British cinema behaviour: 67 examples of bad experiences

When things go wrong on a cinema trip, from bad customer service, noisy audiences, to, er, 'other things'...

As part of our survey on the behaviour of audiences in British cinemas, and how well cinema chains respond to it, we asked a couple of open questions. In this post, we’re looking at where we asked for specific examples of good or bad behaviour and practice you’ve experienced from your cinema visits. We had over 2000 responses, so we’ve had to pick and choose. But here’s a flavour of what you told us.

We’ve quoted verbatim, save for correcting the odd typo…

Technical problems

“We went to see The Martian at Cineworld in Nottingham recently. The first ten minutes of the movie was unwatchable, as the projector wasn’t in focus. We went to alert the staff, who, while very off-hand and disinterested, did get the problem fixed. People arrived late and seemed to create the maximum amount of fuss finding a seat (in a relatively empty theatre). There was the usual rustling of food wrappers and slurping of drinks. The man two seats across from us kept making weird grunting noises of recognition at every poignant moment. His partner was fast asleep throughout… Everything I dread about a visit to the cinema was happening all around me – with the exception of having my seat kicked (we sat on the back row). I paid for this privilege!”

“Recently while at the cinema to see the new Paranormal Activity 3D, the 3D wasn’t working and the screen was blurry during 3D segments. No one in the audience complained and so it was never fixed. I like to think we were all too ‘British’ to complain, I just didn’t want to miss any of the terrible movie.”

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“The few times we have booked online with Vue, the machine that you collect the tickets from is either broken or says that we have already collected the tickets when we haven’t. Once me and my friend had booked to see a film and the machine of course didn’t work so we went to the counter and the member of staff told us that we had collected the tickets the day before so we couldn’t have them again but my friend pointed out that she wasn’t even in our town the day before as she had been in London for the premiere of the film, we were going to see and the staff didn’t believe her so she had to get her phone out and show them pictures and then we pointed out that surely if we had already collected the tickets why would we be trying to claim them again, it’s not like we could have used them twice?! eEentually they printed us a blank ticket out and wrote the film and just told us to sit where ever we wanted and if anyone told us we were sat in their seats, we would need to move and sit somewhere else!. I’ve just stopped booking tickets now as stuff like this happens all the time.”

“Two occasions at Odeon when the movie was not projected at the correct screen ratio. On the first occasion I was able to quickly leave my seat and report the problem to a member of staff outside. I could not leave my seat on the second occasion as I was with my young son. I did complain by e-mail and received 2 free tickets. I did suggest having somebody in the screening for the first 5 minutes of the movies just in case there was a technical problem – especially as there are no projectionists at my local digital cinema.”

“Went to see Guardians Of The Galaxy at Vue Carlisle, the lights in the screen didn’t go down when the film started; had to walk down 7 flights of stairs to find an attendant and ask for them to be switched off. It took them a further 15 minutes to turn the lights down.”

“Lights not being turned off, ruins the film.”

Threats Of Violence

“After a visit to see Interstellar I was verbally abused in the car park by an audience member as he was upset that I’d embarrassed him by asking him not to constantly talk to his girlfriend while the film was on.”

“I experienced a situation where one audience member punched another audience member because they were “laughing too loudly”. Needless to say they were quickly escorted from the building.”

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“One man (who had been sat in front of us) was very aggressive with my young teenage son as we were leaving the screening (grabbing him and shouting at him) apparently because he had laughed at the “wrong” moments. he clearly thought my son was on his own as he let go and appeared embarrassed when I challenged him as a coward who was picking on someone half his size. He was still shouting verbal abuse which was intimidating. The cinema staff clearly saw all this and when I asked them for help they just shrugged, said it wasn’t their problem and let him leave.”

“A few years back a group of friends went to the cinema where there was another group being really disruptive and annoying. A friend’s boyfriend had a word and when we left a van pulled up and someone jumped out with a baseball bat, waving it and yelling (the group who’d been ticked off naturally). Thankfully he’s a big guy not easily intimidated and they didn’t do anything more than try to act tough, but it was pretty unsettling.”

