As the Barbenheimer craze continues, many are exploring how movie-theater etiquette may have evolved in a post-COVID world.
Both Barbie and Oppenheimer are breaking box-office records, with people on social media raving about the excitement among their theater crowds. But also prevalent are complaints from moviegoers who cite poor etiquette in everything from checking one’s phone to bringing children to a film that may not be geared toward (or rated for) them.
PEOPLE spoke with etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore to get her thoughts. She stressed how important it is to “be quiet during the movie” and put away devices like phones and iPads, whether adult or child.
“One of the biggest distractions is electronics. The light from a cell phone is really, really distracting,” Whitmore says. “So I would highly recommend that people put away their electronic devices and make sure they’re on silent mode.”
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Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023).
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She also notes the extra challenge of refreshments, saying theater patrons should “clean up after yourselves” when exiting the cinema.
“Don’t put your feet on the seats in front of you, and arrive before the movie begins,” Whitmore says. “When the movie begins, everybody should be in their seat, situated, quiet, ready to go and ready to enjoy the movie.”
Asked specifically about many parents bringing their kids to see Barbie, which is rated PG-13, Whitmore acknowledges that it’s “more a movie geared towards adults.” Regardless of whether children are in attendance during a showing, “in terms of movie etiquette, the rules still apply,” she advises.
Margot Robbie in Barbie (2023).
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.
For parents who bring their children to Barbie — or any movie in a theater setting, really — Whitmore realizes that “you don’t know if the child’s going to be bored or not,” adding, ‘Sometimes you get to see any movie and you find out the child is not interested.”
Her advice for parents? “Do a little bit of homework ahead of time,” she says. “I may have a 6-year-old who’s going on 20 and she just loves all things Barbie, and I think she’s going to really enjoy this. Or I may have a child who I think might be interested, but he’s not.”
“So I guess if I were a parent, I would ask my other friends, ‘You’ve seen the movie, you know my child — do you think they’ll enjoy it?’ And if they say, ‘Oh yeah, they’ll enjoy it.’ Then of course,” Whitmore adds. “That’s kind of like an endorsement. It’s a recommendation.”
And if the boredom still kicks in during the viewing, “I wouldn’t give them an electronic device to play with, because I would know as a parent that would be distracting to other people,” she says. “And now I’m ruining the experience for other people. But what I would do is I would ask my friends ahead of time, ‘Is this movie appropriate for my daughter who’s 6 years old?’ “
Kids at a movie theater.
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Whitmore also stresses the importance of taking control of one’s own situation in terms of their preferred moviegoing experience, rather than expecting others to cater. One example might be taking in a matinee showing during a school day or a late-night show, when kids will likely be in bed.
“I can’t really control what other people do with their kids, but what I can do is control when I go see the movie,” she says. “And etiquette is all about monitoring your own behavior and how your behavior affects others.”
“It’s not my duty to scold parents who don’t say anything to their kids,” Whitmore continues. “But if the kids get bored, maybe the parents should take them them to another movie that’s more fitting.”
And at the end of the day, “Etiquette is situational,” she notes. “So what might bother me might not bother you, and vice versa.”
Barbie and Oppenheimer are in theaters now.
Links: What Is Proper Movie Theater Etiquette? An Expert’s Advice for Parents and Other Moviegoers – Tekmonk Bio, What Is Proper Movie Theater Etiquette? An Expert’s Advice for Parents and Other Moviegoers – Kungfutv, What Is Proper Movie Theater Etiquette? An Expert’s Advice for Parents and Other Moviegoers – Hot News