The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Does cinema etiquette apply to trailers?

with 65 comments

In the never-ending discussion about how to behave in a movie theatre, time has come to talk about the trailers.

The question is where to draw the line. At which point is it reasonable to expect everyone else in the theatre to start observing full cinema etiquette? As soon as you enter the salon? When the commercials start? Before the trailers? Or is speaking allowed until the very moment when the movie starts? Is it OK to whisper to your friend to pass the popcorn box if the MGM lion still is roaring?

An etiquette breaker?
I’ve never given this any thought. It just didn’t occur to me that it could be a problem.

But recently I noticed a forum discussion where several people complained about how much they hated when people had conversations during the trailers.

I took a long hard look at myself. Was I an etiquette breaker, someone who didn’t take other people’s movie watching experience into consideration, one of those morons who only care about themselves?

An easy answer is “no”.  I make most of my theatre visits on my own, and since I don’t have the habit to talk loudly to myself, my options to ruin the trailers to other people are limited.

But sometimes I go to the movies in a party and on those occasions I will happily chat away with my friends during the trailers. However I don’t feel guilty about it for a second.

Trailers are not a part of the movie. They are commercials that are forced upon us, ads that are so full of spoilers that many of us wish that we weren’t exposed to them.

It’s perfectly justified to look for distractions while they’re running.  If I’m on my own I’ll let my smart phone keep me occupied. If I’m in a party I’ll talk.

The lion signal
My view is that you should be quiet when the MGM lion roars. The production company logotypes is the final warning that the film is about to start and that it’s time to shut up.

But until that point you’re free to talk, use your phone or do whatever it takes you to escape from the tyranny of unwanted trailers.

Written by Jessica

September 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm

65 Responses

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  1. I love new trailers. I wouldn’t ever tell someone to shut up during them but I might silently seethe if someone sat near me and talked all through a decent one.

    ilovethatfilm

    September 14, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    • I love some, hate some and is left indifferent by some. It really depends. Right now I don’t mind seeing one for The Hobbit for instance. I loved it multiple times when the first one came out on the webs. And it isn’t as if it’s spoiling anything to me, since I’ve read the book over and over again. But sometimes trailers annoy me, when they’re basically telling the entire film in a short version.

      Jessica

      September 15, 2012 at 9:05 am

  2. I view the trailers as a sort of middle ground. I enjoy seeing them, and I prefer to do so free from distractions… but I’m aware that people use them as a buffer zone for getting to their seats on time, getting settled, taking that time to shut their phones off, and so on. As long as people aren’t being just overwhelmingly distracting, it’s all right.

    Morgan R. Lewis

    September 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    • Yes, again: most visits I do on my own, so I’m not taking anything away from anyone. And if I’m in a company it isn’t as if we’re yelling and shouting or anything.

      Jessica

      September 15, 2012 at 9:05 am

  3. I would wager that film makers and theatre owners both want patrons to react excitedly at movie trailers. Thus a little conversational buzz is not inappropriate.

    Also, it’s fun to hear a theatre go quiet during a really compelling trailer, then hear the buzz after (The Hobbit!). And you can tell when a trailer just seems to be in the wrong theatre with the wrong feature by people’s reaction or lack thereof.

    A trailer is designed as a group experience IMO. Why else would they play them so LOUD?

    Bristal

    September 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    • I think you’re onto something there. When you can sense the audience reactions to a trailer it can add a little something to the experience, especially if you’re on the same page.

      Jessica

      September 15, 2012 at 9:15 am

  4. I don’t mind when people talk during trailers if it isn’t too crazy. What bugs me is that theaters around here are starting to leave the lights on during trailers, which just encourages people not to pay attention. It’s part of the presentation for me, and not dimming the lights is really distracting. It takes away from the experience, especially with a highly anticipated movie.

    Dan

    September 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    • Yes, I agree with that. But what bothers me far more is when they turn UP the lights during the text credits, especially when there are extra scenes included. That is just so annoying. The movie is still running!

      Jessica

      September 15, 2012 at 9:16 am

  5. I enjoy the trailers and never talk through them but I’m not overly bothered if others do unless it’s one I really want to watch. Just as long as they shut up before the film starts (which the girl behind me did not do last night) I can cope.

    Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    September 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    • I reckon you gave her the evil eye? Sadly it rarely helps in my experience.

