Poll: It’s time to improve our cinema etiquette, says Martine Silkstone


- Credit: Archant

Second World War diarist Anne Frank once wrote: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

And until recently I was inclined to agree, writes columnist Martine Silkstone.

I have always been an optimist, a glass half full kind of person, but it is fair to say that over the past few months my faith in mankind has slowly been eroded,

Not, as you may think, by scary news stories of terrorists and fanatics – these people belong to a small minority and will inevitably be overpowered by the collective good. No, my newly-discovered pessimism has been triggered by what had previously been a source of great joy: regular trips to the cinema.

It isn’t because of the movie choices available – inspiring films such as The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Budapest Hotel and, dare I say, Paddington, are all guaranteed to leave me entertained and full of joy. My issue is with the other filmgoers at the screenings, who seem devoid of any consideration or acknowledgement that they are at a shared event.

My belief in the basic goodness of humankind is being worn down by constant seat-kicking, talking, food-chomping and gadget use – a kind of multiplex war of attrition, if you will.

Even in films aimed specifically at children, where an increase in noise from excited toddlers is only to be expected, it is apparently now OK for the little tikes to run up and down the aisles, playing tag with their friends. When did the basic consideration of others become extinct?

Most Read

It is impossible to fully immerse in the unfolding story being presented on the screen with these constant distractions throughout. During a recent visit to Cineworld to see the latest Hobbit instalment, Youngest Child and I had to move seats half way through to avoid permanent kidney damage being caused by the row behind, and to this day I have no idea who won the Battle of the Five Armies!

At this point you may think I am just being grumpy, but you would be wrong. It is not just me. The BBC’s flagship film programme, Wittertainment with Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo (BBC Radio 5 Live, Friday from 2pm), has also addressed the issue and even gone so far as to put together a comprehensive code of conduct for all filmgoers. This includes all the aforementioned irritations and a few more, and can be downloaded as a poster or even a short film. When I own a cinema (bucket list number five, lottery win permitting), this will be a contract which has to be signed by all attending, and the penalty for breaching the code will be back to back Adam Sandler movies. Until then, it should be compulsory pre-film viewing at all establishments.

But, then again, should it? After all, it comes down to basic respect, doesn’t it? Which is where my faith in people is deteriorating. Do we no longer take pride in our good manners and teach them to our children?

When I introduced my two offspring to the cinema I was quick to ensure they knew there were other people to consider and that there were rules – be quiet, sit still with feet down and, as they got older, no iPods or phones. Any deviation from the rules meant we had to leave immediately, as we would be disturbing others. Simple! And yet apparently impossible to grasp for so many.

But that, of course, is the most distressing aspect of all this – the real issue is that the culprits just don’t care they are spoiling the enjoyment of others and tend towards the “I’m alright, Jack” philosophy. People are becoming more selfish and, consequently, my faith in them is diminishing fast. In an effort to stem the decline, I have recently foregone my usual movie fix and abstained from visiting the cinema; but with a plethora of new releases due in 2015, this protest cannot last. So I implore you all: embrace empathy and consider consideration ? for, at the moment, I fear my glass is half empty...