Unacceptable behaviors for people at the movies: Americans have their say
December 4th, 2023, Rishad Dsouza

Unacceptable behaviors for people at the movies: Americans have their say

Going to the movies is one of Americans’ great pastimes. After the pandemic-induced disruption of the industry, revenues for movie theatres are clawing their way back up. But this doesn’t mean the movie-going experience is always without grievances. A new YouGov study looks at what might be deemed as unacceptable behaviors for people at the movies. This piece focuses on US data referenced against the multi-market average.

Having fellow movie-goers take phone calls during movies is the behavior that the highest percentage of Americans find unacceptable (87%), closely followed by disturbances caused by talking customers (81%). Many Americans also don’t tolerate the act of putting feet up on the seats in front either (79%), although they feel slightly less strongly about it than the average audience across 17 markets (84%).

Seeing people bring babies to movies not meant for their age is also a source of upset for a similar share of Americans (78%). Americans are more likely than the multi-market average to deem it an unacceptable behavior for people at the movies to use a phone during the show (66% vs 60% of multi-market respondents) but are far less likely to mind people eating or drinking “noisy” items such as potato chips or slushies (51% vs 66%).

On the topic of sounds and noises during movies, Americans are also less likely to take exception to audience members reacting out loud to movie scenes (34% vs 46%). They are about as likely as the overall average to say showing physical affection to a date during the movie is unacceptable (39% vs 38%).

They are also less bothered by people coming to the movies late (33% vs 46%). The reason for this could be that most theaters in the US follow an open seating program, granting attendees their choice of seats on a first-come, first-served basis, in contrast to common practice in other parts of the world where reserved seating is the norm. Others entering late would directly result in a wider choice of seats for US customers. Americans are also far less bothered about consumers shifting in their seats (14% vs 39%).

Level of unacceptability towards most behaviors are similar among men and women, with women being only slightly more likely than men to rate certain behaviors – taking calls (89% vs 84%), talking (84% vs 79%), putting feet up on front seats (81% vs 76%) – as being unacceptable. The exception to this trend comes with regards to PDA, which nearly half of women find unacceptable (46%). Relatively, only a third of men (32%) are unaccepting of people showing physical affection during a movie (32%).

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Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. The data is based on surveys of adults aged 18+ years in 17 market. The overall American sample size is 1502 adults and the multi-market sample-size is 18,076 adults. All surveys were conducted online in September 2023.