On Cinema Etiquette


There’s currently a purposefully inflammatory article going around saying it’s wrong to shush people at the cinema. So ridiculous is the writer in his argumentative, click-baiting state that he compares cinema goers to being conservative but in a much more incendiary way. The obviously attention-seeking writer says that if you want people to remain silent in a cinema screen, not talk and not use their phones to check their timelines, then you are actually a fascist who is the type of person to be against gay marriage and for slavery. No, he’s serious, honest. So deluded in this state he acts as if the two monumental things are on the same level as people who hate chattering around them in a theater. Not only does he believe that but he believes that anyone who does shush is a bully. That’s right, in this one article about cinema silence he manages to insult everyone. Don’t you dare disagree with him though because you don’t understand the cultural norm of places like India and if you disagree with him and that culture - which many on Twitter are coming forward to say is hogwash - then you are in fact a racist fascist. Heavy words to throw around because you want to check how many retweets you just got.

Comparing people who want silence in a cinema screen to immerse themselves to people who defended slavery is beyond insulting to everyone in that blanket statement but more how lightly he treats the slavery problem that existed. He believes that social media and smart phones are of such cultural significance that those who don’t want that annoying iPhone light in their vision when in a blackened room are the people who are resistant to change - dinosaurs who don’t understand the “new” way that’s being presented. I’m all for people having special social screenings where they sit around texting each other with some background noise, they can do what they like in those screenings, I wouldn’t care at all. To come into a paid room where you go for the quality of the experience of being involved in a story with a giant screen and amazing sound quality and then natter, text and tweet, soiling the experiences for others, is the most inconsiderate thing in the world.

etiquette-2Ruining someone’s experience in a cinema where they have paid to be by being loud or distracting others from enjoying is inconsiderate. That’s all there is to it. Say there were 50 people in the room and only 1 of them wanted silence so they could watch the film in peace then it would be inconsiderate of the 49 others to soil someone else’s experience. Like Scott Weinberg said on Twitter: it’s not a social experience, it’s a communal one. It’s where people go to enjoy art or entertainment in a place where the quality of the equipment can maximise that. Why pay to be there if you’re not that bothered about watching the film in the first place? I paid to see The Conjuring like everybody else in a full screening and no one considered others in it. People behind me being “lads” kept saying “lad” things which were about as witty as an exchange between David Beckham and a brick. I had to sit through that for two hours while they constantly exchanged their laddish remarks about manly lad things when really they were idiots. Then the girl next to me turned the strobe light on her phone, texted throughout the entire film and spoke about how she knew what was going to happen next as if she was some sort of psychic when the scene was spelt out. Another inconsiderate idiot. Then a person answered their phone to talk and to say “I’m in the cinema, I told you I was, what do you want?” Was there a need to answer that phonecall? No. She’d already said she was in the cinema so not answering it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

You say it’s a cultural evolution to want to sit in a multiplex and text but is it really? It’s aiding the already dwindling attention spans thanks to the addition of smart phones. They’re almost an infection of ADHD lately and I can’t say I’m not a sufferer, I am. I use my phone way too much but I don’t in a cinema screen because that would be disrespectful. You see, wanting the world to have a shorter attention span as a part of the evolution that’s being described is madness. No one wants a world where you can’t immerse yourself with people, art or anything. Constantly having to have some connection to something somewhere else is borderline dangerous. My phone destroyed my attention span and it’s embarrassing that it did. I’m not going to stop having one because it’s handy but I’d rather have control over myself and not have to give in and grab my phone, turn on an app and crave an update of nonsensical information that my head will throw away. It’s information overload with these things and with that in mind some films are getting simpler because the audience don’t have the patience for something more complicated and that’s something I’ve witnessed. There’s someone I watched a film with that didn’t pay attention at all, didn’t understand it and it was painfully simple, spelled out. Nothing complicated happened. While explaining the person switched off - looking at their phone - because their attention couldn’t be bothered to grasp that information.

Ruining someone’s experience in a cinema where they have paid to be by being loud or distracting others from enjoying is inconsiderate. That’s all there is to it.

