The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Wanted: A code of conduct for cinema employees

with 36 comments

The lack of good manners among theatre visitors is a regular source of annoyance and it’s frequently discussed in the blogosphere.

I believe the vast majority agree of us support the  Wittertainment’s code of conduct. Where our opinions might differ is on what is worst – is it slurping, rustling, usage of mobile phones or arriving late? For my own part I’d vouch for talking. There’s nothing that can destroy a movie watching experience as listening to some random persons director’s commentary. It’s a deal breaker.

The untouchables
But with all the respect for the damage that the moviegoers can cause, there’s a category of people who are in the position to create chaos, dispair and destruction in a bigger scale. You can’t threaten to throw them out of the premises if they behave badly. Noting sticks on them, because they rule the place and they know it. They’re the staff.

The current code of conduct apparently doesn’t apply to them. But if there was one, I’d dare say that what I experienced the other night was a flagrant violation of it.

It was in the middle of the afternoon, about 4PM, quite an unusual time for watching a film intended for grown-ups, but it was the only show offered and since I’m on vacation I decided to go for it. The film was Take This Waltz, a Canadian movie that turned out not to be as good as I had hoped. But the event that took place certainly didn’t help out to improve the experience.

We must have been about halfway through the screening when the image suddenly froze and someone turned up the lights. I flinched, for a moment confused of where I were and who I was, as if I had been abruptly woken from a dream by someone shaking me. Before I had found myself, two cinema employees entered the room. My heart jumped for a moment. There must surely be some kind of emergency? Was the theatre on fire? Good for me I was in the salon closest to the entrance. But I couldn’t hear any fire alarm?

And then they did the announcement telling us about the emergency that was so important that they had to interrupt the show: someone had dropped their cell phone in the theatre and they needed to search for it. It would only take a few minutes they assured us before starting to walk back and forward through the rows, examining the floor under every seat like dogs sniffing for drugs. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was this happening? Really?

No compensation
The search turned out to be fruitless. There was no phone. The lights went down again and the film started to run. I tried to get back into the mood. Where were we? The search still lingered in my mind. They hadn’t offered us any kind of compensation for the interference. Did they even as much as apologize? I growled. Admittedly we weren’t a huge audience, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t deserve some kind of respect. And who were we? A handful of middle aged ladies who I can’t fathom stealing a phone even if they found one right in front of them on the floor.

You could wonder what that person been doing with the phone in the first place by the way in order to be able to drop it? Chances were that he or she had been violating the code of conduct – otherwise it would have been properly stored and turned off in a handbag or pocket. And whose phone was so urgent that you couldn’t let the search wait until the mvoie had finished? The queen? The prime minister?

In need of  a code of conduct
It’s apparent that not only the audience, but also the staff at cinemas is in need of a code of conduct.

I would suggest a rule along the lines: “No interruption of ongoing screenings unless people’s health and safety is endangered. In such a case, proper compensation should be offered, such as free tickets to another screening.”

Have you experienced bad behavior from the personnel at a theatre? And if you made a code of conduct for the employees, what other rules would you like to include?

Written by Jessica

August 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm

36 Responses

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  1. Jessica, I couldn’t agree with you more! Myself and a couple of friends had the opportunity to see a sneak preview of Moneyball. We grabbed a couple of seats in the back row, right underneath the projection window. Sometime, about 2/3 of the way through the film a faint conversation could be heard coming from the room behind us. The conversation slowly grew louder and louder, and became far more graphic than I care to describe. My one friend just kind of blew it off, however my other friend and msyelf were completely enraged. After the movie was over we, and a number of other people, complained to the manager about the experience and were given complimentary passes to another film of our choosing.

    Although the gesture was appreciated, it should have never happened. As someone who frequently goes to Phillies games (my hometown baseball team), I appreciate the fact that the staff has implemented a procedure in which when a batter is at the plate, customers are not allowed to go to their seats until the at-bat is over, to ensure that the seated customers do not have their views obstructed. Yes, there are a large number of people who think it’s unfair; I, however, think it’s the right thing to do. I know for a fact that employees that do not adhere to this policy are reprimanded.