      Jessica

      September 15, 2012 at 9:16 am

      • That’s precisely what I did but you’re right, it didn’t help. She seemed to revel in my annoyance. I always want to go and say something but I just end up bottling it; I should learnt to be more assertive!

        Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

        September 15, 2012 at 9:45 am

  6. Trailers are fun, I like to see them. Sometimes they are better than the movie they are promoting itself. But they still are ads; if I want to get them completely without distraction then they are available online. That said people talk during “real” ads here and become quiet during the trailers.

    On Wednesday I was shopping and had buttered scones for tea. That is something completely different and unrelated. But I was in cinema on Wednesday. Sneak Preview. Here the etiquette in a sneak preview is quite loose, especially when it is a bad movie (i.e. quite to often). You can talk, make fun of the movie, or even do some own sound effects. Wednesday it was “The Apparition”, an incredible bad horror movie. Don’t waste your time on it. But: Just after the trailers and directly before the film one of those reminders to turn off your mobile phone run. You know, the animals from Madagascar 3 telling you not to make calls, send SMS, use Facebook or Twitter; a reminder to turn of that glowing screen that annoys everyone else. One of those reminders that should not be needed if people use their common sense. And still… directly after this reminder, when the movie started (the lion signal) someone in the row before us turned their phone *on* and began to use it. And got angry when we asked to turn it off. Obviously couldn’t understand why. Even with the loose etiquette in this case THAT was clearly over the line.

    Hauke

    September 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    • That is horrible. I definitely don’t think speaking is allowed during a movie, either it’s a film you’ve paid for or a free prescreening. The “free” doesn’t mean “free for talking”.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      • I disagree. An etiquette is a set of rules for a certain group and time, not an absolute law. A sneak preview is a fun event here – when the movie is bad. When “50/50” showed it was quiet the whole time. It is certainly not an event you should attend when you only want to enjoy the movie; but then a sneak preview where you don’t know what film will be shown is a bad idea in the first place. Of course the etiquette should be known beforehand, otherwise you could be surprised awkwardly, And I completely reject the idea of “honouring” the movie for itself, it is a commercial product at that point, no one of the creators is in the hall. I paid, that is the honouring at that point of time.

        Oh, and the sneak preview is not free, but with 4€ just a nominal fee.

        One last note: I know that discussion and talk culture is different in Sweden, much more reserved than even in Germany, let alone other more expressive cultures (e.g. Spain, in my experience). I heard talks in Sweden where it was quiet until the end, the (foreign) lecturer was irritated if he did something wrong, but when asked directly people where avid, just not showing it in any way. This may account a little for our different approach.

        Hauke

        September 17, 2012 at 10:01 am

        • Hm… I think we attend different sorts of sneak previews. I occasionally get tickets for free previews since I’ve got a club card at my theatre. But those screenings are no different to other screenings apart from that you’ve gotten the tickets for free and sometimes the theatre staff ask you for your opinion about the film as you’re leaving.

          I DO think the culture is a little different and I couldn’t help smiling at your description. I think it’s pretty much correct, though again: I think national differences are smoothening out a people travel more and more and we’re more of global citizens.

          Jessica

          September 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm

  7. In the theaters I attend, there is usually a screen advising patrons to shut off cell phones, with plenty of time to do so. This occurs before the trailers start. However, people are generally somewhat talkative during (in between) the trailers, including my wife and I, expressing interest or disinterest in the films based on the trailers. As has been pointed out, trailers are essentially commercials foisted upon us by the theater and production companies. Well-made or not, I feel no obligation to give them the same quiet respect I would the main event, regardles of how other patrons feel. I will say though, sometimes it is hard to be sure when the trailers are done and the actual movie has started

    rowan

    September 14, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    • Interesting. In your place this advise is shown before the trailers, in mine after the trailers. That is a statement about the value of the trailers made by the cinema.

      Hauke

      September 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    • Hm. Truth to be told I can’t remember right off if that message comes up before or after the trailers. Actually I think it might be before. But I don’t think it’s relevant until the movie starts.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm

  8. This is a GREAT question. I wonder about this all the time.

    The truth is, I get annoyed when people eat loudly, or talk loudly, or use their phones during the trailers… but I think they’re within proper protocol. I always have to remind myself, “It’s just a trailer. As long as they don’t do it during the movie, there’s no problem”. And the majority of the time, that’s how it works out. The people who are loud and obnoxious during the trailer will calm down during the movie.

