Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Memorable Migraine 5: The Movie Theatre Episode

Last weekend I had a much-anticipated date to the movies in Atlanta with one of my very best high school friends, K. First off let me tell you how wonderful and fuzzy this is: K. and I became fast friends my first week of eighth grade when I moved to Alpharetta, Georgia, and we’ve been buddies ever since. We’ve had some lulls (and lolz—sorry, couldn’t resist) over the last 19 years, mind you.

There were some dramatic teenage falling outs (though not many at all) and a few periods when we lived far from each other and were on the verge of losing touch.

But K. moved back to Georgia after a few years away and we’ve actually hung out twice in the last month or so—this is somewhat miraculous given my insane work schedule and seeming inability to get too far from my little Avid Bookshop without feeling unmoored and slightly panicky.

We saw The Hunger Games (spoiler alert: it rocks) last Saturday and had such a blast. We laughed at the same quirky previews, rolled our eyes at the trailers that hinted at terrible upcoming movies, and cried at the same parts of the feature. It felt so nice to have her next to me in a movie theatre for the first time in at least a decade.

But here’s the thing: I forgot to bring my earplugs, and the previews and movie were LOUD. It actually occurred to me that perhaps a law should be passed to prevent movie theatres from playing the sound at such a deafening volume—there’s no way our hearing isn’t being damaged. And the movie itself is action-packed, which means lots of quick camera angles and swooping shots that left me a little dizzy.

After the movie we went to a tapas place to have a snack, and I started yawning incessantly (as I do). As far as I know, K. has seen me in the midst of several migraines, but not many since I actually had a diagnosis and knew what these “bad headaches” were. (I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 21.) I let her know that I was not bored in the least, merely sensing that a migraine was on its way.

As we wrapped up and paid the check, I decided to take a quick bathroom break before dropping her off and driving back to Athens. I walked to the sink in the restroom right as a little girl was drying her hands with one of those incredibly obnoxious XLERATOR â„¢ hand dryers. I winced and covered my ears instinctively as she darted her hands into the air stream and out again, over and over. “Oh,” I realized dully. “I DO have a migraine.” It’s not as if I wouldn’t have realized it soon enough, but knowing that the already-obnoxious sound of the hand dryer had skyrocketed into the realm of intolerable was good enough confirmation for me: the migraine had settled in.

The way home I felt fine enough to drive but was definitely not enjoying the rainy roads and the bright highway lights in my eyes. By the time I got to Athens (a 1.5-hour drive), the head pain was gone and I was just a little pooped. I actually want to see The Hunger Games again (you should see it, too, but be sure to read book one of the trilogy first!) but am a little fearful of a possible migraine.

Have any of you had issues with the loudness/brightness/flashiness of a movie theatre?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Aaron Day
    7 years ago

    As a side thought, you were talking about driving on the dark rainy roads with the headlights blinding you. I have found some cheap and light (weight and lens shade) shooting glasses that are also polarized. I have used them several times when I have a migraine hit during dusk, dawn, night, and rain and have helped considerably. The polarization is a big plus since the glare is cut so drastically. Just thought I would make you all aware there are some of those options out there.

  • Simone Soileau
    7 years ago

    Interesting that yawning was one of your awareness factors of an incoming migraine. I just made the connection a couple of weeks ago. Glad to know I was on the right track and that I know my body better than the Doctors that still have been unable to help. Thanks.

  • cancan
    7 years ago

    I started going to the movies at 8 years old, my migraine headaches started at 8 years old….at the movies. After going home, vomiting, being sick for several hours, having to stay in a dark room with cold cloths on my head EVERY TIME I went to the movies ( usually on Saturday mornings), my Dad finally said, “NO MORE MOVIES”! Well, don’t you think that was a disappointment?, for a young child who loved the movies? He relented many times but each time, invariably, I would go home sick to my stomach and with a migraine. This was the beginning of life long headaches, 65 years of them, pure hell for 20 years until I found a doctor who gave me Fioricet, a God sending drug for me! It allowed me to have a life! I have been going to movies for several years now, got a headache, take a pill and go home being normal. I have a long story to tell….I will do that on the story part of this WONDERFUL site…..finally a place to communicate with others who suffer. I have been praying and asking for a migraine website for a long time, finally someone heard me!!!!!!!!!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    I go once a year or so. I love to go, but must sit toward the back, in the center and it has to be a movie that doesn’t move along too fast – no flashes, etc. Kids often tell me which movies I can see and which would be absolute disasters.