    Staffing at theaters should absolutey have strict guidelines to follow. Their #1 priority should be to cater to the audience and make their movie going experience as enjoyable as possible. For those that don’t, they should be replaced by someone that understands what is expected of them.

    As someone who has had his phone fall out of his pocket many times and left my phone in the drink holder as to not have it fall out of my pocket, I would NEVER ask someone to disrupt a movie to look for it. I always go back to where I sat, since that would be the most obvious place I’d find it and retrieve it on my own.

    Shame on those individuals for ruining your experience.

    Joe Giuliano

    August 3, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences! That indicent at Moneyball was horrible. Other people in the audience talking is bad enough as it is, but you really expect the staff to shut up! They’re not only ruining it for everyone else, they’re also setting a bad example.


      August 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm

  2. I’ve never had anything quite so blatant happen. My staff related code would be more in line with Kermode’s complaints about the lack of projectionists. I should never have to run out to complain about a problem with a film in place from the start. They should at least be attentive enough to see the film start and make sure it’s in the right aspect ratio and is working accordingly. It’s understandable enough that they can’t be there for the whole film so if something goes wrong later it is what it is, but at least get it started right.

    I sometimes get annoyed by the staff that comes in to the theatre at the end to clean before the credits have finished. It makes me feel a bit rushed to leave.

    Oh, and the people giving you tickets shouldn’t assume you want a ticket to a show that’s already started. I’ve had that happen a couple times recently. Not that it’s a big deal as I just ignore the information on the ticket and go to the screening I wanted anyway.


    August 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    • This is the craziest thing I’ve happening to me in a theatre tbh. I think I’m fairly non-sensitive about bad projecting. A pet peeve though is when they put on the lights too quickly, especially these days when there often are extra scenes during the tex credits.


      August 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      • They seem to immediately turn up the lights as soon as the screen turns black which is such a mood killer. The worst example I’ve seen was a screening of Perfect Sense, the last few minutes of which are meant to simulate blindness and therefore just a black screen. The lights were on for the most important scene of the film grrrr

        • I know! It’s so annoying. I haven’t seen Perfect Sense yet but I’d sure like to. I can imagine now annoying that must have been.


          August 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm

  3. I can’t believe that happened. That’s ridiculous. I would have definitely said something to theater management about that, and I’m not really the kind of person to take complaints to management.

    My “bad theater employee” story happened when I went to see Paranormal Activity. I was sitting on the aisle, and I was in the row closest to the hallway leading to the exit. 5 minutes for so before the film ends, two young theater employees came in and stood right behind me. And I overheard one whisper to the other, “This is it. This is where ____________ happens.” He completely spoiled the movie by giving away the ending, right over my shoulder. I waited until I got home to calm down about it. I didn’t want to be a loud angry customer. Then I called and informed theater management, very calmly, about the incident. Apparently, several other people had also complained to them about it.

    To the theater’s credit, they were very apologetic and gave me a free pass to another film. I even told them it was unnecessary, that they didn’t need to do that because I’d had so many other great experiences at that place, but they insisted.


    August 3, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    • I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to protest after the screening. I guess I’m not the complaining kind of person. But the more I think of it, the more baffled am I. It’s really unacceptable.

      Your story was pretty outrageous too to be fair. Kudos to the management to taking it seriously.


      August 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm

  4. Two experiences… last weekend at Batman, as we walked into the thater there was no one to take our tickets. This is not unusual because many times at afternoon films the full staff isn’t running. Quite suddenly a young man stepped up next to me as I made my way toward the viewing rooms hallway and bruskly asked for my ticket. He being young and strong looking gave me quite a shock at first because of his agressive action. I told him on the spot that he was rude and it was common for no one to be watching the door, so pardon me for thinking it was business as usual.

