Cinema fans who need a screen test to ensure good behaviour

A cinema chain is issuing an etiquette guide because so many filmgoers are annoyed by the behaviour of others. Sheena Hastings reports.

MOANING about bad manners is seen by some people as very old hat. They roll their eyes and feign a yawn if you fulminate about the lack of “please” or “thank you” in a shop or cafe, or describe a train or bus journey ruined by being force-fed one side of a phone conversation being conducted at high volume by someone several seats away.

Everyone else in the carriage usually averts their gaze, privately enraged by the lack of consideration displayed by that one person who chatters on and on, oblivious of the comfort and enjoyment of others. We’re all too polite to say anything.

Why the denial by some of the importance of good manners? After all they’re not about which fork or spoon you use but about having consideration for the feelings of others.

In a packed cinema the other week, two friends had their experience of the new Bond movie ruined by a couple behind who loudly tried to second-guess every twist in the plot or threw in gratuitous commentary about clothes the actors wore. Punters round about bristled but, again, said nothing. Looking daggers doesn’t really work in the dark – and anyway, people that insensitive wouldn’t respond.

In the cinema you have to brace yourself these days before entering. If you haven’t got the “experts” chattering behind you, you might be sitting next to a couple of people who shake their cardboard popcorn box for an hour before settling down to a good old snogging session.

They’re someone else’s problem if they’re a few seats away in the same row, but if you are right behind them, it’s quite an interruption to your viewing. And anyway – isn’t that traditionally what the back row is for?

A leading cinema chain has carried out audience research around behaviour at the movies and was dismayed enough by its findings to have issued a list of behavioural guidelines for the punters, much like those seen on posters around public swimming pools.

The survey revealed that more than half of film fans get annoyed by people talking in the cinema. Other common gripes included the rustling of popcorn, loud drinking noises and people putting their feet on the seats. But two thirds were too polite to tell off fellow cinemagoers for bad behaviour.

The cinema chain will put up posters in its theatres reminding customers of its golden rules and has launched a campaign fronted by TV presenter Paul Ross.

He said: “We go to the cinema to enjoy, not endure, a immerse ourselves in a fantasy world of action, comedy, romance or horror – whatever floats your boat. Strange, magical, wonderful things happen on our movie screens, which is as it should be. And I want those strange things to stay on the screen, not happen two rows in front of me.”

Bad behaviour in cinemas is part of a wider increase in bad manners, says Angela Marshall, a consultant who trains professional people to improve their personal image – including, if necessary, their manners. She’s also gathering quite a following online for her etiquette blog, and welcomes the cinema chain’s move.

“We’re not born with good manners, we are taught them and hopefully see good examples around us. As I see in my professional life, bad manners can really let you down.

“Unfortunately there are 
people who lack good manners because their parents never taught them good ones. We generally live in more and more of a ‘me,me, me’ society, which means people think less and less about the effect of their behaviour on others.

“I find it sad when I see parents giving in to children’s bad behaviour, rather than teaching them to behave well. Bad manners can come from all generations, and if posting the rules of good behaviour in a certain situation is what’s required, then so be it.”