“Once, whilst watching Ali with a packed Glaswegian audience, heard a commotion and swearing a few rows behind. Turned to find two fellas having a full blown fight. Full immersion cinema.”

“A gang of lads once promised to ‘damage’ me and my friends when I asked them to be quiet. The ushers did nothing. At the end of the film the lads stood and turned to us aggressively, only to scarper when they saw that all three of us were over six foot and looking suitably annoyed.”

Punisher 2: Warzone on its first night I thought I’d walked into a Warzone or it was some kind of 4D effect. Two ‘gentleman’ sitting behind us proceeded to get into an imperial entanglement when one accidentally knocked the other walking past his seat. The seated customer then took his shirt off, stood up and squared up to the other man’s face. To be fair Cineworld staff kicked him out!”

Children & 12A Films

“At a 6pm showing of a 12a movie, a toddler no older than 2 was admitted to the cinema. The movie was not suitable for a child and it proceeded to cry and walk around throughout the movie. This has happened several times to me actually at screenings in the early evening. Parents are still allowed to take their very small children to inappropriate movies because of the 12a rating. Extremely disruptive and the cinema won’t do much as it’s not really the child’s fault.”

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“Some parents thought it would be a good idea to take their very small child (around 1 – 3) to see SKYFALL! It kept crying and they continually took it out just to bring it back in again. They eventually left after several people had complained and they were ejected.”


“On one occasion I got so utterly fed up of a couple of people sat a couple of rows behind me mistaking the showing for an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 that I very loudly told them to shut up. When I say ‘shut up’, I’m missing a couple of words from the middle of that sentence.”

“When watching Spectre a 15 year old ‘lad’ having a ‘lads’ night out sat next to me and spent the entire film telling his friends what he knew each actor from. Turns out he’s only seen Guardians Of The Galaxy and Django Unchained.”

“In my local Odeon the sound-bleed between screens means that I’ve sometimes had the noise of disruptive audiences from the neighbouring screen.”

“Only bad one was at an Odeon to see Lost In Translation where some French students wouldn’t stop talking through the whole film. Ironically I suspect they may have been translating for others in their group.”

“When I watched X-Men 3 at the cinema a woman shouted really loudly “Oh my god what is he doing with his eyes?” when Cyclops shot a laser from his eye – this wouldn’t have been too bad, but since this was the third film surely she had worked it out during the first two.”

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“My pet hate is people on first dates, early dates at the cinema as something to do, and they talk and make inane chit chat to each other while getting to know one another, rather than just watching the film!”

“The masses of leg room at our new Cineworld cinema means I am left dumbfounded by the sheer amount of people that still manage to kick the back of my seat during a film. My legs barely even reach the seat in front of me and I’m not exactly short at 5 foot 9!”

“Somebody explaining to their dullard of a partner who was who, who the baddie was and the plot for the last half an hour. If you have an attention span of a gnat go home, watch some vines and leave those of us who can understand more than 4 seconds of narrative to enjoy the film”

“On cue a man in his 50s kept coughing only during Captain America: The Winter Soldier action scenes, thought he was going cough up a lung, totally ruined the movie for me. Another man in his 50s snoring behind me during the re-release of Pulp Fiction. Kid on the same seating row having to constantly go to bathroom during Batman. Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood cinema put on subtitle version instead.”


“I recently went to see Spectre at Cineworld. A woman in the row immediately in front of me began taking pictures one her phone of the film the moment it started, right from the company logos all the way through first few shots of the opening sequence. It amazed me that not one other person seemed to be bothered by this – even without the legal aspects of her actions it was incredibly distracting and frustrating. I leaned forward and politely asked her to put her phone away and she shrugged me off and put it away. Not even ten minutes later she started doing it again during the opening credits sequence, so I politely asked her again and told her it was very distracting. She huffed and put her phone away again, throwing looks at her friend beside her as if I was the one being a nuisance to her.”

