10th Oct2017

Culture Dump #12: Cinemas Are No Place For Phones

by Simon Bland


The jury’s in. The debate’s over. In fact, there was no debate, just a whole load of common sense. If you’re in a cinema, you can’t really justify being on your mobile phone. That’s that. It’s time to face facts when it comes to those who choose a dark room in which to check their empty inbox or send cat memes to their mates. If you’ve made the decision to leave the comfort of your own home in favor of a multiplex or indie screening room, then you’ve temporarily lost the ability to constantly check that mini-torch you keep in your pocket. Sorry about that.

Actually, is sorry the right word? Surely it’s not that much to ask. Two hours of your undivided attention in exchange for something you’ve voluntarily paid money to see in a venue that comes with a few specific social rules? You wouldn’t visit a library to try out your new fog horn yet when it comes to mobile phones and cinemas, people seem to think they’re the exception to the rule. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe it’s a terrifying sign of how knackered our attention spans have become. Either way, it’s an irritating trait that shows no sign of going anywhere.

Cinemas do little to battle it. While multiplexes go all infrared black-ops policing would-be picture pirates, they seem considerably less bothered about doing anything about this regular experience-ruiner. Some have even gone as for as to question whether or not it’s even a bad thing, with AMC head-honcho Adam Aron suggesting the chain launch ‘texting friendly’ screenings. A desperate attempt to keep paying punters on seats that instead sounds like a worrying lack of understanding of their own core audience.

Thankfully, some venues lead by example. Like die-hard film hub The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. These guys have a pretty no-bullshit approach when it comes to mid-film distractions. “If you are a person who likes to talk, text or use your cell phone during a movie, we are not the place for you!” explains their website, shortly before stating that all offenders will be unceremoniously booted.

It’s hard to have much sympathy for distraction-addicts who break every cinephile’s cardinal rule but it’s still worth asking why this even happens in the first place. Perhaps it’s an unexpected side-effect from a generation born into a world of readily available content, maybe movie marketers are contributing to the issue, selling introspective head-scratchers to audiences expecting mile-a-minute romps or it could be that we’re all a little more addicted than we’d like to admit. Whatever the reason, if a phoneless, chatter-free couple of hours is too much for you to stomach, perhaps the cinema’s not for you.

Yes, I did have an unfortunate experience with someone using a phone in a cinema recently, have you? Let me know in the comments below!


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