    John

    September 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    • Thanks John! Actually I too can get a bit annoyed at or at least worried if people speak VERY loudly during trailers. But then I think again and realize that I’m not in a position to complain. It’s still just commercials, although commercials selling movies.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm

  9. I’m generally a grouch and rarely go to a see movie. Given that, I’m quite different from the folks here in (i) y’all seem generally friendly and nice; and (ii) y’all see A LOT more movies than I do. So, our perspectives are most likely very different. See, when I go to a movie and lay out roughly $20 bucks per person for a show, popcorn, drink and candy (for the kids, of course), I have this expectation of getting value for my entertainment dollar and people shooting the breeze throughout the trailer and/or movie, texting on their cell phone, showing up late and doing everything under the sun but watching WHAT THEY HAVE PAID FOR, confuses me. I mean, at least from my perspective, the person they are talking to probably has ridden with them to the show, stood in line together buying tickets, stood in line together buying refreshments, waited together for the ticket-taker to take their tickets, walked together to the appropriate theater and finally found a seat together in the actual theater where the movie is being shown. WHAT MORE DO YOU HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THAT YOU HAVEN’T HAD THE TIME TO DISCUSS PRIOR TO ENTERING THE THEATER! And, if you have so much to talk about that you can’t get it done prior to sitting down, why are you going to a place that generally requires that you be QUIET! Again, it confuzzles me. Now, if y’all excuse me, I’ve got some kids I’ve got to go throw off my lawn.

    SpiritusRex

    September 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    • And I totally agree with you, *once the movie has started*. As I mentioned any talking I do with my wife during the the trailers is about the trailers themselves. On top of which, they are not what a I paid to see. I paid to see the feature. I am also one of those that likes to get to the theater early enough to find a good seat long before the lights go down and not have to fight the crowds and sit in three different spots in the theater. (Matinees are excellent for this, as well.) Thus I am usually finished eating any hot dog or nachos before the trailers even start. And I’m not shouting at my wife, but whispering in her ear, “I’d like to see that,” or, “That just looks dumb.”

      rowan

      September 14, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      • I should have been more clear. People talking amongst themselves about a trailer they have just watched is totally acceptable and encouraged – that’s why they are played. What gets me is the people that will come in just as the trailer starts and proceed to continue a conversation that has nothing to do with trailer to which the people around them are trying to pay attention. I don’t know – to me it’s just basic courtesy. I think it would be similiar to having two strangers walk into your family room while your watching tv with the family and they talk loud enough for you to hear about their medical, marital or whatever problem they’ve got going on while your just trying to get a break from all that “real life” stuff. But its okay, I’m at least self-aware enough to know I’m uniquely curmudgeonly! 🙂

        BTW, recently I saw “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” and found it very enjoyable. Jessica, I think you would enjoy it. If you have already seen and posted about it and I’ve missed it, my apologies.

        SpiritusRex

        September 15, 2012 at 7:14 pm

        • With that modification, that it’s acceptable and encouraged to speak about the trailers during the trailers, I’m with you. I can see what you mean with people who seem to think they’re at home in their own living room, not realizing there are other people around who think their conversation just offers TMI for their liking.

          Nope, I havent seen, posted or even heard of The Odd Life of Timothy Green, but I’ll remember your recommendation in case it comes this way eventually.

          Jessica

          September 16, 2012 at 9:44 pm

  10. The answer is now. I keep my mouth shut once the movie begins. During the trailers. Not really. If it’s a good trailer, I’ll be quiet. If it’s a bad one, I’d boo the hell out of it. I remember when there was a trailer for a movie from M. Night Shyamalan and once his name appeared, myself and the audience just groaned.

    ninvoid99

    September 14, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    • Booing the hell out of it! Wow! I’ve never done that in my entire life. I would feel to embarrassed to go that vocal. Though I’ve definitely watched some trailers that deserved such a reaction.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm

  11. Like you the bulk of my movie going is solo so I don’t talk for lack of people to talk with, but when I do see a film with people I have no issue with quick comments in response to the trailer.

    Bondo

    September 15, 2012 at 2:36 am

    • No, particularly not when the talking is on topic – about the trailer. I think it even can be fun to listen to other people’s thoughts on them.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm

  12. I never talk during the trailers, but it doesn’t bother me that much when other people do. I only start to get annoyed when people talk during the feature.

