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Published: Friday, 6/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

COMMENTARY

Shut up and watch the film ... please

BY KIRK BAIRD
CULTURE SHOCK

My wife has a good friend who continuously breaks a cardinal rule of cinema.

She talks on her phone during movies.

I know this because on several occasions the friend has taken a call from my wife in the middle of a film.

“Hello,” the friend will whisper into the phone, to which my wife will reply, “Are you in a movie theater?” “Yes.” “Well, I’ll let you go.” “That’s OK, I can talk.”

I feel like yelling into the phone, “No, you can’t talk. You’re in a movie theater, and people are paying to hear actors, not you.”

Decorum keeps me from being so blunt. That’s also the same decorum so many others appear to ignore these days.

When did it become OK to disrupt others because a conversation about how intoxicated you were the night before, hooking up with a friend, and even a running commentary about the movie as it plays — all conversations I’ve heard in a theater in the middle of a film — is more important than the movie? Mind you, the average ticket price is $10. That’s a lot of money to plunk down to have the movie-going experience ruined by an ill-mannered jerk.

Danny DiGiacomo, director of marketing for Rave Motion Pictures, the Dallas-based company that operates the area’s three largest movie theaters, acknowledges that cell phone use during movies is a real concern.

“One of our primary goals is to give people a place to retreat when they go to movies, and to be away from every distraction, like cell phones and email,” he said. “We do take it seriously.”

Seriously enough that Rave’s new hires are coached on how to handle disruptive movie-goers as part of their employee training program. It’s a simple, two-step process.

“We will go after and warn somebody who is an offender for this and ask them to silence [the phone],” he said.

And if doesn’t work? “We will ask them to leave the theater.

“Although I don’t want to say it is a rampant problem,” Mr. DiGiacomo added, “it is something that happens and we try to protect aggressively against it by watching out for the offense and asking the offender to leave if it gets out of hand.”

Sadly, we have reached the level when it’s no longer commonsense for everyone to know talking on their cell phones is rude and disruptive and discourteous to everyone around them. And for those not smart enough to figure that out on their own, there’s even a prefilm reminder to turn off all electronic devices and not talk during the movie.

And if that’s not enough to curb the problem, what is?

What if cell phones were banned from theaters? Or, at least, patrons had to turn in their phones to a theater representative before the movie and pick up their phones after the movie. That may seem extreme — even too much of a liability for movie theaters or, perhaps, a civil lawsuit waiting to happen — but at the public film screenings I attend in Detroit most everyone is asked to hand over their phone as they enter the theater and to claim it after they leave. This is actually a security measure meant to quell film piracy, but it has the added benefit of lessening noise and light pollution from cell phone use. I’m certainly not opposed to the idea, and when I asked Mr. DiGiacomo about the possibility of implementing such a policy at Rave, he said there has yet to be any discussions on taking enforcement to that level.

“We’re always looking for ways we can better the experience in the auditoriums,” he said, “[but] it’s not anything we’re planning on doing in the near future.”

For the benefit of everyone unfortunate enough to sit near my wife’s friend in a movie, I wish the “near future” was now.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734. Follow him on his blog, toledoblade.com/cultureshock, or on Twitter, @bladepopculture.



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