The 10 rules of cinema and movie etiquette

Couple texting in the cinema

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted February 27, 2023

Texting on phones, feet on seats, and talking loudly during the film. What other cardinal sins should not be committed in a movie theatre?

While the latest movies on the big screen should be enjoyed by all, and much like any public setting - there are certain unwritten rules at play. Are they legally enforceable? Probably not. But anyone who has gone to the movies knows that when the curtains go up and the lights go down, there is an etiquette to abide by to enjoy the movie. 

Whether you’re with the kids, at a film festival, seeing the latest blockbuster, or on a date at one of the best cinemas in Melbourne, here are the unwritten dos and don’ts of going to the movies. 

10 must-know rules for the cinema

 Be on time 

There’s nothing worse than a film opening with a pivotal opening scene when you get an ‘excuse me,’ as people shuffle past to find their seats. 

In the cinema, you want to be transfixed, and this is broken when people are waddling about in front of you. As a general rule, trailers go for 10 – 25 minutes before the film starts, so try to get there while these are still going – and definitely not after.

Sit in your allocated seat

While there is some leeway on this one if it isn’t a busy session, if you’re seeing the latest blockbuster on a Saturday night, make sure you’re in the right seat. There’s nothing more awkward than being asked to double check your seating arrangements as you do the walk of shame to your lesser seats ahead. 

Have awareness of personal space

While on the topic of seating etiquette, putting feet (especially those without shoes!) on the seat in front of you is a big no-no, as is armrest hogging or not supplying enough room for people to get past. Consider what you would appreciate and do the same to your audience. 

Phones on silent

A great cinematic experience is one where you are completely absorbed by the storyline on screen. Nothing breaks this more than a person with the big flashing light of a smartphone, or even worse - the dreaded ring. 

Turn it off or put it on silent – and put it away for the rest of the movie. 

Keep the chatter for the end of the movie

While movies are a wonderful place to catch up with friends, go on dates, and go on a family outing, they are not the place to talk about what you had for dinner. 

Try to keep the chatter to a minimum, or if you must, to a whisper to the person next to you so as not to disturb the audience’s viewing experience. 


Save the texting for when you're outside the cinema. Image: Getty.
Love is patient, love is kind... love is also just for you. Save the PDA for a private setting. Image: Getty.
Respect the hygiene and personal space of others, and keep your feet off the seats. Image: Getty.

Keep the romance to a PG-rating

Movies and dates go as hand in hand, as do flowers and Valentine’s day. While it’s great to enjoy a film with you beloved, perhaps leave the public displays of affection for a private setting – the audience came to see a different show. 

Consider whether your kids are ready

The movies can be a magical place for kids to explore the latest fun stories to hit the screen. However, if you are unsure if your little one has the attention span for James Cameron’s latest three-hour epic, or is having one of those days that requires a lot of bathroom visits, it may be better to have a cinema experience at home for today. 

Many cinemas also provide baby-friendly sessions and junior-tailored cinema experiences designed for that little bit of chaos that children can bring. 

Avoid spoilers

Perhaps you have seen online about how the film ends, you read it in the book version, or you’ve already seen the film. That’s great, but keep it to yourself! Some people are seeing it for the first time and would like to watch the magic unfold on screen on their own. And no, other cinema-goers don’t want to know “this part is really cool” before it happens. 

Time your eating and drinking

One of the best parts of the cinematic experience is movie food – popcorn, choc tops, and snacks a plenty. Just try to be mindful of when you decide to crunch on those corn kernels, slurp that soft drink or rustle that plastic packaging that it’s not during a heart wrenching or pivotal scene. 

And on the topic of food – try not to bring in hot food from another venue – save the Sloppy Joes and tuna for home. 

Clean up after yourself

While you do not have to get on the floor and pick up every piece of popcorn, it is polite to clean up after yourself and take your rubbish with you. It can help save time for the cinema workers and cleaners between sessions and helps recycle your waste appropriately. 


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