Are NZ movie-goers losing their manners?

  • 10/09/2018

The New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) brought us some of the best art in the world, but some elite fans are fuming about their fellow film-goers' manners.

For 50 years, the festival has attracted what could be the prickliest crowd of all - serious cinephiles whose heart rates and scowls spike at the slightest of sniffles that aren't their own.

Like multiplexes, the NZIFF screens pre-movie messages reminding audiences to be considerate to others. But fuming film fans say they're not working.

"I get that people come to the cinema to enjoy themselves and have a good time, but at the same time everyone's watching this film together," says film buff Steve Austin.

"If people don't have some control over what they're doing in a social situation, it makes it a poorer experience for everyone."

He told The Project that talking and texting during movies are the two major annoyances on the rise.

"Even if you're whispering, there are people around you who can still hear your 'pssts' rows behind you. It's still annoying."

Bill Gosden, director of the NZIFF, says he's received some pretty extreme proposals from irritated film-goers desperate for silent screenings.

"One of the patrons last year suggested that we actually put snipers in the cinema and shoot the people who annoy them," he says. "Clearly people have very strong opinions."

He says the festival gets its fair share of complaints, ranging from the reasonable to the downright mean-spirited.

"One of the complaints we received last year was people laughing 'inappropriately' during the movies."

Mr Austin says those who have bought a ticket are free to react to films however they feel - within reason.

"Let out hoots and toots and be happy or cry or whatever, I don't care about that. But if you're going to impinge on other people's viewing, then that's a problem."

He's developed a three-tier system for telling other audience members to pipe down without escalating the situation too much.

"The first is to turn around and give a grumpy look, the second one's a well-toned shush. The third is a 'Will you shut up?' Most of the time people seem pretty affronted.

"It makes you feel like you're the lone nerd at the party, but I don't think I'm wrong here."