“On a recent visit to see Spectre an individual was using a tablet during the film. Considering the brightness of the device nothing was done about it or a member of staff saying anything. I reported it and in fairness to the assistant manager she was most apologetic but did blame a lack of staff to deal with the issue. I get that and the blame is on the cinema chain not employing enough staff. My gripe is why should I miss 5/10 minutes of a film to report this!?”

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“Cineworld, a group of women taking selfies mid movie a particular favourite, the guy taking his top off next to me, then there’s the lady drinking a whole bottle of wine and the mad guy with a shopping trolley full of food… could go on…”

“A bunch of kids who got bored during Macbeth and started playing Candy Crush Saga. Someone next to me looking up the plot to Macbeth whilst sitting next to me.”

“Was in for a film on a Friday night, cinema was busy-ish but quiet for a Friday. Film had started when a woman walked in and sat down in the seat next to me, she then took out her phone and texted a friend the seat numbers she was in with a reminder to get her a diet coke before updating her Facebook to say she was in the cinema, 10 mins later her friend came in with the diet coke, updated her own Facebook and after a reminder from her friend liked her friends status too (seriously wtf??).”

“I once had a woman in front of me at Curzon Soho during Searching For Sugarman who spent the whole film on her phone, I asked her politely twice to put it away, she ignored me. The third time it escalated and she yelled “I’m an artist”.”

“During one screening an audience received and answered (at length) a phone call., When I interrupted him he continued the conversation, giving a running commentary of (seemingly unreasonable) attempts to prevent him from ruining my cinema-going experience. The staff loitering in the corridor refused to intervene, the 12-year-old ‘manager’ (sic) was equally clueless. I was offered a refund, but nothing was done. The cinemas obviously regard this kind of behaviour as the norm.”

“During a showing of The Winter Soldier, a mum gave her child an iPad to keep her occupied. She put videos from YouTube on for her to watch!!!!”

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Fixed Seating

“The worst example was being told to “f*** off” by a bloke that did not want to move from the seat that I had booked ages in advance, at a sold-out showing of the last Hobbit movie (he’d left it until the last minute and simply didn’t want to sit in the seats that were available to him.) The Cineworld staff were great and threw the guy out straight away, but the obnoxious man had the final say by tipping his coke all over the carpet in protest.”

“I paid extra for an 18s only viewing of Iron Man 2 (and added extra again for Premium Seats) at the Southport Vue. When I go there a mother with 4 children were sat in our seats and refused to move. The staff just shrugged and said “Sit somewhere else”. The mother and the kids proceeded to make noise throughout the film and the usher would not do anything when complained to.”

“A couple had sat in the wrong seats. The movie started and the couple were asked to move by the rightful owners. The couple got out of the seats, came over to me and demanded that I give up my seats to them so they could have a decent view (!?) I was a bit lost for words to say the least (Actually, two words did eventually find their way out of my mouth – the second was “off!”)”

“People moving into empty ‘premium’ seats they haven’t paid for as soon as a film starts – always awkward/disruptive when the people who bought those seats show up later/the staff have to send the people back to the seats they paid for.”

“Was punched on the arm once for sitting in the wrong seat (F11 instead of F12) when I wasn’t wearing reading glasses and misread the ticket. It was the 10 am showing of Jurassic World at Vue Cribbs Causeway and the cinema was virtually empty! Too upset to complain on that occasion.”

Food And Drink

“Bad example was chap eating the biggest bucket of popcorn I have ever seen and which seemed to be everlasting. He munched and slurped away for the whole duration of SPECTRE ( 2.7 Hrs Film ) and to cap that he must have had a bit of a cold so with every breath his nose whistled. so during the action scenes his breathing would increase along with the whistling.”

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“Someone brought the entire Morrisons crisps aisle to a film and rustled and crunched incredibly loudly through the entire film.”