  • Janis Nilson
    7 years ago

    I have to say that the newest phenomenon in the Theaters is the “IMAX” showing. The screen encompasses an enormous portion of the theater itself. So, in essence you are forced to use your peripheral vision to the max. To most movie-goers (and in theory) this is an awesome new invention that can enhance the movie going experience. To a migraine sufferer, this ranks right up there with one of the worst inventions EVER made by man. Personally speaking, it is just too much visual stimuli in such a large amount, that not only does it bring about a migraine…but feelings of vertigo and then the wicked room spins which turn into nausea, join the party. All in all…the volume in standard theaters is quite loud, but for me, not a huge problem. I must note that the popcorn smell is fantastic. But by my experience, and in my opinion, if you are a Migraine sufferer, save the$18 ticket price for the “IMAX” movie experience. Not only will you save cash, but you will save yourself from another unnecessary AND possibly preventable migraine attack! Thanks for letting me chime in here! 🙂

  • Carolyn Shaw
    7 years ago

    Yes! movies are definately a problem for me. Especially loud action movies. I must sit as far back as possible and I look away from the screen often. Thanks for the suggestion of wearing ear plugs. I will try that as the noise can be a problem too.

  • Jennifer Bonner
    7 years ago

    I Love movies, When my children were much younger, I quickly figured out they were a migraine trigger. Not only that, getting up to go to the brightly lit bathroom, teeming with horrid smells.(part of my migraines cause me to be super sensitive to odors, even if no one else can smell it).
    Walking through the arcade area, to get to loud, bright, smelly restroom is a nightmare in its’self! I become very disoriented, and dizzy.OH, and WHY does the carpet at the movie theaters have to be some Alice in Wonderland crazy color, swirley, pattern? I digress.I read the Hunger Games. I was determined to see the movie, more so than my kids! It was Great! I did get a migraine, but I came prepared, meds, earplugs& sat as far back as we could. The ride home was not so good, but my family was so happy I went to the movies with them&I felt like I had accomplished something. To many people that may not seem like an accomplishment, but fellow migrainures will certainly understand!

  • Liz Reidhead
    7 years ago

    I am the same way with movies. I don’t go often but when I do I look away when the lights are flashing from light to dark, if they do that panning where they circle the camera around and around, or fast chase scenes that make me dizzy. Ear plugs help but I never never never go to a 3D movie, those are the worst, they will definitely bring on a migraine within minutes. I’m so glad you were able to make the drive home, night driving is out of the quesetion for me, the oncoming lights makes me instantly sick.

  • Suzanne Johnson
    7 years ago

    Whether at the movies or on TV, I can’t handle bright flashing lights or quick flashing pictures. A minute too long and BAM! full blown migraine. I’ve turned my head away from many commercials and programs. Thanks goodness my husband is usually there to tell me when its over so I can resume my watching. And the newest thing around here are these excessively bright flashing billboard signs. It’s hard to drive and not catch that out of the corner of your eye. Not pleasant.

  • Karen Hamilton
    7 years ago

    I had similar experience with the Hunger Games. He theater was crowded, so we sat close, the scenes did a lot of swooping, it was loud, and there was a lot of bright to dark scenes. About 10 minutes in, I started feeling dizzy and carsick, and by the end of the movie, I had a full-blown migraine with nausea, photophobia, and vomiting. I’ve had the experience at movies before, but never so quickly. The pain by the third day was as bad as any that I’ve had. Be curious if others had this problem with the Hunger Games.

  • Elaine Gross
    7 years ago

    Wow! I can’t believe you actually did that! That was very brave. My days of going to movie theatre’s are long gone. Just the thought of it gives me chills. The whole scene is like a migraine waiting to happen. I’m glad you survived.

  • Marietta Johnson
    7 years ago

    I rarely go to the movies… and perhaps this has something to do with it, although I never really connected the dots.

  • Kim Frank
    7 years ago

    Yes, I too have had headaches from movies, the ones that seem to bother me the most are the 3d ones. Almost every time I see a 3d action movie I get a migraine. Hate that it happens, there are so many good ones that are out, and my kids LOVE them.

  • Miriam Nockenofsky
    7 years ago

    haha, that used to happen to me all the time, but I would have a major full blown migraine and one time had to be put into the hospital, so I don’t go to movies anymore, I wait for it to come out on dvd or blue ray and netflix became my best friend!

  • Poll