Ask the Audience: Moviegoing Manners

Ask the Audience

Ask the Audience is a monthly feature from Film Journal International and National CineMedia (NCM) that allows you to ask an audience of 5,000 frequent moviegoers, known as NCM’s Behind the Screens panel, the pressing questions of our industry. 

Movie theatres are one of the few businesses that rely on a creating a private experience in a shared environment. Think about it – when the lights go down and the movie starts, you’re immersed in another world and are meant to forget the world around you. But that effect can be ruined the moment someone starts talking on their cellphone, or a baby starts to cry. As we all know, some audience members unfortunately seem to leave their manners at the door. So when one reader sent us a request to investigate why moviegoers behave so differently in theatres than at home or at other businesses, we asked the audience.

Unsurprisingly, our Behind the Screens community felt that people talking on their phone or letting their phone ring is the most annoying habit they’ve seen at movie theatres. However, it looks like those courtesy messages are really working, because 0% of people surveyed said they talk on their phone frequently in theatres, and 64% said they would never take a call. Talking during the movie came in as the second most frustrating behavior, and again, 0% said they chatter all the time, but 64% admitted to the occasional witty comment. Rounding out the top 3 pet peeves was people who bring a baby that starts crying during the movie. Turns out it’s not a bawl. (You’re welcome.) Fourth place went to seat kickers, and coming in at number five was people who react loudly to the onscreen action.

70% of our panelists agreed that people are more likely to act impolitely at a movie theatre than at other businesses. When asked what they think causes the unethical behavior, 61% of respondents felt that the lack of employee oversight was the main cause for commotion and that they’d like to see more ushers or random theatre checks to help curb the bad behavior. 52% also argued that people are more likely to slide because the lack of manners isn’t as noticeable in a dark theatre. They felt that creating a system where people feel more accountable, such as fun on-screen explanation of behavior expectations or an anonymous reporting system for customers could also be good solutions. Audience members are also willing to do their part to make the moviegoing experience enjoyable for everyone, with 58% saying they would step in to stop a particularly unruly customer. Men were more likely than women to opt for a direct action, such as politely asking them to stop or telling an employee.


Realistically, there are always going to be audience members who seem to temporarily misplace their manners. Luckily, the majority of well-behaved moviegoers are on your side, and with a better understanding of why they behave the way they do, perhaps you can implement new strategies to make sure those bad apples know that Emily Post would not approve.

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To submit a question, email with your name, company, contact information, and what you would like to ask the Behind the Screens panel.