    My second experience seeems to be so common with me that I use to think myself jinxed. The previews are over. The lights do not go down and the movie does not start. I have sat for several minutes awaiting a film to start or for another film goer to get up and inform the management of the problem. Inevtiably it is always me who has to get up and get someone. Once the sound wasn’t turned on for 10 minutes. I demanded compensation and finally received “complimentary” tickets.
    What is wrong with service these days??
    BTW… here in the States where we had the last crazy gun down innocent people, now we have theater ushers coming in with flashlights checking exit doors several times during the film. I understand and even appreciate their caution, but it does ruin the theater experience. It seems the good old days of film enjoyment in the darkness of a theater has vanished. 😦

    Vicki Love

    August 3, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    • I didn’t know about the ushers going with flashlights checking the doors. That’s really depressing and will ienvitably be a reminder about what happened. 😦

      I managed to brush away the Denver shootings from my mind as I watched the premier. It felt kind of as if I owed it to do it. To not let my magical world be destroyed by a madman. It’s probably easier to do it living here though, far away and in a place where weapons aren’t as abundant.

      About your experiences: I feel with you. When it comes to complaining about technical problems I also try to wait it out, but eventually it turns into a chicken race. Someone eventually gives up. And – in case I’ve noticed the problem, which I don’t always do – that person is likely to be me.


      August 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm

  5. I love Mark Kermode’s rules and I think they should be enforced. We paid our money to see the movie and let’s please be civil about it.

    Steven Flores

    August 3, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    • Yes, I approve of all the rules. The only one I might argue a little about is the shoes-on-rule. I mean – it depends on your feet, doesn’t it? If you’re got non-smelly feet I can’t see the huge problem in taking off your shoes, as long as noone else will be bothered by it.


      August 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm

  6. At an afternoon screening of “The Iron Lady” that my wife and I attended some time ago, a woman, sitting a little behind us, began a running commentary on the film to her companion. I turned, and politely explained to her that, as neither my wife nor I had seen the film, we would appreciate her consideration. She promptly apologised and we experienced no further problems.

    Being a retired couple we are able, and do, attend the cinema at usually “quiet” sessions, but I agree, that good manners and consideration for others, appear to be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, regulation and a code of conduct for both patrons and staff is necessary, and perhaps this could be explained on the screen prior to the commencement of each and every programme.

    Rod Croft

    August 4, 2012 at 1:58 am

    • Good on you speaking up. I’m usually not a shy person, but for some reason I don’t vocally protest when people ruin movie going experiences, even if I should. I just give them the evil eye in the hope that they’ll “get it”. Sadly enough often they don’t, too wrapped up in their own discussions to notice.


      August 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm

  7. Oh my God, that’s awful.

    Dave Enkosky

    August 4, 2012 at 1:59 am

    • Ah, I accidentally posted before finishing what I was writing. Yeah, I was just saying that there should be some sort of rule against that.

      Dave Enkosky

      August 4, 2012 at 2:01 am

    • Yes, it is.


      August 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm

  8. I’ve never had any of these kinds of experiences from staff, but as usual my bad stories come from fellow patrons. Guess here in Australia things aren’t so bad!

    Rodney Twelftree

    August 4, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    • To be fair, it’s not something that happens often to me. But still. I was pretty astonished.


      August 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm

  9. Wow. Just wow. Many years ago I managed a movie theater and while cellular phones were much, much less prevalent back then I can safely say no one ever came to me with that request and that if they did we would have told them we’d have to wait until the end of the movie. I mean, that just seems like an unwritten rule. Right? You wait. It’s not just about YOU.

    I have noticed theater employee etiquette has gone quite a ways downhill from my days in the middle of it. It’s disheartening.


    August 4, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    • Yes, I guess they were trying to be nice to the customer, but the trouble was that they didn’t think about the ten other customers they infuriated by doing so.

      I have the feeling the cinema staff is turning more and more into popcorn vendors. Perhaps it’s killing their spark to try to provide the best possible watching experience.


