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Cinema Etiquette, and How Mobile Phones Ruined The Cinematic Experience

In the past ten years, the technology of the mobile phone has been increasing at an exponential rate. The technological advancements of the mobile phone means that most people feel a need to carry them and use them every moment of their waking lives. It is now the first thing we see in the morning and the last thing we see at night. However, not everything has been good since the days of the mobile phone. I would like to pose to you a statement that I heavily believe: the mobile phone ruined the cinema experience.

Source: Getty

To start off, I will explain why I believe that statement is true. Nowadays, everyone is so obsessed with their phones that they can’t even be away from it for two hours. This means that some audience members think it is okay to use their phone during a film at the cinema, and have their light shining in the screen throughout the film. To back this up, I am going to talk about the last three cinema screenings I went to, all within a two day span at the same cinema chain. You will soon realise why I had to make this blog post right now.

1. An afternoon screening of The Current War, with an audience I expected to be respectful, as most people in the audience were of an older demographic. About an hour into the film, an older woman decided to use her phone for a solid twenty minutes, with the brightness clearly set to high. About twenty minutes before the film is over, her and her husband decide to leave the screen.

2. An Unlimited Secret Screening, which ended up being Crawl. Right as the film is about to start, a man jumps into the seat on the opposite side of the aisle from me. For thirty minutes straight, he is clearly on his phone, not watching the film at all. After those thirty minutes, he leaves the screen. What is the point of going to an early screening of the film just to go on your phone and not give it a chance? Also, I expected better from somebody that owns an Unlimited card and clearly goes to the cinema several times a month.

3. An evening one-off screening of The Matrix 4K restoration. Two rows in front of me, in the last thirty minutes of the film, a guy decided to go on his phone and spend his time on Messenger. I know this is a showing of an older phone, but you are in a cinema, not your own house. He stuck around to the end of the film unfortunately, and I had to put up with seeing his phone for a solid 40 minutes. If not even The Matrix can distract people off their phones for two hours, no movie can.

This cinema chain says that they have people coming in to check screens regularly, but clearly in the past few examples of my own they didn’t do an efficient job at this. They also say that it is our job to make them aware of anyone causing disturbance, but I do not deem this to be a fair system. To do this, I would have to leave the screen and miss part of the film myself, something that I hate doing. As well as this, I know reporting it will not only cause no effect if they don’t see it themselves, but also make myself a target against those who use their phones in the screen.

I simply do not get what people get out of looking at their phones during a cinema screening of the film. If you are going in to see a film, you should be wanting to be fully taken in by the story that is shown on the screen. For me, going on your phone during a film causes distractions not only to fellow audience members, but mostly yourself. If you are going to a cinema screening, you are not going to need to talk to anyone for that amount of time, so don’t hold on to your phone as if you expect a call from someone.

I have seen several attempts of people trying to fix this solution, but they are as bad as each other. Whilst they say that staff regulate the screens, they don’t. I have seen a cinema chain offer a system to report someone on their phone during a film without having to get up, but this is done by using a mobile phone to report them. Yep, using a mobile phone to report a mobile phone user. I understand the solution, but it is not a great solution done in practice.

I would have two ways personally that I would block users from using their phones. The first one is a system where you hand in your phone before the screen starts or put it in a locker, and then you get it back after the screen. Whilst I know this wouldn’t physically work in larger cinemas, I think it is a solid solution to not having any chance of phones going off in the screen. The second one, which is probably more convenient for the larger companies, is to block phone signals in and around every screen. If people cannot send or receive messages or 4G on their phone, they will resist going on and phone usage in the cinema will decrease.

So, here’s hoping my next cinema screening is more successful when it comes to phone usage. At least I have never seen someone accept a phone call in a screening as of yet…

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