Ask LH: Is It Acceptable To Hold A Place In A Movie Queue For My Friends?

Dear Lifehacker, I have tickets for the midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Unfortunately it isn't reserved seating! My friends won't be finishing work until later, but I have all the tickets and will be getting there quite early. My question is, what are the rules for cinema queuing?

Is it okay to hold their places in line? Should I make up a sign that tells other folks that I'm holding a position? Being mid-30s and not a huge movie buff, this whole experience is new to me. This is a big night for so many people and I don't want to be a dick about it! Thanks, Cinema Newbie

Photo: Getty Images

Dear CN,

There are no fixed and definitive rules when it comes to cinema queuing. Etiquette is determined by the mood of the crowd; particularly those nearby who are directly affected by your actions.

As a general rule of thumb, it's usually acceptable to hold a place in line for one or two people. Any more than that, and you run the risk of pissing off everyone around you.

Watching a new Star Wars film on opening night is a huge event and comradery among attendees is likely to be high. As long as you aren't holding a place for lots of people, the rest of the crowd will probably turn a blind eye.

Just be aware that the event is going to be tremendously packed. There's a very high chance that your friends won't be able to physically reach you, even if the crowd is trying to be accommodating.

This means you will need to save a seat for them once inside the cinema. Agree on the row beforehand so they will be able to find you in the dark and come equipped with drinks/jackets/bags so you can "reserve" the seats around you. Good luck!

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    As a general rule of thumb, it’s usually acceptable to hold a place in line for one or two people. Any more than that, and you run the risk of pissing off everyone around you.

    I agree. No more than double your holding group. But max out at adding more than 5 people.

    Get some helium balloons with weights and draw your friends faces on them. When they arrive, pop the balloons. No one will ever know the difference.

    Whilst I wouldn't necessarily take it up with someone about it, I think unless they arrived with you at the same time and then they were running an errand like queuing for the concession stand, it's not nice that other people who made sure their circumstances allowed them to queue get pushed back a little. Hence my anguish when someone recognised me in the queue and joined me.

    They can hit the back of the line with everyone else that arrives late.

    Can I have a medium diet coke?"
    "Do you want the medium size or the middle size?"
    "What's the difference?"
    "Well, we have three sizes - medium, large and jumbo."
    "What happened to the small?"
    "There is no small. Small's medium."
    "What's medium?"
    "Medium's large and large is jumbo."
    "Okay, give me the large."
    "That's medium."
    "Right. Can I have a small popcorn?"
    "There is no small. Child-size is small."
    "What's medium?"
    "Do adults ever order the child-size?"
    "Not usually."
    "Okay, give me the adult."
    "Do you want butter?"
    "Is it real butter?"
    "It's butter flavoring."
    "What is it made of?"
    "It's yellow."

    Elaine Benes and the Snack Bar attendant... Seinfeld Season 4 Episode 14 The Movie.

    I remember going to the RTA once and taking a number. I was on a lunch break and walked straight out to go get some fast food. I didn't really care if I missed my call because it wasn't urgent.
    Upon walking back in after 25 mins or so, my number was called on the screen. I looked up and moseyed right on to the counter with french fries in hand and a mouthful. I got some seriously WTF glares!

    But in all seriousness I think you should do the right thing and your friends too. If you want to sit together then you could return to the end of the line with them. Think about how you would feel if a handful of people rocked up and stepped in front of you.

    Last edited 04/12/15 9:10 pm

    I'm currently reading Kate Fox's "Watching the English". Australia is sufficiently anglicised that it extrapolates.

    It seems to boil down to "fairness" - what would the average person say is acceptable? Or "reciprocity" - what would bother you?

    My personal take is that a 1:1 ratio is acceptable. So one person jumping in for each person waiting in the queue. Anything more is just taking the piss.

    If they aren't there when you get in line then you shouldn't be able to just cut in. If they are there in line then get out of line to go to the bathroom or something and come back that is a different story.

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