen blocked by people scooting across my vision.

  2. Agree wit Joseph above. Arrive on goddam time. I hate it when i have to shift or move to accommodate people trying to find a spare seat in a packed cinema, just because they couldn’t be bothered arriving at the right time.

  3. But why do cinemas sell the noisiest snacks possible?! Nachos, popcorn, really what’s that about? Maybe they should sell something softer, like cake.

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