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Sometimes I've sat down during the movies and at some point after the movie has started, I have found out that I'm seated near children who won't stop talking during the film. Either they are trying to talk about something else with their family members or they are commenting on the film in a way that I find really distracting (e.g. "Spider-Man's going to punch that guy!"). Sometimes the parents can calm them down, but there are times where ten minutes later, they're still talking despite their parents' best efforts.

Unfortunately, moving to another seat isn't possible if the theater is full, and I really want to enjoy the movie instead of leaving. Furthermore, staff members usually aren't around during a movie except at the ticket office or concession stand, so it doesn't seem practical to speak to management. What can I do to deal with this?

To be clear, I am using "theater" in the last paragraph to mean "the room where the movie is being screened".

  • There are no theater employees, ushers or such, at all? – user3169 Aug 25 '17 at 2:40
  • @user3169 I meant that there are none in the theater I'm sitting in while watching the movie. I really don't want to walk past 10 people, down a flight of stairs, out the door, down a hallway past a dozen other theaters, and to the ticket office to find someone. I mean, I guess if that's the only option, it is, but I would hate to miss 10 minutes of my movie trying to track down an employee, then getting back to my seat. – Thunderforge Aug 25 '17 at 2:43
  • But engaging the other family will disrupt other moviegoers, right? – user3169 Aug 25 '17 at 2:46
  • @user3169 Yeah, I guess it's kind of a no-win situation. I guess I'm concerned that leaving the theater to get an employee is even more disruptive, and means I miss more of the movie. – Thunderforge Aug 25 '17 at 2:48
  • You should also address the fact that the other party might not be agreeable people. Then what? Better to leave and demand a refund on your tickets. – user3169 Aug 25 '17 at 2:51
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I completely understand your problem. I'd say I've experienced worse in the form of parents being utterly uncaring of the people around them. I still haven't seen the second half of Mamma Mia because of a mid-day screening I tried to go to with at a theater with only myself and a group of two women and four or five kids, two of which were playing with strobing light up toys in the aisles during the film. The only solution I had then was to leave and get my money refunded.

You're right. Most theaters (unless they're scanning the audience on occasion for video recording devices) don't have staff checking in on the film and audience during the screening. So, what is a person who wants to enjoy a film in peace to do? First, there is (in most of the major chains I attend) a real movement towards respectful movie-watching. Many theaters have pre-show notices or videos telling the audience not to talk, or text and to turn off their phones during the screening. Hopefully, if this continues, these parents will realize that curbing their child's (loud) excited exclamations is appreciated by the audience.

There are a couple of solutions. I'm listing even ones you have set aside here for completeness... I like to put them in two categories because I find that, often, the solution is to avoid or try to minimize the chance of there being a problem at all rather than solving a problem that is already there.

Reactionary:

  • You can (potentially) disrupt the film further for the rest of the audience by attempting to get the parents to quiet down their kids.
  • You can leave temporarily (risk missing part of the film) and ask management to address it, which has the same issue of disrupting the film, possibly worse than if you did it yourself.
  • You can leave the theater and ask for a refund, opting to see the movie another day/time. This has the risk of recurrence, though the "proactive" section below can limit that.
  • If the theater's not too crowded you can move to a different seat. Depending on how loud the child is and how sensitive to this you are, YMMV.
  • Tough it out and ask for a refund afterwards. Ask the theater to check in more often for disruptive audiences.

Proactive:

These are things that you can do to limit the chance of this happening. They aren't 100% and they require that you limit when/where you see films but if seeing the film with a chatty kid will ruin it for you, one of these may be your best solutions.

  • Find a theater that has fewer children attending. We have two theaters near us. One of them attracts lots of large families, the other doesn't. We stopped attending the theater with all the kids because of the example in my first paragraph. My movie-going experience has improved since then.

  • See a screening at a time kids are less likely to be in the audience. After 8 on a Friday or Saturday or after 6 on a weekday. Yes, you have to pay more because these aren't matinee prices but many chains near me don't really do matinee pricing much any more, sometime only the first screening of the day.

  • Find a theater chain that has staff in the theater at all times (or most of the time). Here in Austin we have the Alamo Drafthouse, which has table service in the theaters. They're not everywhere quite yet but they are awesome and expanding all over. Dinner and a show all in one go and the ticket price isn't marked up because they make tons of money on food. There are other similar chains that are around, too, like iPic.

I hope that, eventually, everyone will follow proper cinema etiquette and keep quiet in a theater but, until then, I hope that you can find some relief using these suggestions.

