Kiwis’ census responses about movie etiquette say “the people are revolting!”

We’ve already shared Cinema Census insights into annoying movie behaviours gathered in our recent survey of movie-goers (as well as how Aotearoa is watching movies in 2018 and the massive impact of streaming since the last Census three years ago).

40% of respondents singled out talking in movies as the most annoying thing people do in cinemas, with an expectedly high dislike of phone use being the next most annoying. 66% of people said it’s the cinema’s responsibility to police behaviour, with 45% of all respondents saying cinemas don’t do enough about it—nearly half of all people completing the Census telling us they’d done something during a movie in response to someone being annoying.

When asked to expand on their opinions in their own words, the nearly 5000 New Zealanders who took part had some very interesting things to say for themselves, as you can no doubt imagine…

Having read through your feedback on fellow movie-goers’ behaviour and what you think cinemas should do about it, we’ve handpicked a selection of comments that cover off a range of viewpoints—presented un-edited with typos, emotions and the odd outburst of strong language presented just as we received them.

Before getting into the heavy reading, we’ve summed up responses about annoying behaviour with the following word cloud, illustrating the weighting of various complaints.


“Unless it’s the sort of movie that’s full and energetic and has lots of people reacting, or a noisy kids film, I find it excruciating, especially as the whispering is often sibillance {ssssss noises} while people are attempting and failing to be quiet. It ruins the immersive nature of the film, and it’s so inconsiderate of other people. Also, nobody else gives a shit about your opinion and your dumb takes!”

“I like to get lost in a movie and live in the world with the characters. When people talk or answer phones it pulls me out of the story.”

“Its more about the volume of conversation. If its quiet it doesn’t bother me.”

“I joined a film society and then quit because members kept on talking during the films. It felt really arrogant.”

“It’s happened a couple of times recently and is very distracting. I’ve confronted people about it and they don’t seem to get how rude it is. They don’t seem to realise that I didn’t pay to see their screen/ hear their conversation.”

“It’s fine to whisper to someone next to you if you have a question or a comment, but sometime soon people speak loudly and interrupt the movie. It ruins the experience.”

“i find the elderly community the more disrespectful..they seem to think its okay to talk and answer phones. very occasionally do i find it the youth/teen generation that talk. they may comment about the movie but the elderly just general chit chat. very annoying…i am in the middle age.”

“It ruins the atmosphere and also makes it hard for me to hear the soundtrack and to concentrate on the movie. I have walked out on a movie due to the poor behaviour of the audience.”

“I completely ruins the experience of the film for other people. When I went to see the Nun a teenage couple talked constantly, commentating what they saw from the trailer, if that bit was scary, and continued talking even after being sssshed by several people including myself. When seeing A Star is Born for the second time, a man behind me commented loudly on several things happening in the film, which became awkward when he was confused that alcoholism was a disease. It really removes other people from experiencing the film – sound is half of the experience!”

“Because we are all there to watch and enjoy a movie. And people always talk louder than they think they do. Plus, even when people whisper it is still disconcerting sometimes. Having said that, I don’t mind if people make a quick comment to their partner and then go back to watching the movie, but it’s annoying when they have an ongoing conversation.”

“Just general politeness and awareness is a good thing, sometimes in the the right movie, a vocal, humorous audience can make the movie, other times it’s best that everyone just keeps to themselves and is polite…it’s a common sense thing.”

“i think talking depends on what type of movie you’re seeing / who the crowd is, etc. if it’s a cult film and you want to laugh with your friends, sure. if it’s a quiet, understated drama, then please don’t talk.”

“I love it when others are laughing, expressing surprise or silently absorbed. Sometimes there may be only one other, laughing at the same things I laugh at and it makes me realise that two strangers have the same sense of humour.”

“The worst is when people laugh loudly during tense moments in horror films. Or make annoying noises (like clucking in Hereditary).”

“The single biggest reason I don’t go to the movies much anymore. People don’t give a shit about anyone else, and cinemas don’t police it.”

“Please don’t sing along with all of the songs unless it’s a singalong session!”