    Dave Enkosky

    September 15, 2012 at 2:55 am

    • Same here. Sometimes I can get a little worried during the trailers if people speak VERY loudly. Because sometimes it’s a sign of that they’re going to do the same in the movie. It’s not a rule though. Sometimes people who speak during the trailers know when to stop.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm

  13. If I’m watching a film with someone else, I always talk during, or at least between the trailers. I do so quiety, but I don’t consider it sacred time yet.

    Steve Kimes

    September 15, 2012 at 3:26 am

  14. I would like to say that during trailers you should be allowed to make comments but not necessarily engage in full on conversations. But that’s just getting too technical. I agree with some of other comments. Go ahead and continue your activities during the trailers but once the real movie starts……silencio, old man!

    Nick

    September 15, 2012 at 4:59 am

    • Yes, I liked the suggestion of Vickie to compare it with a yellow light. It’s somewhere in between. You can talk, but maybe not quite as intensely as during the other commercials?

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  15. I go to the cinema so rarely trailers are an integral part of the experience – but also something of a game. I mean, I judge them. Award them marks. And often will talk about the film or trailer with anyone I am with.

    So talking during trailers is absolutely fine. Only when the actual film begins should one feel an obligation to shut up.

    stnylan

    September 15, 2012 at 10:19 am

    • Yes, judging them, talking about what you get of them with your friends is a part of the fun of going to the theatre in company with other people.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:14 pm

  16. I pay to see a film, not trailers. I’ll quite happily talk (quietly) through trailers, but definitely time to be quiet when the logos start. Some films nicely incorporate the logos into the film, which I think is a very nice touch, and I want to be able to appreciate that without being distracted.

    Russell Betney

    September 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    • That is true. I love when for instance Warner Brothers do special versions for some of their movies. They can be very enjoyable.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:03 pm

  17. While I love trailers and enjoy seeing them in the biggest format possible (movie theater obviously), its not a deal breaker for me. I mean for most of these trailers I’ve seen them online already so I know what they’ll say in the trailer. I realize this isn’t the same for everyone, but that’s how I feel anyways.

    impsndcnma

    September 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    • I don’t hate all trailers. Some are awesome and the bigger the better. I loved the one for Prometheus and I also like The Hobbit. But some trailers are like short versions of the entire movie. Those will I try avoid paying too much attention to.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm

  18. Actually, great article. I have thought about this after this summer season since so many people now talk so loadly through previews. Theaters dim the lights so those rushing in late or with the movie-time treats can still see whenthey sit down, but I have always taken that as a sign to wrap up conversation, hush down and get ready to watch the feature. Its like what the yellow light at the traffic intersection means here in America: caution, situation is about to change, please curb your behavior appropriately. Excellent article.

    Vicki Love

    September 15, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    • Thank you so much Vicki! Yes, I agree that you should hush down a bit through the trailers as well, but I don’t think that you have to be absolutely quiet until the movie actually starts. At that point it’s not optional. No speaking allowed. Yellow light was a very good comparsion!

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm

  19. The street or foyer of the theatre is the place to talk. Once the lights dim and the programme begins, whether trailers or the film, it is rude and ignorant to talk, text or otherwise make a nuisance of oneself. No excuse is acceptable. If the trailer/film is not appreciated then the patron has the opportunity to retire to the foyer of the theatre, but not interrupt another persons enjoyment.

    Rod Croft

    September 16, 2012 at 12:16 am

    • Well.. then I disagree. I think the trailers are advertising and not part of the movie. And retiring to the foyer is not an option since the trailers often start well after the scheduled time. If you leave the salon you don’t know when to reenter in order not to miss the movie.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm

  20. Trailers are not the film. If you want to talk during a trailer, that’s okay with me, although it’s preferable if you didn’t… But I’d never tell anyone to shut up so I could watch advertising. But once the film starts, shut the hell up!

    Rodney Twelftree

    September 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    • Yep. Sadly I don’t tell people to shut up when they talk after the movie has started. Even if I should. I just give them the evil eye and hope they’ll notice. Which they rarely do.

      Jessica

      September 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm

  21. I can accept people talking in the trailers. I do sometimes, mostly because I’m talking with whom ever I’ve gone to the cinema with, about the trailer. We all hush up as soon as the film starts. And it’s not as if you’re shouting, right?

