At Merchoid, we like to have our finger on the pulse of the entertainment industry and lately, a trend has been impossible to overlook. Blockbusters like "Barbie" have not only dominated the box office but have also been infamous for the unruly behaviour they've sparked off-screen. So, we decided to conduct a survey to find out what exactly has been going down at cinemas recently. Crazily, a staggering 86.7% of moviegoers have encountered bad cinema manners from other audience members on their recent trips to the cinema. 


  • An overwhelming 85.8% of "Barbie" viewers have experienced disruptions during cinema screenings.
    • On-screen chatter was the top annoyance, flagged by more than 1 in 4 Barbie attendees.
  • Globally, talking over the film was the chief complaint for 63.6% of moviegoers, while taking phone calls and throwing popcorn and food were the 2nd and 3rd most common issues.


The silver screen lit in July as box office earnings soared to their highest since December 2019. Credit the cinematic dynamism of two unlikely allies: the glam-filled 'Barbie' and the gripping 'Oppenheimer'. It wasn't just the blockbuster promotions that fuelled their success; it was the palpable buzz in real-time audiences and an in-person experience. These two films, despite their contrasting themes, became the ultimate cinematic yin-yang. Fashion-forward movie buffs revelled in the experience, switching effortlessly between mid-century elegance for 'Oppenheimer' to playful pinks (10 shades to choose from!) for 'Barbie' nights.

In an unprecedented moment for cinema, both Barbie and Oppenheimer shattered records by each raking in over £10 million on their opening weekend. The movie hype drew audiences of all ages back to movie theatres in droves, but such popularity also brought some major drawbacks. 

A substantial 85.8% of those who watched Barbie experienced disruptions with talking during the film and phone use or texting being the top grievances. This was reflected internationally as 63.6% of all respondents also complained about audience chatter. Oppenheimer fared better with only 14.7% of its viewers reporting a negative experience, though talking during the film remained the most common peeve.


Merchoid ‘Bad Cinema Etiquette Survey’ 2023

However, talking during the film wasn’t the sole disruptive behaviour observed. During recent film viewings, 29.1% of all attendees reported disturbances from people taking phone calls, while 18.8% noted instances of snacks, like popcorn, being tossed around.

Blockbusters and Bad Behaviour: Is This the New Cinema Norm?

The question is, why? Interestingly, several respondents believe that this deterioration in behaviour has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. The concern that social ‘awareness’ has regressed in recent years is shared by even more respondents, with many stating that individuals have become increasingly selfish and poorly mannered in public spaces. Our E-commerce manager at Merchoid, Michelle Kelly, observes:

"The cinema industry is at a critical juncture, with even big names like Cineworld facing existential threats. Our survey results highlight an urgent issue that can't be ignored—poor audience behaviour is diminishing the cinema experience, deterring some moviegoers altogether. "

The Barbenheimer meme, playing off the contrast between the two films and their release dates generated mass hysteria on social media with many choosing to see the films back to back. Social media users playfully discussed pairing Barbie with a cocktail-filled bottomless brunch and then transitioning to cigarettes and black coffee for Oppenheimer or vice versa. 

The result? Many moviegoers rocked up at their respective cinemas inebriated before Barbie or Oppenheimer had even started. While Barbie and Oppenheimer shattered box office records, drawing massive crowds to theatres, they also spotlighted noticeable lapses in cinema etiquette. Incidents of disruptive behaviour, excessive cellphone usage, and unruly conduct have been widely reported. But interestingly, it’s not just in cinema theatres that bad behaviour is rife. Concertgoers have been pelting musicians with objects, most recently the rapper Cardi-B

Bad behaviour at live events like music concerts and cinema screenings could jeopardise the future enjoyment and accessibility of such experiences for everyone. Many participants in Merchoid's survey expressed a preference for watching movies at home, a habit possibly ingrained during the COVID era. This extended period of home viewing might have diminished some people's self-awareness when returning to cinemas and live events.

"Streaming services and big-screen TVs offer a cinema-like experience at home. And, when you factor in the costs of tickets, popcorn, and drinks, going to the cinema is a significant investment,” notes Michelle, If people don't feel they're getting their money's worth due to poor audience behaviour, they'll simply stay at home next time."

Recent episodes of rowdy behaviour in cinemas leave the question: Will most people opt for streaming movies at home instead of heading back to theatres? While it's hard to control the way people behave, the cinema industry must adapt and innovate to ensure audiences value and respect the shared experience, securing the future of the big screen.


Pssst - You can explore our full range of Barbie merchandise here.