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Will Rude Movie Goers Crush the Barbenheimer Rebound?

Phone-obsessed consumers are making the theatrical experience a nightmare

It took a plastic doll and an atom bomb to end Hollywood’s pandemic hangover.

Barbenheimer” turned July into a box office juggernaut and proved Americans had shaken free of the COVID-19 lockdowns at long last. Both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” have legs, as they say in the business, meaning the films continue to draw huge crowds well into their theatrical runs.

That’s great news for both Hollywood and the theatrical model, the latter still struggling from pandemic lockdowns and the crush of A-list material on streaming services.

There’s just one problem.

Many of the “new” moviegoers are behaving badly. They talk, snap selfies and conduct phone conversations mid-movie.

It’s a big enough problem that it attracted the Wall Street Journal’s attention.

Etiquette at public events has become harder to control and manage after the pandemic. At concerts, fans are rowdier than ever, shrieking at artists, blocking people’s views with signs, even throwing items at artists. At Broadway shows, Playbill inserts now remind people to turn off their phones and let the actors do the singing. And now, some movie venues are posting videos to teach people how to behave.

Don’t blame the pandemic. It’s a societal issue and we have only ourselves to blame

Look no further than a country that allows shoplifting to run wild in major cities. Criminals now get a slap on the wrist, if that, while citizens who take a stand get the book thrown at them.

Daniel Penny surrenders on manslaughter charge in Jordan Neely's death

Discipline in schools now falls under woke bylaws, meaning if a child belongs to a specific demographic he or she may get a pass.

Take one long, hard look at our southern border and you’ll see how easily we look the other way rather than obey the rules.

We no longer respect the rule of law, and that includes government officials and the media. What we’re seeing now shouldn’t shock anyone.

The toxic trend is arriving right on schedule.

That’s terrible news for the nation, of course, but it’s also bad for the theatrical model. Moviegoers who finally returned to theaters this summer now pay exorbitant prices for the honor of being distracted throughout a movie.

They won’t stick around for long.

Instead, they’ll wait a few weeks and see the movies in question from the comfort of their home, just like they did during the pandemic. Theaters will only have themselves to blame if they don’t enforce strict but fair rules about in-theater behavior.

They won’t, most likely.


If big city mayors look the other way at rising crime rates, and voters won’t punish them at the ballot box, what chance do we have that theatrical managers will show a stiffer spine?

Slim to none.

This critic can’t directly weigh in about the current, sorry state of movie going. Press screenings either feature hardcore movie fans or fellow critics. Both groups are far less likely to be rowdy in the theater, and if they are they’ll be swiftly shushed into silence.

That’s likely not happening in theaters nationwide. Would you risk it?

Traditional moviegoers aren’t so lucky. And, if the bad behavior continues, we’ll see less theatrical smashes like “Barbie” moving forward.

Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash


  1. Anyone who believes this movie will earn a billion dollars probably thinks a member of the view will be seen parading in a bikini at the Miss Universe contest.

  2. Bingo. Lots of truth bombs in this column. Figuring out how to fix culture rot will be The Challenge of the 21st Century.

  3. Fortunately, I’m a retiree, so I schedule my movie going for like Tuesday afternoon at least a week after a new movie comes out. It really does spare me much of this nonesense.

  4. In the last 3 years, I’ve been to 2 movies in a theater. Each time there were rude people playing with their phones. I’m pretty much done with the theater experience. I’ve got a nice home theater. A Blu-ray costs less than going to a movie and I can wait. Besides, I rarely see new releases since the woke have destroyed them. I’ve got an extensive collection of old movies.

    I do miss the old theater experience. I remember “Empire Strikes Back”, “Indiana Jones 1-3”, “Aliens”, “Terminator 2”. Went to all opening night and the audience was charged. It was an intense experience that still stays with me. That group experience is long gone, sadly. People are too rude and too distracted to sit through a 2 hour movie without touching their little plastic rectangle with the pretty colors.

  5. Heinlein write about dying societies. ”A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.
    Robert A. Heinlein, Friday

    1. It’s been decades since I read Friday. Big fan of Heinlein.

      I was listening to someone discuss how a few decades ago men wore suits to almost every activity. Women dressed up. Go on a plane, go out to dinner, go to the theater. Now everyone just throws on some sweats, no grooming. Even at work. When people don’t care about the appearance, hate & fear strangers, we don’t have much of a future. Hang out in a big city, then go to a small town in the Midwest. You will see a huge difference.

      But leftists are programmed to only vote left. They have no concept of the leaders they vote in are the problem. It’s beyond their limited mental ability.

    1. That is a solid strategy. I don’t go to near as many movies as much as I used to because A) rude people in the theatre, and B) the declining quality of movies thanks to “wokester” production values. But when I do go, I do the same thing. Early on a Sunday morning the second or third week of a release seems to thin out the crowd a good bit.

  6. What can you do except to ask for a refund a few minutes into the performance.

    Be glad there were no brawls like at The Little Mermaid screening.

    Theaters like AMC gotten into the action by turning on the alarm or turning off the air conditioning or just canceling screenings for Sound of Freedom.

    The customers should just not go. The movie quality is worse with 3 years of Woke, DEI, and ESG forced plotting or narratives. Boycott.

  7. This was already a problem pre-pandemic, I can only imagine how much worse it must be now. I’ll watch my movies at home and thanks.

    1. You’re 100% spot on. My theatre attendance had declined before covid came along. And it was 100% due to a-holes in the theatre talking on their phones or otherwise making a lot of noise. I paid to experience the movie, not them and their rude behavior. So why wouldn’t I skip the movie and wait for streaming or dic release and watch something at home where I have a pretty damn big screen TV and surround sound anyway. Sure, it’s not the large and loud “movie experience” but it is MUCH quieter than the average movie audience is these days.

      1. I stopped going to theaters on a regular basis save and except major Imax releases nearly 20 years ago when my wife and I went to an 8pm R-rated movie and an entire family sat next to us. A young infant, less than 12 months old kept moving its hands from its mouth to my arm and hands. When I complained to the mother, she just scowled at me. After it happened again, I told her that I was getting an usher. They finally decided that perhaps one of the adults could sit next to me, but they griped the whole rest of the movie. From that point on, I just started buying movies and watching them at home. I can only imagine how bad the average experience is now.

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