The timeless distraction was named the most annoying thing about a trip to the pictures, ahead of talking among fellow audience members, a poll for RadioTimes.com found.
The modern problem of mobile phone use came third in the survey.
Tim Glanfield, of RadioTimes.com said: "Watching a movie on the big screen should be a memorable experience; however, we all want to leave remembering the plot, on-screen performances and cinematography, not the people sitting behind us.
"In a digital world it's perhaps surprising to see mobile phone use topped by such a basic and timeless annoyance.
"Perhaps it's time for the cinema chains to change their messaging at the beginning of films: 'Turn off your phone, sit back, relax, don't kick the seat in front of you, and enjoy the film'."
The crunching and rustling of people eating noisy food took fourth place in the poll, followed by those who sit in the wrong seat and then refuse to move.
The sixth most annoying thing for cinema-goers was people walking in and out of the auditorium during the film.
Kissing and cuddling was also an irritation, with public displays of affection being cited by 3.2% of the almost 3,000 people questioned.
General encroachment on one's seat, smelly food polluting the atmosphere, and people slurping their drinks completed the list.
This is the breakdown of the responses to the RadioTimes.com poll:
1. Having your seat kicked - 29.5%
2. Talking - 24.1%
3. Phone use - 15.8%
4. Eating noisy food - 7.5%
5. People who sit in the wrong seat and refuse to move - 6.9%
6. Walking in and out during the film - 5.5%
7. Kissing and cuddling - 3.2%%
8. Someone encroaching on your seat - 3%
9. Eating smelly food - 2.9%
10. Slurping drinks - 1.6%