What would you consider to be the most irritating behavior in a movie theater? Talking during the movie? Texting or seat-kicking? What about seeing kids at inappropriate movies or hearing the sound of a crying baby while you’re trying to watch the movie? Or perhaps it’s the smell of someone’s hot dog wafting your way or the irritating crinkle of plastic every time they reach into the bag for another chip? As movie theater-goers who shell out considerably to see films on the big screen, I’m sure we all have our own personal pet peeves, just as we likely have our own ways of trying to avoid a bad movie theater experience. A recent poll suggests that "talking" is the number one pet peeve.

Today.com has a running poll in a recent article exploring bad movie theater manners. Presently, with nearly twenty thousand votes submitted, the most popular option selected is simply "Talking," which beats out all of the other behaviors by a fair margin (it’s at 61% right now), including texting (10%), Kids at inappropriate movies (12%), Seat-kicking (14%), smelly/noisy food (3%) and other (1%). The site actually explores the various options mentioned, quoting critics and commenters who’ve weighed in on them, including film critic Rob Elder, who spoke specifically about his awareness of small children attending inappropriate movies with their parents, as a parent himself, saying, "I went to a screening of JJ Abrams' 'Star Trek' reboot -- but was so distracted by the fact that there was a newborn sitting a few rows away, it subtracted from my enjoyment. The theater was so loud, I'm sure the kid felt carpet-bombed by the rumbling sound system."

Admittedly, I’ve been surprised to see children at midnight and late-night screenings of movies, but on my list of pet peeves, that falls lower as I figure the parent would know better than I do whether it's too late for their child to be up or whether the loud or dark theater would make their child or baby uncomfortable. Or maybe I’m just conditioned to not have an opinion about how other people handle their children. And honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was at the movies and heard a child or baby making noise, so no complaints there either. In my experience, adults are more likely to be disruptive than children.

As for the use of cell phones, a poll Today did last month suggests an almost universal intolerance toward people taking their cell phone out in the theater, with 97% of people voting "They should never be allowed — watch the movie instead!" The second poll says that 69% claim they never glance at their cell phone during a movie. 29% admit to glancing once or twice but just briefly. It’s understandable that people might find the simple glance at a cell phone to be annoying, considering the light the screen gives off, which can be a distraction in a dark theater. But I’d say that’s a minor offense, the same as it’s a little distracting when someone gets up and steps past you to get to the bathroom or concession stand. In the end, as much as we want to be completely undisrupted while enjoying our movie, there’s no guarantee of that. Of course, if everyone checked their cell phone once or twice during the movie, the theater would be a sea of blinking lights, so let's hope that poll remains an indication that most people really are willing to set aside their gadgets for a couple of hours and enjoy the film.

While cell phones can be annoying at movie theaters, I can’t remember the last time someone actually talked on one during a movie. Maybe I’ve just been lucky or maybe people figured out that it’s unacceptable behavior. And it's also just as possible that people tend to text more than they chat on their phones anyway. But "talking" in general, as Today’s poll suggests, seems to be people’s biggest issue among bad movie theater manners. And you don’t need a cell phone to do that.


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