Looking at phones or taking calls

“Usually the light is really distracting – I would count answering a phone call in this as well. But just looking at your phone is worse because you choose to do that implying boredom whereas answering a phone call is usually to stop the ringer.”

“That shit’s always glaring at me from the corner of my eye I hate it!”

“It destroys the experience of being immersed in the movie. It devalues the experience considering how expensive the food and tickets are.”

“Because they should have more respect for other movie goers. They are not watching a movie in their own lounge where they can do what they like. They have chosen to see the movie in a public forum and so should respect the social protocols that go with that choice”

“Because I have sat next to a man who appeared to be doing a “business deal” by phone during a movie. It was infuriating and I lost the feeling of the movie – I was very annoyed as were others !”

“Because a bright white light is shining really bright in a dark black room and even if it’s in the corner of your eyes, it puts you off and you can’t concentrate on the movie itself.”

“When a phone buzzes, but the person doesn’t turn it off, just lets it buzz until it goes to answer phone. Meanwhile, the whole cinema can’t focus on the film because of your buzzing. TURN IT OFF/PUT IT ON SILENCE”

“I worked at a movie theatre so I know the struggle of dealing with those customers. Phones are the worst no matter where you sit the brightness will always shine even if you turn it completely down it’s annoying.”

Feet on the seat/kicking it

“It starts to really interfere with my experience if people start kicking the seat and put their stinkin shoes up by my face is offensive”

“It ruins the experience of the whole movie. Not to mention, it’s very distracting and draws your attention away from the movie so that you’re focused on whether or not you’re potentially going to get crushed by this person’s feet or anticipating the next time they kick your chair. I see movies to watch them and to become fully immersed in the story, not to have my chair used as someone’s footrest/thing to kick. Undoubtedly very disrespectful and downright annoying.”

“If it’s my seat I’ll spend the rest of the movie contemplating whether or not to get up and be that guy that lectures someone in a movie theatre.”

“I feel sick if I smell their feet. I would even walk out of the cinema if thats the case.”

“I don’t want some strangers yucky feet near me and they usually bang the back if the seat doing it…totally rude”

“’cause the last time it happened, it was the row behind and two seats to the left and they took their shoes and their feet smelt… ;)”

Food in the cinema

“I once sat next to someone eating a curry, it was the worst! Super inconsiderate to everyone around them.”

“Don’t bring maccas in the theatre man, now I just want fries.”

“Noisy eaters, the movies are only about 2 hours long. Why do you need to eat a rustling supermarket size bag of food? Just bring a snack!”

“I work at a cinema. Cleaning up food that people bring in, that we don’t sell, is one of the worst things to have to deal with.”

“Gross, loud eating noises and rustling are annoying in general – extra annoying when you have paid money for an experience you want to enjoy and someone does this in an often quiet confined space where can’t move or do anything about it.”

“Dinner in cinemas is one of the worst things to happen to the industry. I get it from the cinemas perspective, but from the audience perspective it’s gross.”

“They should take their rubbish with them.”

“Put your rubbish in the bins, fool”

Other people in your allocated seats

“I am really particular where I see films from in the cinema, I will often book days in advance to choose the best seats. When I get there sometimes someone is in them and they refuse to move… and the staff won’t help.”

“The most annoying thing in a cinema experience is people ignoring their seat number and sitting where they want. This creates a awkward or potentially uncomfortable situation before the film has started. Sit in your allocated seat!”

“Sessions with allocated seats, people who sit in the wrong seat, can get quite awkward to ask people to move, but sometimes you pay extra online to pick a seat. I feel there should be stronger messaging around penalties for not sitting in your allocated seat.”

“People getting pissy about seat selection in undersubscribed cinemas is annoying. If I’m in the wrong seat it’s because someone else was in mine, but I didn’t want to be the guy to go OTT about it.”

General comments on behaviour in cinemas

“As audiences, we suck as a populace, myself included”

“i think ppl should be allowed to do what they want when in the cinema. the volume is loud enough to drown out their voices, the screen is large enough not to block other patrons’ view. since they pay to watch, they should be allowed to watch in comfort. too many ppl grouse about others’ behaviour.”