“People who eat the biggest bucket of popcorn they can find and spend the whole film making as much noise as they can getting the popcorn out of the bucket. Followed by people who eat the biggest bag of Doritos they can find and manage to make as much noise as possible getting each crisp from the packet.”

“Sat next to two people eating an entire Chinese banquet straight from the takeaway bag… Spring Rolls, Chicken Wings, Noodles, Rice… The lot. Passing dipping sauce and aluminium trays back and forth… Nightmare.”

“Somebody brought a Domino’s pizza into the screen, it was either the smell or I was just jealous I didn’t have one.”

“During one screening, a man sat a few seats behind me ate an entire roast chicken!”

“2001, NFT1, newly restored print. Second half starts after the interval. The whole section is structured around silence. Guy behind me gets the Kettle Chips out. I had to ask him to stop. It wasn’t the eating, it was the incredibly tentative approach to it.”

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Reaction To Complaints

“Went to see Interstellar at Vue and asked teenager next to me to put her phone away as the light was quite intrusive. Her mother threw a tantrum and demanded I was ejected for annoying them. I left the screening and demanded my money back after the staff went down the path of least resistance and sided with the mother who was raging like a refugee from the Jeremy Kyle show. The supervisor grudgingly offered to discount my next ticket with them but rather unsurprisingly I haven’t been back there.”

“A couple behind me during the film constantly talking and making comments about the film (eg. film involving a couple, man said out loud “just have sex with her!”. When I turned around to hopefully get them to stop talking, I heard the girl tell her partner to kick the back of my chair to get me to stop turning around.”

“Once at Curzon Soho, my wife verbally took a woman to task for constantly using her phone. The woman claimed this was assault!”

Smartalec Audiences

“Whenever I get the chance I’ll go and catch a screening of Ridley Scott’s Alien (not a euphemism) but I’ll never go see Aliens again as the past couple times I’ve gone, the screening has been filled with ‘quote happy’ guys who bark Bill Paxton’s lines at the screen, kick seats and generally act like bell-ends. A quote-along screening is one thing but obnoxious geekism during a regular screening annoys the hell out of me.”

“I’ve never had a disruption, but one idiot ruined my sons experience of The Hobbit (after years of waiting!!) by telling him his enthusiasm was annoying – this was before the film actually even started!!”

“Very annoying time when I went to see Fellowship Of The Ring. During Galadriel scene, a man was being thrown out and he kept shouting “For the Shire” as he was being escorted out. Cinema staff dealt with him in a very professional way though.”

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“‘False laughs’ are particularly annoying. Those clowns that want everyone to know that they got the in-joke, because they’re a genuine fan of the comic-book, TV-series, or novel of whichever movie they happen to be watching. Anyone who reacts to a slight on-screen scare as if they are in one of those fake cinema audience night-vision promo’s for Insidious. Popcorn everywhere, and they have to tell the person next to them how much it made them jump… I wish they would. Jump, that is.”

The Prince Charles Cinema has a spectacularly high incidence rate of people on phones, talking and laughing in a ridiculously exaggerated manner at things they find hilarious. Screenings ruined by hipsters laughing at what they see as dated behaviour include Die Hard (HAHAHAHAH, the 80s), Mothra (HAHAHAHAHA, it’s a man in a suit), ROAR (HAHAHAHAHA, they’re using real big cats). When 20% of the audience is there to prove that they are better than what they are watching it’s a f***ing bummer. But, y’know, the London home of The Room is going to attract that crowd.”

Cinema Staffing Problems

“My local is a Cineworld, most of the issues I have is with their business model which has become less user friendly in recent years and more – I would think – about increasing profit. These measures include merging box office with food kiosks to reduce staffing and to encourage more people to purchase snacks and fixed allocation of seating so you can’t turn up on the spur of the moment and makes it more convenient to book online – again reducing staffing requirements. The problem with the seating is that sometimes there are groups of people you know will be disruptive and while in the past you could avoid these with the allocated seating you cannot.”

