Picture this: You’ve settled into your big comfy chair in the theater, enveloped in darkness and you’re happily getting swept up in a movie. Suddenly, that beautiful cocoon of darkness is shattered by the light from someone’s iPhone a few rows in front of you.
Now I’m perfectly aware that for some people, this is something of a minor inconvenience that can be easily ignored. However, it’s even easier to avoid.
Just ignore your phone if it buzzes! It’s that simple! What if you can’t restrain yourself from checking your social media?(OMG I GOT A RETWEET) I have a solution for that too — just turn your phone off!
I can hear the dissenting opinions now. “But Pete, what if my house is on fire, or my grandmother just died and I need to answer my phone?”
First, I’m very sorry about the property damage and I hope you’re insured. Same goes for grandma. But if you feel that familiar vibration in your pocket and intuit that it’s a message of incredible urgency, by all means, check your phone. Outside the theater.
Some, like Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, might argue that texting is rude to the film’s creators. While I agree, for me the bottom line is about respecting those around you. I paid my admission fee to sit here and enjoy a film, to drop out of reality for 90 minutes and soak up some cinema, not watch you check ESPN every 15 minutes.
Some theaters have friendly reminders urging patrons not to use their devices during the feature, but few enforce these loose guidelines. The Alamo Drafthouse, on the other hand, has a great policy of tossing out loud and inconsiderate customers. That’s a policy I can get behind. Here’s one of their more famous PSAs(contains NSFW language, beware):
But texting and phone usage is really only one of many problems that seem to plague crowded movie theaters today. Theater etiquette is something I don’t think a lot of people take seriously. For some reason, a lot of people tend to treat a movie theater like their living room. Talking at normal volume to their neighbor, throwing their feet up on the seat in front of them, or refusing to remove a screaming baby from a theater… these are all transgressions I’ve been witness to in the past few years.
But these are all personal gripes of mine. To find out what those within the industry thought, I reached out to Phoenix’s own great microcinema, FilmBar.
“We encourage folks from using cell phones at all during films,” said Kelly Aubey, owner of the theater, which screens cult classics, independent and foreign cinema. “I’ve never heard of a problem with this at FilmBar, though. I think those who enjoy Indie films are a little more respectful of etiquette than those looking for a 5 pound tub of popcorn and a mindless blockbuster with explosions and a formulaic plot.”
Aubey’s biggest pet peeve, comes not from electronic devices, but from people who walk into FilmBar’s theater from the lounge area during a screening.
“I’m increasingly less polite about that one,” said Aubey. “While I can appreciate their curiosity, in the end, it’s a theater. ‘Ever seen a movie theater? Yeah, it looks like that. Trust me.'”
I also interviewed Arizona State University film professor Christopher Bradley, to get his thoughts on theater etiquette as well:
To wrap this up, I believe disrupting a film in any capacity is incredibly rude. It’s inconsiderate to your fellow audience members and disrespectful to the filmmakers. So please, people. Stop it.
What about you? What are some of your personal pet peeves when it comes to the theater? How do you feel about texting in a movie? Let me know in the comments!