Basically it all comes down to inconsideration. You think we’re rude for not accepting your “cultural norms” that you put to us as some sort of gospel truth, that we should accept what you say and not question your normal cinema going experience. In reality you’re throwing your toys out of your pram because you can’t check your mention tabs every five minutes because you’re much more important. Your need to check your phone, your addiction is not our problem and it should not be an affliction we have to suffer through while watching a film in a room that is made to watch a film. You are pushing your idea of correctness onto ours while saying we’re too close-minded to accept the future when the future is inconsiderate and rude. I don’t want to accept a future where people soil experiences for others. I don’t want to accept a future where manners aren’t around. I don’t want to accept a future where we’re all zombies to technology and need to connection worldwide to be receptive to anything. I don’t want to accept a future cinema going experience where I cannot escape into another world for a few hours because people are too busy polishing their online persona or saying that they’re eating popcorn. Everyone thinks they have something interesting to say all the time and it’s all crap. It’s useless. It’s monotonous. It’s dull. It’s boring and I cannot stand the fact that we’re in a reality where everything has to be shared and captured and never lived in. I’m a part of the problem, I’m not complaining to be a saint but I have enough manners to leave my need for a phone at the door of a cinema screen. It’s considerate to the others around me that I let them enjoy what they’ve paid for. The reason I can do that and you find it hard to? I’m not selfish.

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I'm a twenty year-old film-lover, full-time procrastinator and rambler. There's too little time to accomplish everything.

Latest posts by Ashley Norris (see all)

  • SuperDuperChrisCooper

    I want to say something clever. But you’ve said it all. All I’ll say is I couldn’t agree more. Bravo

  • Kyle Burton

    A seriously irritating article, the original. Matthew Zoller Seitz, you laid a cathartic smackdown on Dash, would give you a high-five.

  • http://www.anildash.com/ Anil Dash

    Do you support the existence of separate screenings for those who have different standards for what they expect out of going to the movies?

  • SuperDuperChrisCooper

    I’d love it if everyone who had the attention span of a gnat had their own screen. They can all bathe in the glow of each others iPhones whilst the rest of us enjoy what we paid to see.

  • http://www.anildash.com/ Anil Dash

    So that’s interesting, because I agree with you. It’s Tim League and the other shushers who think such a thing shouldn’t exist. Perhaps you should save your insults for them?

  • SuperDuperChrisCooper

    It would be better for both parties if they had separate screens. Those you I (and it seems plenty agree) deem rude, with no attention span, can do their own thing and no one on either side has to get annoyed. Best for both.
    I would save the insults, but your original article hardly held back. Fascist is harsher than gnat.

  • Ashley Norris

    If you read the article you would see that I did support the idea. I still think it’s stupid that you need to connect to the Internet at all during a film and negates the point of going to the cinema but they can waste their money if they like. As long as it doesn’t stop me being able to see the film in a quiet place whenever I like.

  • Kyle Burton

    Isn’t that sort of an inconsequential question? Who would oppose that?

    PERSON A: “You’re telling me there’ll be a place for people to pay to watch movies while doing whatever else they’d like to?”

    PERSON B: “Yup!”

    A: “And there’ll still be all the typical theaters that don’t allow phones or other distractions?”

    B: “Yup!”

    A: “No. That sucks.”

    Not buying the stakes here, and therefore not buying the need for the argument to have been raised.

  • Kamran Ahmed

    To me, the cinema is a salvation from our devices. It’s (typically) a one and a half to three hour sanctuary where the film becomes one’s world. Why distract yourself from this? More than this, how can one not be sensitive enough to not distract others? Cinema-going is a communal event, but everyone’s gotta be on the same page. I choose my theaters wisely and sit closer than most, so I don’t really run into trouble, but it’s ridiculous what some arrogant people are willing to do in a theater. “Oh this is a food free event at TIFF, I’m going to open up my smelly donair wrap and munch on it for the next 20 minutes. Don’t worry I’ll chew slowly and assume no one will hear it…”