Airplanes in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s showed a movie, and people did not have private screens or other devices that offered a choice of entertainment. The old joke went:
“That in-flight movie was so bad, people were walking out!”
American humorist Evan Esar (1899-1995) told the airplane joke in his “Comic Dictionary” newspaper feature in December 1965.
23 December 1965, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Comic Dictionary” by Evan Esar, pg. 1, col. 4:
The only place where you cannot walk out on a dull movie.
5 September 1968, San Diego (CA) Union, “Jerry Lewis Tell Laugh Formula” by Jerry Lewis, pg. C-9, col. 1:
Next, talk only about that which is familiar to the audience. Like going on an airplane flight. Most everyone has done it, including the fellow who said his latest one was just too unpleasant. “The movie was so bad,” he explained, “that half the passengers walked out on it.”
Google News Archive
3 August 1980, Beaver County (PA) Times, “Dangerfield: Successful comedian turns movie star” by Lou Gaul, pg, D3, col. 1:
Dangerfield has made one other movie, but he won’t talk about it. ‘The first movie was so bad,” he said, “that when they showed it on an airplane, people were walking out.”
The Mammoth Book of One-Liners
By Geoff Tibballs
London: Constable & Robinson Ltd.
Madonna’s last movie was so bad that even when it was shown on a plane people got up and walked out.
@ChrisHewitt The in-flight movie was so bad, I walked out.
4:43 PM - 21 Jul 2014
That movie was so bad, they played it on an airplane and people still walked out.
4:31 AM - 13 Aug 2014
Something out of left field
Posted on May 19, 2015
My favorite Leno appearance (Jay was on a lot and he and Dave were great together until Jay fucked it all up), with my favorite Leno joke about a movie on an airplane that was so bad that people were walking out, and Dave calling him on “how old” that joke was.
(The Letterman show from August 16, 1984, at 2:18 of the video.—ed.)