The code of conduct for a home movie night

home movie night
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How difficult is to watch films at home without interruption? We’d put together a few simple rules for the home movie night.


With cinemas around the country – and the world – in lockdown for the immediate future, for now us movie fans are getting our film fix in our own homes. Oftentimes, homes with actual other people in, who might not otherwise be permanently in each other’s company.

This, then, presents a challenge. Because if you thought the modern day cinema was full of patrons who didn’t quite observe the basics of staying quiet when a film was on, then in a home environment, it’s arguably much, much worse. For all the comments around the web from people who say they don’t go to the cinema so much because they get less interruption at home, let me say this: I’m not sure I believe you.

In an attempt to bring some order to proceedings then, might I suggest the ground rules for properly watching a film at home. Feel free to add your own in the comments…

The film must be selected in advance

It is a flat-out amateur error to get a bunch of people in a room together, and ask them their preference. No. No, no, no. Whatever film is being watched needs selecting in advance, by as undemocratic a process as your household will permit.

Then, in advance of the advertised screening time, there is time to dig out the disc/optimistically press play on the relevant streaming service, with a hope that it’ll bypass the bit where everyone watches a spinning buffering symbol half-way through.

Where possible, physical media – checked for disc cleanliness – is preferred. It should be tested prior to the official start time.

The film in question will be watched on a television

For a proper film night/afternoon/morning, it is strongly advised that instead of everyone craning their necks to beak at a small iPad screen, that the expensive television you had to lug into place is deployed. This has the advantage of not just being a unit that everyone can see and one designed primarily for viewing material, but also it lessens the odds of everyone going bog-eyed too.

A projector screen, should you be in possession of requisite technology, can obviously replace the television.

Once the film has started, the film will not be stopping

The absolute killer rule, here. How many times do you see a cinema stopping a film because somebody needs to go to the loo? Or because they need to get something out of the fridge? Or because someone forgot to feed the cat?


The film keeps going, and that absolutely has to be the case in the home too, barring a medical emergency. Or the dog desperately, desperately, desperately needing the toilet.

Furthermore, the film plays out and standard cinema courtesy rules apply: lights down, nice and quiet, no phones/iPads/Nintendo Switches. Right until the credits start rolling at the end.

Discussion of the feature, as always, must be reserved until after the film.

In an alteration from cinema convention too, it’s permissible to see through said end credits without someone trying to clean around your feet.

But to reiterate: once the play button has been pressed, the pause button will not and should not be deployed.

The film shall start approximately 10 minutes after the advertised time.

A reluctant concession to the home environment.

Due warning of a film starting time needs to be given to all intending to watch it, allowing at least 20 minutes in advance. And then, given the need for people to settle and go and get that urgent thing they don’t need, a film should not start on time. There’s simply no point. Leave it no more than ten minutes before hitting play, but you need to leave a little Tsk Time. Which brings me onto…

Necessary glaring and tutting is called for.

Whilst people are what we’ll charitably call ‘faffing about’ in the grace period before the film starts, note that measures are required to stop this little window being taken for granted. Thus, those in the room who are settled on time to watch the main feature are required to pick from one of the following options, directed at whoever the faffer in question is.

  1. Tutting
  2. Glaring
  3. Tutting and glaring
  4. Huffing
  5. Tutting, glaring and huffing
  6. Vocalising dissatisfaction, perhaps with a choice phrase such as “can you sit the ‘cluck’ down?”

The responsibility for the remote control shall lie with one person, and one person only

The remote control(s) are the closest in the home you get to the projection booth, unless you happen to have a projector and a booth in your home. As such, the person who has the remote controls – and there should be only one – must assume the role of the projectionist.

How many times in the years when cinemas actually had projectionists did you notice a member of the audience being invited into the booth to have a go at screening the film themselves? Precisely zero. The same strict rules must apply in the home.

The correct answer to “can you pass me the remote?” from someone who is not the home projectionist is “sod off”, or perhaps a politer variant.

It is not a free for all. The remote controls must be earned. And never given to anyone 15 or under.

The remote control guardian must observe proper shutdown techniques

At the end of a busy day at your local pictureplex, did you often see the staff leaving the doors wide open as they left for home?

No, they did not.

As such, similar thinking must apply. The disc must be replaced in the box. The requisite equipment switched off. And – the biggest of them – the remote controls must be returned to a place where they can be found the next day.

Ambient temperature decisions need to be decided in advance

Should the auditorium be on the chilly side, then a mixture of options present themselves. Turning the heating up, supplying a blanket, or loudly questioning whoever leaves the door open as to whether “you were born in a bloody barn” are all useful tactics.

If the temperature, however, is on the hot side, then fewer clothes are permitted. Ties should still always be worn for Michael Haneke films.

Switch that motion smoothing horror off.

Listen to Tom…

It is not welcome to comment on volume levels when the bloody disc has only just started playing

As home cinephiles will only be too well aware, differing films and film sources play back at different audio levels. As such, the first few seconds inevitably may offer some volume variance to regular viewing.

The person who put the film in question on is aware of this, and assumes responsibility for finding an acceptable level. For the record, it is rarely, if ever, helpful for someone to shout “turn the bloody volume down” when a showing opens at a surprisingly jolting volume. Likewise, nor is it necessary for the volume to be decreased to a level where only someone with the hearing capabilities of an owl can actually hear the movie.

Respect fellow patrons

The arrangement of seating in the home means that, unusually for a film environment, the audience can see every other person watching the movie in question.

Some basics, then. Keep your clothes on, unless it has been tacitly agreed beforehand that this is an appropriate film to watch disrobed. Do not kick someone else’s chair. Do not put your smelly feet near to someone else.

If you are a child who has been sent to bed so that the grown-ups can watch something that’s not bloody Frozen, stay in bed.

You have been sent to bed for a reason, possibly bribed in order to go there a little earlier than planned. It is in bed you must stay.

Refreshment rules may be slightly relaxed, but with conditions

Given that you don’t need a second mortgage when getting munchies to watch at home, it’s understandable that having a few snacks on hand is a welcome option. The pitifully small glasses that cinemas tend to serve wine in can go for a start, and a more appropriately-sized chalice is permissible. It is also permissable to leave the wine feet next to the remote control supervisor’s feet, should their taxing supervision work require added refreshment.

Likewise, snacks in rustly bags are more tolerable at home, on the strict condition that they are transferred out of their packaging into one of those special bowls that you save for best.

Patrons must clean up after themselves

Finally: the home lacks people coming into the screening afterwards to pick up any stray littler, so a good working rule of thumb here is to politely inform people on their way out after the film to ‘pick their crap up’, and ‘put their glass in the washing up bowl/dishwasher’

With young children, it’s traditional to threaten to withdraw future film screenings, although you do need to tally this with a face that suggests you may carry through with the threat, even though both sides implicitly understand it’s the very definition of an idle threat.

That’s, then, a selection of ideas to bring order and common sense to a home movie night. Do feel free to add more. Such as these…

Rest assured that most of these rules are broken in my house, for every single film. It is not an issue, and I cope with it very well.

Lead images: BigStock

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