The Wittertainment Code MUST be obeyed”

“Late comers, especially to Flick previews. Don’t they know a film starts at a certain time, not when they show up!”

“I volunteer at our local cinema, lateness and talking is a pain.”

“I worked as an usher and audiences are getting worse.”

“I have been astounded at how bad people’s behaviour is in terms of using phones and talking. I go to A LOT of movies (over 60 this year) and I have only had one movie where no one else talked or used a phone – and it was just my partner and I watching it.”

“Oh they all annoy the bejesus out of me, but if you want to talk why have you just paid the best part of $20 to do so when you could just stay at home for free and not ruin everyone else’s experience? And when you’re told to shut up (sometimes not as politely as that), why keep talking??????? STFU!!! Cinemas should hire professional shooshers. I would pay extra for a ticket if they did.”

“Why do people applaud at the end of a film? It’s not like the filmmaker knows. Like, fine at a premiere or if the filmmaker is in attendance. But otherwise; weird. Hardly a big deal, but it confuses me.”

“Wellington movie goer’s have been pretty good in my experience.”

“Haven’t had any bad experiences in my cinema-going life”

“New Zealand has great cinema etiquette compared to other parts of the world. When it’s says shut of your phone or put it in silence we take it seriously”

“There is definitely a definite type of audience behaviour depending on the genre. I am more relaxed about mildly annoying behaviour at blockbusters but when I need to concentrate on more dramatic or intellectual fare filmgoers need to be more considerate or “schooled” on etiquette. I would like the international film festival to remind people when they make bookings for foreign films with subtitles to arrive on time – I don’t want to be trying to look around their heads to read when latecomers go past when the film has started. Ushers should make latecomers to subtitles films take alternative seats at end of aisles so they don’t disturb others.”

“There are some pretty bad offenders in audiences these days.”

“Cinema audience rudeness is getting worse. This year I watched all of Tomb Raider with audio comentary from the row behind. Had someone on their phone during Gone With the Wind of all movies! (and again at an NZIFF screening). And for the first time witnessed some answer a phone call during a screening.”

“It has gotten worse over the last few years. People come late all the time, then stand blocking the screen while looking for their seat. Was shocked when I saw a film at the NZIFF at the Civic and the ushers let people come in for about 20 minutes after the film had started and everyone had to get up and keep letting people pass. People look at their phones often and talk frequently.”

“The audience needs to be far more respectful of those around them. Many believe “I payed for this so I deserve to do what I want” however others also payed for it and people being disrespectful take away from the experience that is going to the cinema”

“Usually if the movies good I can’t tear my eyes from the screen and therefore have no opinion on what the audience is doing.”

“New Zealand cinema patrons are trash. We’re poorly behaved and we know it. The unwritten rules for cinema etiquette need to be written tf down somewhere or taught in schools idk lol”

“My son often comments to me during movie – asking a question or noticing something, and I am okay with that if he is quiet and whispers just to me, but I warn him about annoying others. So I don’t think minor talking is the issue, it is the people who have loud chit chat conversations that would annoy, but I have not encountered that. Worst recent experience in a cinema was a guy rolling a joint two seats from my teen son. The smell was so overpowering I felt nauseous. He smoked it outside afterwards but spent half the film rolling joints for later. ugh. Other people are the reason I like watching at home, but I like the big screen so I go to the cinema when it is emptier.”

“Tall people in front are also annoying”

“People just need to not be dicks.”

Dealing with annoying moviegoers

“I’m never sure what to do if I want to complain about someone’s behaviour during a movie.”

“I have a 3 pronged method for dealing with those who speak in movies. 1 I turn and give them a penetrating glare. 2. I turn and give them a sharp loud “sshhh” 3. I turn and say loudly “would you please be quiet”

“In the past I have asked politely that people refrain from talking during a movie, some people find it rude that I have even suggested they take their conversation elsewhere.”

