“Radical Civility” for movie manners

posted by HowardBHaas on June 25, 2009 at 7:40 am

John Kelly of the Washington Post details some of his thoughts on approaching the issue of dealing with bad movie theater behavior.

  1. We hold this truth to be self-evident: People ought to be able to go to the movies without being disturbed by the behavior of others. Increasingly, that behavior includes texting during the film. The bright light of the screen is distracting, taking us out of our reverie. It ought not happen. We are determined to address it.

  2. We start from the assumption that most movie texters are clueless, not evil. They just haven’t thought about what they’re doing.

Comments (12)

HowardBHaas on June 25, 2009 at 8:45 am

Philadelphia’s Pearl /theaters/17993/

has a sign that proclaims cell phone users will be ejected, without refund.

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on June 25, 2009 at 8:52 am

There are few things more annoying during a screening than a sudden flash of white light to take you out of the experience. I don’t know if the Pearl’s policy would work for the larger circuits, but an usher walking in at least once per screening to check for this behavior would be a step in the right direction.

carolgrau on June 25, 2009 at 12:13 pm

People don’t care anymore, only about themselves and whats good for them and at what moment. I remember working the Uptown in DC. we used to close the balcony when we were slow, to try and help the cleaners. People would just move the ropes and help themselves to a seat up there. One guy was sitting up there one day with a camera recording the movie, and got mad when asked to leave. What can you do?

HowardBHaas on June 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm

When was the Uptown balcony sometimes closed? before 1985?
balconies are fun and should be open!

frankie on June 25, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Get the guy from “Targets” to shoot ‘em all !!!

John Fink
John Fink on June 25, 2009 at 8:42 pm

My policy is my phone is shut off as soon as the trailers come on, not put on silent mode. I’ve paid $10+ not to be distracted (this is why I hate watching movies at home and am depressed over the recent trend of VOD and token theatrical releases in NYC and LA substituting a platform art house release, art theaters should take notice too). Why don’t audiences realize this. If a call or text is that important to you then you shouldn’t have gone out to the movies in the first place. If I have a matter that can’t be resolved when the film is over in two hours, then you won’t find me at the movies. I’ll be somewhere were I whomever needs to get a hold of me can.

JohnRice on June 25, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Texting and cell phone use in general, including lighting up the aisle and the auditorium to just check the damn things to see if you have any messages, is a situation which is only getting worse, not helped at all by those larger and brighter displays on newer cellphones.

That and other movie going annoyances such as talkers, extravagant admission and concession prices, incompetent projection, pre-show video commercial marathons masquerading as entertainment are really making me question whether it’s worth it to go to the movies anymore. I say this as a film buff who has attended movie theaters for over 50 years.

IanJudge on June 26, 2009 at 12:38 am

You’d be amazed at how offended some patrons become when we as theater employees ask them to stop texting/using phones. “It’s on silent” they’ll say, as if to assure me that there will be no ringing, to which I explain what a distraction the light is. But still they think I am the bad guy, the rude person. They really don’t think it is wrong to use the phone! I always say “If you want to watch movies and text, you can do it at home – everyone here paid $8 to watch the movie, not your phone!”

It’s just another example of the intense selfishness and inconsideration that abounds these days.

JodarMovieFan on June 26, 2009 at 8:40 am

In my theater going experience, its generally the closer I am to the city , the worse it becomes for cell phone usage. Even though the chains play the silence your cell phone message, you can see that annoying white light of someone texting or even talking on the phone. Maybe theaters should resort to using an in-theater dampening field to kill the signal going in or out.

I remember the few times the Uptown balcony was closed for shows, too, Norelco. It was usually during the slow periods like the fall and during the week when attendance was low, Besides, I’d like to be closer to the big screen to get that immersion experience of theatrical exhibition.

dudleymovies on June 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Ww operate a small theatre in Ulysses Kansas in the southwest corner, and we deal with a lot grade school and Junior high kids, and it seems they all own a cell phone. We end up with a pretty good collection of cell phones on Friday night mostly, because we go and take it a wwy fromthem a tell them thwy can pick it up when the movie is over. A few get mad and leave beflore the movie is over, but thet get over it and when they come back they are real good. We just have to stay on top of it, but we know a lot of ouir customers which helps.

MPol on June 26, 2009 at 10:10 pm

I agree that texting/cell-phone use in the movie theatres is both rude and distracting, as well as being a common problem, and that there’s little, if any regard for other people these days. It’s good to read/hear about some movie theatres addressing that problem and ejecting offenders if they get too out of hand, and requiring them to hand over cell phones, etc. to the movie theatre staff and then retrieve them when the movie is over with. Unfortunately, not enough movie theatres are doing this, which is a problem.

There’s one thing I’ve observed, however: Cell-phone use and texting among customers seems to be considerably less of a problem in movie theatres that show better-quality movies. However, I have also found that in such movie theatres, if I occasionally notice somebody texting or using a cellphone, I usually speak to them matter-of-factly about it, which works: they stop.

It seems to be a far greater problem, however, in many, if not most of the big multiplex cinemas with ten to twenty cinemas or more, with shoebox-sized theatres with smaller screens that look like big, big TV’s. That may be due to the combination of the schlockier movies that’re often shown in these great big multiplex cinemas, the kind of audience that such multiplex cinemas often attract, and the fact that they’re often the kind of audience that totally take offense when told not to text or use their cellphone in the movie theatre.

Come to think of it, I’ve read/heard that Israel has long had a system in place that will cause one’s cellphone, pager or texter, etc., to jam up when then attempt to use it in any kind of public place like that, including a movie theatre.

MPol on June 26, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Btw. that was a great Washington Post article. Thanks for posting it and sharing it with us, Ross.
and Patrick.

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