    Jaina

    September 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    • No, I think we all can agree on that shouting in a public place is rude, either you’re in a restaurant or waiting for a movie to start.

      Jessica

      September 17, 2012 at 7:11 am

  22. As you know Jessica, I am a big etiquette believer in the cinema, remember the series of posts I did on the matter?

    But I reckon the trailers and ads are free game. Once I see the BBFC rating card come up though I expect silence!! LOL

    • You’re the expert Scott! I’m glad you’re with me. The BBFC rating card is one I never see. We’ve gotten rid of the film censorship altogether in Sweden. 🙂

      Jessica

      September 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm

  23. This was going to be one of my Friday Question Fun questions…I think trailers and end credits should garner silence, or at least hushed voices. I hate when people openly talk through them, but I don’t think it’s the same level of silence the feature film commands.

    AndyWatchesMovies

    September 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    • Awww. I’m sorry if I messed up your plans. Two minds, one thought. I got my inspiration from the LAMB forum.

      Jessica

      September 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm

  24. Let’s face it– nobody shows up to the show to see the opening act, and in the case of movies, the opening act is often available for rewatching on Youtube. I don’t much care if people shuffle about, check their phones, quietly gab, or whatever during the trailers; mostly that’s because I am guilty of using that time to talk about the trailers with whomever I am watching the movie, and I feel fine with that because they’re not the reason that you paid money to be admitted into theater.

    Fact is, though, that I cannot simply go online and legally check out parts of a feature presentation that I miss because the idiot in the row behind me won’t stop kicking my chair and talking on his phone. I draw the line at acting like a savage when the show starts (“when the lion roars” is good code for that). And, frankly, yes, if you can avoid making lots of noise during the trailers, do. I just don’t bother raising a fuss if someone is on their phone during the trailers. I could care less about them interrupting the presentation of Twilight 5: Twi Harder. But shut up while I watch The Master.

    Andrew

    September 17, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    • That makes two of us. When the lion roars you should shut up. But until that point noone has the right to go crazy if you discuss the trailer with someone in your party.

      Jessica

      September 17, 2012 at 8:26 pm

  25. Ah trailers, the make every movie look great. Check out this “The Shining” alternative trailer if you haven’t already:

    carrandas

    September 18, 2012 at 1:10 am

    • I hadn’t seen it. It’s hillarious! Thanks for linking it!

      Jessica

      September 18, 2012 at 7:31 am

  26. Great post. Hadn’t thought about this either. I guess general theater etiquette (no running, no kicking seats, no shouting, no babies, etc.) should be enforced at all times. But I have no problem with people talking over the trailers (like you I mostly go to the movies alone, but when I don’t, I comment on the trailers, it is inevitable). But yes, as soon as the studio logo goes up, everyone should shut up.

    fernandorafael

    September 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    • Thanks Fernando! Judging from the comments here it looks as if we’re in a majority.

      Jessica

      September 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm

  27. Interesting discussion, Jessica. I personally think as the place goes dark people should shut up, so yeah that includes trailers as that’s part of the reasons I go to the cinema is to see what previews will be shown.

    ruth

    September 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    • Thanks Ruth! That is definitely a point that could be considered as well. “when it goes dark”.

      Jessica

      September 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  28. […] I’m launching a movement to talk Jessica into attending TIFF 2013. Drop her a note and tell her she should jump on it. In the meantime, she has sparked a great discussion about the etiquette surrounding the trailer reel. […]

  29. Personally I dislike trailers, so I don’t watch them…even at the cinema. So people can do whatever they want when they are playing, just as long as they are quiet when the movie starts.

    Nostra

    September 20, 2012 at 9:58 am

    • I sometimes enjoy them, but that doesn’t mean that I feel that I have the right to get annoyed at others who talk while they’re lasting.

      Jessica

      September 21, 2012 at 7:48 am

  30. This is not directly related to the etiquette surrounding trailers, but I just stumbled upon this awesome Oatmeal comic at http://theoatmeal.com/comics/movie_theater_layout and thought about this blog post 🙂

    Thomas Hettenhausen

    September 20, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    • I hadn’t seen that one. It’s excellent! Thanks for linking it, I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

      Jessica

      September 21, 2012 at 7:48 am


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