Is It OK to Throw Trash on the Floor in the Movie Theater?
There are some fine points of movie theater etiquette we all agree on. It’s rude to use your phone in the middle of a crowded auditorium. You don’t talk back at the screen unless it’s a movie directed by Tommy Wiseau. That sort of stuff. But then there are other issues where the staff of ScreenCrush is bitterly divided. Like the question of cleaning up after yourself. Is it cool to leave your trash on the floor when you leave the theater? Here two ScreenCrush editors defend their respective positions.
Yes, It’s Totally Fine to Leave Trash
By Matt Singer
Look, I do not advocate for messiness in most situations. It is not acceptable to toss litter out a moving car window. Under optimal circumstances, cleanliness is next to godliness and all that.
But the movie theater is a rare exception. In the movie theater, certain types of trash can be left on the floor. Granted anything gooey or liquid, like soda or nacho cheese, absolutely needs to be disposed of properly in a bin. If you snuck something into the theater, it’s on you to remove it. But candy wrappers from candy purchased at the concession stand, like the plastic encasing a box of Goobers (and the box itself) or the individual pieces of paper on each Starburst, is totally fine on the floor.
There’s no easily accessible garbage can at your seat (and in some theaters, there aren’t even cans waiting for you as you exit the theater). If you’re eating something like Starburst, the only options are to let the wrappers silently drop to the floor, or let them accumulate on your lap and then start shoving them into pockets and cup holders. As a viewer, I would much rather have this refuse on the ground, where it can lay peacefully and quietly, not disturbing anyone, than rustling in my neighbor’s hands for 90 minutes as they fumble for another handful of Jujyfruits.
Yes, it means there’s a little more mess for someone to clean up after the movie. But the ushers are already going to be cleaning up all the stray popcorn that’s on the floor anyway. (And I don’t eat popcorn, so all that mess is on you, not on me!) If the theater doesn’t want you leaving those wrappers, they shouldn’t sell messy candies with lots of wrappers in an environment where you’re going to be sitting for so long without access to a garbage can.
When put to a poll on Twitter, the vast majority voted that this behavior is monstrous. (These people apparently don’t frequent every single movie theater I’ve been to in my entire life, where a large percentage routinely left their trash). But several of the actual and former theater employees agreed with me:
Another former employee noted that as an usher “time spent not cleaning a theater is often spent standing around and waiting to clean another theater. The more arbitrary sweeping, the less time there is to kill.”
Look, I’m not proud about this; it’s not good behavior. But I’m honest about it. And I think it is fine. I can sleep at night knowing that when I buy Starburst I am not collecting the wrappers; I’m tossing them on the ground so I can focus on the movie. That’s what I’m there for. As long as you’re respectfully slothy, this is not a big deal.
No, It Is Not OK to Leave Trash, Matt Singer Is A Monster
By Britt Hayes
Matt is (unsurprisingly) wrong here. Would you throw your trash all over the ground outside like some careless jerk? Listen, I know there are people who are paid to clean up after me at a movie theater, and while some of them appear to feel indifferent on this subject, I just ... don’t. Cleaning up after myself is one of the easiest things to do. It falls under the same umbrella as being polite and kind. It’s much more difficult – and takes far more effort – to be rude. Yes, the ushers are cleaning the theater anyway, but maybe that mopey teenager is mopey for an actual reason on this particular day, and maybe by throwing my candy wrappers in the garbage, I’ve made their life a little easier in some small way.
I realize that this sounds like I’m just patting myself on the back for something I don’t even technically need to do, but throwing my litter away is a lifelong habit – and it’s not a bad one, either. I’m not saying that if a piece or two of my popcorn made its way to the floor that I’d go out of my way to pick it up, but tossing my candy wrappers/bags in the trash on the way out the door is convenient and easy, and requires minimal effort or thought.
If you’re a giant movie nerd such as myself (and like Matt claims to be), then you have a certain reverence for the theater. You respect it. It feels like your place of worship, or like home. Would you throw trash all over your own floor? Or go to your parents’ house and toss candy wrappers around the living room all willy-nilly like some obnoxious ingrate? NOPE. I don’t expect other people to clean up my mess because it’s mine. But I get it, this is America, and certain people have a general sense of entitlement. I’m not trying to trash Matt specifically, I’m just saying he shouldn’t expect other people to take care of his trash for him.
Do you clean up after yourself at the theater? Leave us a comment below. And be honest.
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