“If they were at home I’d tell them how rude they’re being but in a cinema I’d probably do the shush! and turn giving them the LOOK!!!! I have been out at a 3pm showing and got an attendant to deal with noisy students…they left and weren’t allowed back in…”

“I enjoy watching movies without ignorant people talking. I have told numerous people to shut their gob in no uncertain terms and have been abused for it but I don’t care.”

“People who continue to talk even when “shushed” shouldn’t go to the movies at all!”

What should cinemas do?

“I used to work in a cinema until very recently. There is not much that can be done if you don’t happen to catch them doing it or nobody complains. Even then, you can’t control people’s behaviour, but usually having a word helps, if not then use the 3 strikes. Quiet word, final warning, kick them out. Problem is if you kick people out they tend to create more of a fuss which can also disturb people, so has to be a balance.”

“I personally work at a cinema and with the amount of theatres within a single cinema, there really isn’t enough time to go around monitoring audience behaviour throughout the sessions. There are plenty of other jobs that need to be done so we literally have to rely on the audience members themselves to inform us of any disturbances throughout the film. Attendants aren’t able to be waiters to every single patron in a cinema. So if other people are answering as if attendants should be their personal assistants throughout their cinema experience, then that is entirely unfair”

“Having worked four years as a cinema attendant I know it can be difficult. However, I have found some chains to be better than others. Checking a cinema should encompass not only screen, sound and environmental quality, but user experience also. It only takes a moment of observation to see if someone is being purposefully disruptive. And if you receive a complaint, your workplace should be providing the training to help you address these issues.”

“You can’t really police behaviour. I wish you could, mind.”

“Yes, there needs to be a staff member in the cinema monitoring these people that talk during the film or are playing on their cellphones. I think this puts a lot of people off from going to the cinema.”

“If cinemas want to preserve/enhance the cinema experience, they need firm policies on how talkers and phone users will be dealt with. (Like the Alamo drafthouse, or even a “talking” cinema and “no interuptions” cinema.”

“ushers should be more proactive”

“Audiences should be able to dob in rude cinema-goers. Little button on the seat? Text? Then everyone takes a vote and if too many they get booted out.”

“It’s worse now than it used to be. There are more talkers and more people using their phones. The cinemas should be more proactive about kicking people out”

“In general people forget they are not at home but they behave like they are! Please more ushers at cinemas to keep people on the film and off their phones etc…”

“I think there should be staff on hand to sort out anti social behaviour (feet on chairs), talking as it ruins the cinema experience for many people.”

“Zero staff presence during the movie leads to ill audience behavior”

“You usually have 1 staff member come in at one point during the movie for a few minutes so as far as I can tell they have no idea how people are behaving unless some one spoke to them after and mentioned it.”

“You never see cinema staff in the theatre so how would they know what the behaviour is.”

“What else can they do? They put ads on the screen to tell people to turn phones off & not to talk. Often an attendant will talk through once throughout the movie. That is plenty for th cinema to do. Beyond that I think would be expecting too much of them. What would they do? Leave someone IN each cinema screen? Pay employees to effectively sit on their butts & watch movies/audiences?”

“It’s the audience’s responsibility to behave like an adult. The cinema’s rules are usually clear, and in rare cases when I’ve seen people be assholes, cinema staff has been great.”

“We can’t govern or police everything, people need to own up!”

“I don’t want nazism in the cinemas. Let the people sort it out. Thy should know better”

“They seem to be doing their jobs just fine in my experience. I think most people have enough sense not to cause problems because for one it’ll be embarrassing for them if they get called out and two they know they’ll be kicked out of the cinema if they continue.”

“they should be more attentive when they stick their heads in, and if people complain then take it seriously. I went to a session of IT where a group of incredibly noisy disruptive kids who talked nd swore and threw stuff throughout the film were complained about three times by members of the audience who left the theatre to talk to staff, and they just didn’t care or didn’t feel like they had the authority to get rid of them”

“Kick them out. Give them a voucher for another so they learn.”

“Most staff at cinemas across Auckland are to young to care and not confident enough to do anything if required”

“They need a real hard ass in there. Steve Austin shooshing can only take you so far.”