“During the second Hobbit movie, someone was laughing and talking loudly on the phone… turns out it was one of the ushers standing in the door. When reported, I was told ‘don’t be silly, who would do that?'”

“I was watching Moonrise Kingdom at an Odeon and they were showing it in the wrong ratio. As a Wes Anderson film we felt it was pretty important to show it in the right ratio and borderline insulting not to. When we asked the cinema to change it they said “don’t worry it only cuts off the text at the start.” Not audience related but terrible service anyway.”

“Stayed to watch a scene post credits and staff came in during to clean up and talk to each other.”

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“During one screening, one woman kept talking throughout the film and was asked to be quiet by another. She became defensive and then confrontational. The two then proceeded to shout at each other aggressively and continued for nearly 10 minutes. There wasn’t even an usher on the same floor of the cinema to report to, let alone one to come in and check.”


“Whilst watching a showing of The Martian on its opening night. We got 25 minutes into the film. There were about 20 people in the theatre. Three people walked in. They had presumed there would be trailers and adverts so turned up later than the allocated start time. They complained. The film was switched off. The attendant said that they had played the ‘preview’ version by accident and would be starting the film again from the start for these 3 people. I kicked off big time and pointed out that he was going to upset 20 people by stating the film again rather than upsetting the 3 people who turned up late!!! In his defence he was young but he soon agreed with me and the film was put back to where we were up to. The 3 late people went home disgruntled. We also got free tickets for another film. Which was good of them. But it’s super annoying having the film turned off in the middle of it.”


“I went to a screening of John Wick earlier in the year and there was someone on my row clicking their pen all the way through it.”

Fruity Stuff

“A man masturbating in the middle of Skyfall (swiftly resolved by Picturehouse staff).”

“Most distracting – girl gave boyfriend blowjob a few seats along from us – they obviously we’re definitely enjoying themselves but rest of audience were not sure whether to watch film or them.”

Michael Bay

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I had a particularly pleasant experience at the Dudley Showcase cinema in 2005 whilst watching Michael Bay’s The Island with my girlfriend of the time. She proclaimed halfway through the movie “Isn’t this fantastic”; to which I responded by immediately leaving the theatre stopping only to ask the foyer staff to explain to confused woman sitting alone in screen 3 that we were no longer a couple. The staff at Showcase were very helpful in this instance and offered me a refund on my ticket.


Last Valentine’s Day, myself and my girlfriend booked to see Grease, which is one of her favourite films. We arrived at the Chichester Cineworld having booked three weeks ahead, a half hour drive, to be told that the film screening had been cancelled, replaced by another showing of Fifty Shades Of Grey– the 15th screening of the day! They claimed they had tried to contact everyone, but this was clearly not true. We complained and were given a half-hearted apology.

Okay, We Laughed…

Once went to a Showcase cinema in Avonmeads Bristol on a Sunday north to watch Spiderman. Practically 90% of the audience were talking through it and generally messing around, the cinema staff were pretty much powerless in this instance. One memorable moment was when Willem Defoe tells Spiderman ‘No one says no to me’ at which point a girl in front of me stood up and actually offered him out! She offered to fight a film projection! Never been back to this Showcase since.

No words…

There’s a cinema in Dublin that a kid took a shit in, literally pulled down his trousers and took a shit in the fifth row. The screening had to be cancelled after staff were alerted, the kid and his mother were nowhere to be seen.

Two girls in the end of my row during Captain America: The First Avenger. Every time the Red Skull appeared on screen, one of them would snap off a Nazi salute. Sieg Heil, right in the air. Completely silent, and her friend did not acknowledge it in the least. Not once. Didn’t even turn her head. Happened every time. I didn’t report it. What the hell do you say?

And finally…

A woman gave birth next to me. She was pretty quiet most of the time but it did spoil the film for me a bit.

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