During the era of silent film, recommendations for behavior were displayed on title cards before a screening, offering advice including “Ladies, kindly remove your hats”, “Loud talking or whistling not allowed”, and “Please applaud with hands only”. Modern cinemas often display a short reminder for patrons to turn off their cellphones, before the film begins.
Etiquette writers Debrett’s released a guide to correct cinema behavior in 2008, after research showed that 66% of moviegoers wanted to see an improvement in cinema etiquette. The most common objections from those polled were having their view blocked by a tall patron in front, or having their own seat kicked from behind. Debrett’s five recommendations were to arrive on time, to sit still, to refrain from whispering during the film, to wait for a loud scene before eating wrapped candy, and for couples to restrain from excessive displays of affection.
All photos by Library of Congress
In 2010, film critics Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo proposed a “Code of Conduct for Moviegoers”, suggesting among other things that cinema patrons should refrain from slurping drinks or eating “anything harder than a soft roll with no filling”, should not use cellphones even in flight mode, and should neither remove their shoes nor rest their feet on other seats. The Code criticizes “irresponsible” parents who take young children to 12A certificate films they have no interest in seeing, describing it as “using the cinema as a babysitter”. Film blog ScreenCrush later compiled a list entitled “Movie Manners: 10 Tips on How Not to Be a Jerk at the Movies”. In addition to some of the more obvious suggestions, they advise against spoiling the film for other patrons by discussing it on the way out, and recommend using the restroom prior to the film. A 2012 survey of British cinemagoers found that 66% of respondents could recall objecting to another patron’s poor etiquette, but had not objected to it for fear of causing a “scene”. 85% of those polled favored the adoption of an official cinema code of conduct