How to Use Theater Mode on the Apple Watch

Wednesday December 19, 2018 12:47 PM PST by Juli Clover

First introduced in watchOS 3.2, Theater Mode is a simple but useful feature that's designed to prevent the Apple Watch's screen from activating when you raise your wrist.

It's useful in situations where the bright screen can be a distraction, such as a movie or a play, and it's also useful for those who like to sleep with their Apple Watches.

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Activating Theater Mode

Theater Mode is available as an option in the Apple Watch Control Center, so toggling it on and off is simple.


  1. Raise your wrist to activate the Apple Watch screen or press the Digital Crown.
  2. Swipe up from the bottom of the Apple Watch to bring up Control Center.
  3. Swipe up again to access the icon that looks like a pair of theater masks.
  4. Tap the masks.
  5. A screen will pop up explaining theater mode. Tap again to activate it.

While Theater Mode is active, you'll see an the icon at the top of the Apple Watch whenever you view the screen. To turn it off, open up the Control Center again and tap the Theater Mode button.

How Theater Mode Works

When Theater Mode is enabled, the screen will remain dark when you raise your wrist instead of lighting up. It will also stay dark when a notification is received, but you'll still know if you get an incoming text or other alert because haptic feedback remains on.

Accessing Notifications While Theater Mode is On

You'll continue to get a tap whenever there's an incoming notification when Theater Mode is turned on, and to view it, you'll need to press the Digital Crown or tap on the screen.

Tapping, pressing the Digital Crown, or pressing the side button is also how you check the time when Theater Mode is enabled.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
40 months ago
This is great for when I am trying to get my 3 year old to go to sleep, I lay down with him but the watch screen keeps lighting up and distracting him from falling asleep (not that he needs much distraction)... Anyway that's what I'll be using it for since having a 3 year old doesn't allow for much time to go to the theater :(
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago

Do not disturb still exist and it's different than this mode. When you activate do not disturb notifications will be stopped until it's off. Theater mode will not stop your watch to vibrate for notifications, but it will not turn on the screen by your wrist movement and notifications.

Not only that, it will also put your watch on mute and then un-mute when turning off theater mode. Very handy. I can't tell you how many times I look at my watch when at a movie when I feel a vibration, even accidentally. Then I have to quickly hide the screen under my shirt to prevent it from bothering others.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago
This is a great feature, should have been in from the start I think, but better late than never.


[....] and it's also useful for those who like to sleep with their Apple Watches.

I mean I do really like my Apple Watch, but... :D
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago
Good, now I won't get beat up in theaters any more.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago
This might be useful as a "meeting mode" toggle - we'll have to see.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago
If you work a job that causes the screen to come on all the time unintentionally (e.g. Work on a checkout) this could give you loads of battery life back.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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