Survey finds a big, and surprising, gap between what young and old people think is acceptable behavior.

Movie theaters in Japan have a lot of things their American counterparts don’t. Draft beer is available in each and every cineplex, for example, and there’s always a gift shop selling programs and other merch for the newest films.

But one thing that’s a bit harder to find in Japanese theaters is loud laughter. Survey site Minna no Koe recently asked its users “How do you feel about people laughing loudly during movies?”, and the 2,908 replies broke down as:

It’s rude: 55 percent
It’s OK: 45 percent

It’s not like Japanese moviegoers don’t like comedies or comedic scenes, though, so why do the majority of the survey participants find big belly laughs impolite? Odds are there’s a connection to what Japanese society considers acceptable behavior in a group setting. While there’s definitely an appeal to the feeling of audience solidarity that comes from watching a movie in the theater, the primary reason everyone is there is, of course, to see the movie, and forcing other people to hear your laughter could be an annoying distraction.

There’s also the fact that humor tends to be more highly subjective than excitement, fear, or many other emotions movies aim to draw out of audiences. Even if a joke lands perfectly for you, it might not even warrant a silent smile from the stranger sitting next to you, and since Japanese courtesy almost always prioritizes not bothering others, it’s not surprising that a lot of moviegoers think that you should save your really loud laughs for when you’re watching a movie in the privacy of your own home.

And before you go assuming that this must be because of stuffy senior citizens who’re wagging their fingers at rambunctious youngsters causing a ruckus during the moving picture show, it was actually the younger respondents who’re more likely to think people should keep their laughter at a low level.

● Respondents 19 or younger
It’s rude: 68 percent
It’s OK: 31 percent
● Respondents 20-29
It’s rude: 58 percent
It’s OK: 41 percent
● Respondents 30-39
It’s rude: 58 percent
It’s OK: 41 percent
● Respondents 40-49
It’s rude: 58 percent
It’s OK: 41 percent
● Respondents 50-59
It’s rude: 52 percent
It’s OK: 47 percent
● Respondents 60-69
It’s rude: 50 percent
It’s OK: 49 percent

So what’s causing the age gap? It could be that in Japan, movie-making/marketing is heavily star-driven, with the lead actor/actress often starkly overshadowing the plot, director, or anything else. Younger fans tend to be the most ardent celebrity worshipers, and so a lot of teens and young adults are probably sitting in the theater because of their personal devotion to their favorite boy band idol who’s dabbling in acting, anime voice actress, or some other performer whose presence prompted them to buy a ticket, and thus don’t want their reverence infringed upon by loud laughers.

▼ “This summer, the producers of Cute Japanese Girl Does Some Stuff bring you their newest creation: Handsome Japanese Dude Does Some Other Stuff!”

Or maybe it’s just that the older moviegoers’ hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, and so they don’t really notice/mind how other people are reacting to the movie.

In any case, before you swear off ever seeing a movie in Japan (and thus never getting to watch a movie while relaxing in a kotatsu), bear in mind that the survey was specifically about “loud” laughing, so it’s not like Japanese people sit in stony silence from every movie’s start to finish. And if you really want to get rowdy, there’re always Japan’s “make-as-much-noise-as-you-want-to” screenings for hits like Your Name, Shin Godzilla, and Commando.

Source: Minna no Koe
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Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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