      August 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  10. I can’t say anything like that has happened to me but I guess it doesn’t surprise me that it’s happened to others. That’s really a pathetic reason to stop a movie. I don’t even take my phone to the movie theatre (what’s the point, it’s going to be turned off the whole time I’m there!). Disgraceful stuff. Wait until Kermode hears of this. 😉


    August 5, 2012 at 1:17 am

    • Hehe, I don’t think he’ll hear about it. It’s not as if he’s a regular customer here. But yeah, I do believe he’d had something to say about this. He would probably be more loud in protesting about it though, judging from one incident he related in his latest book.


      August 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm

  11. That’s unbelievable. I have never heard of anything like that happening around here, thankfully. Poor behavior from the patrons, sure, but not the employees. Wow.


    August 5, 2012 at 4:27 am

    • Yes, it was pretty extreme I think. And for such a cause! Unbelievable.


      August 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm

  12. Shocking!! I am am totally lost for words Jessica….

  13. […] See on […]

  14. Whoa!!! Someone had dropped their cell phone in the theatre and they actually stopped the movie??!! What kind of theater is this??! Oh my, I’m fortunate to say I’ve never experienced that in my 30+ years of movie watching. That is shocking and absolutely mind-boggling. Just how do they expect people to actually get back to enjoying the movie after such a massive distraction??

    I agree you should demand at least part of your money back or a voucher for future viewing. Sorry to hear this Jessica, hope it won’t ever happen again!


    August 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    • I really should have said something. I sent a tweet with a link to the cinema chain in question, but their Twitter account manager is on vacation so I suspect they’ll never get around to read it. I should have been more vocal about it.


      August 7, 2012 at 10:10 pm

  15. Genius post, Jessica! I share your frustration. It’s bad enough when other people at the theater are rude/annoying (sometimes you just have to grin and bear it since you cannot leave to report them, in fear
    or missing something) but having to suffer because of the staff is worse! Can’t believe they interrupted your
    movie just like that and for such a dumb reason. I hate it when they don’t load the film reel correctly, ugh.
    The worst, though, is when I go to the theater right after school or work so I have my laptop with me and they make me leave it at the lobby. Do they seriously think I’m going to record the movie with my webcam? PLEASE. Haha, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. It doesn’t work unless it’s plugged in! haha


    August 8, 2012 at 7:02 am

    • Thanks Fernando! Fortunately this isn’t something that happens often. I was baffled. I hope I won’t see it again.

      I think the staff must be much less picky about what to bring into theaters where I live. I’ve never seen them stopping anyone, asking about what they have in their bags. And yes, a computer is a bit silly to make a big fuzz about.


      August 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

  16. Wow, that is so ridiculous! I cannot even fathom why they thought this would be acceptable. Did the person even come in and search in the dark around their seats first?

    I’ve had a few issues that have bugged me from staff. At a screener I went to recently, the staff standing at the front to watch for cell phones talked for a good ten minutes without even trying to whisper. I couldn’t believe they didn’t think that the audience couldn’t hear. It also bugs me when there’s an error with the projection and they don’t address it. I’ve had that happen a few times and I feel like it would just be courteous to not act like our experience wasn’t disturbed and at least offer an apology.

    Another issue I have is more of a lack of action of staff. I feel like they used to do this more often, but I miss when a staff member would pop in a couple times throughout the movie to make sure there weren’t any shenanigans going on. It’s tough to speak up when audience members are being extremely rude, but having staff check in would at least keep some of that in check. I also shouldn’t have to leave the movie to go get a staff member and mess up my experience even more.


    August 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    • Thinking of it I think the person might have been inside searching for it in the darkness. I didn’t pay that much attention to it since I’m pretty good at shielding off such events. But there was no escape when they stopped the movie.

      Staff standing in the front talking? That’s pretty ridiculous too I’d say.


      August 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm

  17. I would have gone ballistic if this happened to me. I generally find the floor staff quite good in my local cinema but since the switch to digital the projection standards have gone to hell. Aspect ratios are always wrong and the staff don’t even understand what you mean when you complain

    • Maybe they underestimate how much knowledge you need for it. Even if it’s less complicated than it used to be, it doesn’t mean that you can be careless or clueless about what you’re doing.


      August 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm

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