Movie Theater Etiquette

Keeping all eyes on the big screen and not on you.

Trent Armstrong
5-minute read
Episode #77

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Now, when the weekend rolls around, I'm probably headed to the movies. I think most of us are ready to ditch school or work and get away from The Man. Maybe even The Man gets a little tired of being stuffy and wants to loosen that tie for a bit and get a little crazy. It’s fine to go nuts and unwind without any rules if you're going to lock yourself in your home, but if you plan on joining the rest of society at the beacon of entertainment known as the cinema, there are some things to consider.

A Night at the Movies

The movie theater is a strange beast. Little pockets of society grouping together for shared entertainment while all facing the same direction in the dark. It's not really a place for group participation like a concert; it's not really a cultural event for dressing up. It is, however, a great place to ruin someone else's evening if you relax your manners.

Behind Enemy Lines

Something that might seem familiar about the movies is the concept of a line. I recently had an episode on lines and queuing so feel free to revisit that with a few theater line caveats in mind. People arriving from different locations and meeting their friends at the theater change the dynamic. I think, as a group, we have come to understand that the first-come-first-served approach to theater seating means accepting that people will be saving their friends’ place in line. Even if the person intending to join someone already in line was prevented from cutting the line, his or her friend would just be able to save them a seat in the theater anyway.

So, a little grace should be offered those who join others in line, except when a big group of latecomers means 150 people will have to adjust. Large groups should not disrupt the line and if their joining the line would displace anyone from his or her current spot, they should wait at the back of the line instead.

Movie Theater Seating Etiquette and Using The Force

Once in the theater, it's important to remember a few seating manners. If the film is a new release or is certain to be full, make an effort to not leave empty seats between yourself and the nearest party. That one buffer seat seems appropriate until it forces an usher to ask you to move down. Go ahead and take it upon yourself to squeeze in so those sitting after you don't have to wonder if the seat is taken. If you happen to be the poor patron who is tasked with finding two seats together on a row of every-other-seats, be kind about requesting others to shift. I usually ask like this: "Excuse me. Is that seat taken? I don't like to impose, but would you mind scooting one seat?" Then wrap that awkward conversation up with a very humble "thank you."