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‘Wholly Unacceptable’ Behavior in Cinemas Is Making Staff Feel Unsafe

Young man watching a horror movie at the cinema, looking disturbed.

A new report by the U.K. entertainment union Bectu has found that many of its workers feel unsafe in their theaters because of anti-social behavior from movie audiences. The survey, which had 1,500 participants, found that “wildly unacceptable” incidents were happening across the sector.

70% said that the behavior had become more extreme since the COVID-19 pandemic, with 90% saying that they had direct experience with it. More than half of those who took part said they have thought about leaving their jobs because of it. Bectu said there needs to be “urgent” change.

Most of those who took part in the survey worked within front of house, sound and lighting, stage door, box office, and hospitality. Among the issues raised were racial slurs, sexual harassment and assault, physical violence and threats of violence (towards both staff and other audience members), lewd behavior, mass brawls, and intoxicated cinemagoers.

Philippa Childs, who is head of the union, called the findings “disturbing.”

“People are coming to work fearing for their safety and dealing with behavior no one should have to put up with. Our findings are a resounding call for the industry to do better by its workers, and for audiences to consider and amend their behavior. The scale and nature of many of the instances reported is deeply disturbing and we will be working with the industry to do all we can to drive urgent and tangible change.”

She continued, “What is clear from these responses is that these instances are neither rare nor isolated, nor are they relegated to a certain type of performance or geographical location. Across the country, people are facing regular aggression and abuse simply for carrying out their jobs. This is wholly unacceptable and we urge venues and industry bodies to commit to working with us to tackle this endemic issue.

“What we’ve uncovered is that anti-social behavior extends far beyond relatively minor issues of someone talking during a performance or playing on their mobile phone.”

A film and TV lawyer who recently went to watch a showing of John Wick: Chapter 4 told The Mary Sue that she saw … some very sus behavior. She explained, “There was some commotion on the steps in the middle of the film and it turned out this man was being given a gigantic wedgie!

“[They], must have been doing it for like 30 seconds. No one really did anything and then they ran out. I’d say there were 2 people doing it!”

The union has launched the Safer Theatres Charter in response to the findings of this survey as well as the Anything Doesn’t Go campaign to target poor audience behavior.

(via Bectu, featured image: RgStudio/Getty Images)

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Brooke Pollock is a UK-based entertainment journalist who talks incessantly about her thoughts on pop culture. She can often be found with her headphones on listening to an array of music, scrolling through social media, at the cinema with a large popcorn, or laying in bed as she binges the latest TV releases. She has almost a year of experience and her core beat is digital culture.