Don't Ban Cell Phones From Theaters

by Paul William Tenny

ce-cellphone.jpgI just got done reading a story on The Movie Blog called Ban Cell Phones From Theaters. I sympathize with the frustration, but disagree with a couple of things here. John Campea mentions how Australian authorities are claiming that the first instance of The Simpsons Movie being pirated came via a cell phone recording. Everyone seems to be accepting this claim at face value, and I wonder, am I the only person who is calling bullshit here?

Just playing with the numbers here, a two hour film at a paltry 300kbps for video and not accounting for audio at all will cost you about 270mB of storage, and probably drain your battery dead before you get to the end. At 300kbps, the video would be unwatchable. At 600kbps and still no audio, you've doubled it half a gigabyte in size and it *might* be watchable. Kind of.

Maybe they do exist, but I've never heard of a cell phone that can record video with half a gigabyte of flash storage onboard. My fathers digital camera can record video at 320x240 and I'm pretty sure even with 128mB of flash, it couldn't hold more than about 20 minutes of video.

Given the horrid video quality you get from them, this won't be a valid reason to ban phones from theaters for years to come. The other reasons do have some merit, though.
Seeing little lights popping up in the theaters with the quiet little "beep beep bo beep" sounds of people fucking text messaging, and giggling along the way while the movie is on drive me up the frigging wall. No, it's not as bad as people TALKING on their cell phones... but thats like saying being hit in the head with two baseball bats isn't as bad as being hit by seven. It's still a pain in the ass!

I don't go to the theater very often and I've never seen someone text messaging while the movie was actually playing, but I'm sure it does happen. The solution to this isn't banning phones. First and foremost you wouldn't be able to insure that people aren't carrying one unless you pat them down, something the public simply won't stand for. People sneak camcorders in for crying out loud and probably 95% of all copies made from theater screenings are done in empty theaters either by employees, or by someone who paid them off.

A good number of these have their cameras hooked directly into the projection system for audio. Covert recordings are generally not considered the problem here.

However, there are ways to deal with cell phones by disabling the technology altogether.

I'm sitting there watching a movie, getting into it... soaking in it... and then a fucking ringtone of 50 Cent "In Da Club" goes off. GGRRRAAAGGGHHHGG!!!!!! I'm a gentle soul by nature... but I want to drag those people out into the streets and kick the shit out of them so they can walk with a limp like their ringtone hero. How hard is it? You walk into a theater... TURN THE DAMN PHONE OFF!

Yeah, ring tones make the problem about a million times worse, but many people have a legitimate need to have their phones on at all times. IT techs are on-call 24/7. Emergency first responders, doctors, FD and police, government employees, people with sick or disabled parents or other relatives, teens with paranoid parents, or anyone that simply wants to be in touch with the world.

Personally, I see no problem with people going to the theater and not turning their phone off. The only real offense should be when they sit there and talk, rather than excusing themselves into the hallway. And this leads me to..

And I'm sorry... but unless your name has the letters M.D. at the end of it, you don't NEEEEEDDDDD to have your cell phone on you 24/7.

Need, no. Want? Sure. Everyone has the same rights when buying tickets. Any disturbance created by a customer is an offense between them and the theater, not you and them. I want people talking to get thrown out as much as anyone but that's really the theaters decision. If they don't crack down on that, then you've got to assume they don't care, in which case you're (not you John) just whining about it.

You have every right (subject to the theaters rules) to carry as much as the other guy. Just because you turn yours off and he doesn't, doesn't mean you're following the unwritten rule of the road and hence are the good guy, and he's not.

I mean, I understand that people get pissed off at this. I get pissed off at this. But there are a lot of ways to mitigate and eliminate the problem. There are companies that sell special wood paneling you can line the theaters walls with that block cellular signals completely. This is not jamming, it's passive absorption of radio energy and completely legal. This technology, by the way, is over 170 years old.

You can put an usher up in the box with the projectionist to watch for people who open their phones. It's not like they are hard to spot and that people surrounding the guy for 10 seats in every direction won't helpfully point him out once you get down there.

Besides, I think it's far more effective to take inconsiderate people and shame them publicly than it would be to try deprive them of an opportunity to be rude in the first place. Someone who gets hauled out of their seat and thrown into the lobby is going to be far more upset than you are going to be happy, and you can bet your bottom dollar they won't be doing it again anytime soon.


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I posted a similar comment over at the original article. Take a look :).
I certainly agree with most of your points, but the Australian Simpsons pirate is real.

Here's two Australian news sources for you...,23663,22257788-10388,00.html
Oh don't sweat it. I think I was the later poster anyway!

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