  • OP seems not to have too many good 'reactive' options. Your 'proactive' strategies are really very sensible, @Catija. – English Student Aug 25 '17 at 3:38
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If they are at least 5+, hushing them with a loud "Shhhhhh" may do the trick. You are directly addressing the issue instead of avoiding it, you are very mildly embarrassing the kids by calling them out to those around you (the kids themselves and the other audience members are very likely already cognizant of the kids' rudeness), and signals to the parents to keep their children under control, also embarrasing the parents mildly. The kids are more likely to react to embarrasment than parents if the parents haven't already been acting on the situation.

A counter action by them is likely to solicit additional reaction from those around you to aid in pressuring them into silence or getting them ejected.

  • This is exactly what the audience would do in India, @Physics-Compute, but I was wondering whether OP would be considered rude to do it in the USA. – English Student Aug 25 '17 at 4:00
  • This would not be rude in the U.S.A. as you are likely doing what 5 other people around you are already thinking of doing. – user2921 Aug 25 '17 at 4:13
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    Then a number of members of the audience would be asking the parents (politely but bindingly) to keep their children quiet, which is fully justified @Physics-Compute. – English Student Aug 25 '17 at 9:47
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I like movies and have been in this situation more times than I could count.

I usually observe the kids for a few minutes to try to figure out the best tactic. If they are sweet kids with poor impulse control, I address myself to them directly.

This movie is great, isn't it? I'm glad you're having a good time, but can you do it a bit more quietly? I'm having a really hard time hearing the actors. Thanks so much!

If they look like little hooligans, I might offer them each a dollar to stop talking. I threaten to take the dollar back if they start up again.

In recalcitrant cases, I whip out my phone and call the theater with one ear to the phone and eyes and my other ear on the movie. When I manage to speak to a live person, I ask them to come and take care of it. If they don't, I'll watch the movie, but ask for a refund afterwards. Yeah, it's kind of petty, but it was far from their own definition of an ideal experience. I've never been refused.

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    Huh, it never occurred to me to call the theater on my phone, given that every movie begins with a message saying to turn them off. – Thunderforge Aug 25 '17 at 2:58
  • Once there was a ...unsavory character sitting one seat over from me. He was so inappropriate that I fled to the lobby only to find it empty! The only way I could reach a person was to call the theater I was in! By then, the guy had left. But I never forgot the power of a phone in my hand. – anongoodnurse Aug 25 '17 at 3:01
  • Well, the public service announcement before movies at my theater does say to report suspicious characters, so I what you did worked out. Just never thought about using my phone to do it. I appreciate you clarifying that you did move to the lobby though before calling. – Thunderforge Aug 25 '17 at 3:03
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    That was just the first time. And that was as much to get away from the creep as to complain. I call from the theater with the phone brightness as low as it goes and the sound down. – anongoodnurse Aug 25 '17 at 3:08
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Since you said that moving to another seat or complaining to theatre staff/ management is not an option, this question is challenging indeed. Strictly speaking, it is the parents' task to see that their children do not create a disturbance for other movie-goers, and the theatre management ought to ensure this.

Assuming that the children are accompanied by at least one parent, you can request the parent to exchange seats such that the parents/ parent is between you and the children -- if there are 2 parents it will make it much quieter even though the children are talking 2 seats away.

It's my experience that many parents will ignore your request. However, an obliging parent might make the seat-shuffle to mitigate their children's disturbance, so it's worth making the request. If the parent refuses to help you then the only thing to do is to focus on the movie and endure/ try to tune out the chatter.

Direct action: if the parents allow it, you could spare a minute to buy 4 bags of popcorn and give them a bag each. It will keep them quiet till the popcorn is finished. It is also my experience that children tend to become quieter after eating food. Try this out next time!


Note: If some other member gives a really convincing answer to this very challenging question I shall appreciate that answer with a 50 point bounty (or even 100 point bounty for a really brilliant answer.)

  • I would find another theater to go to. From a business point of view, I think there would be liability issues if there were no staff in the theater, in case of a fire or other emergency. – user3169 Aug 25 '17 at 2:48
  • @user3169 In every theater in the United States that I've ever been to, there are no staff members in the theater room. I presume they've got fire detectors and such for emergencies – Thunderforge Aug 25 '17 at 2:52
  • If children were to make a loud chatter in India during a serious movie (a bit of chatter/ laughter is allowed for comedies) the people sitting nearby wouldn't hesitate to tell the parents to keep them quiet or get them out. – English Student Aug 25 '17 at 2:55

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