I'm mad as hell, and you're not going to text anymore!
July 19, 2007 11:21 PM   Subscribe

How do I take revenge on the cell phone jerks in the movie theater? Answer not just for me, or for #1, but for all of us.

Harry Potter, IMAX, $11 tickets, some guys come into the movie late, they're texting during the movie, especially towards the end. It's a five-story-tall screen and somehow their little phones blaze brighter than Harry's damn wand. So I lean over and ask, "Hey, could you put your phone away? Thanks." He brushes me off with a "Don't worry about it," and continues thumb-typing away. It's too late in the film to bother calling an usher, and the people around me asking the guy to stop does no good. This cell phone asshattery is commonplace now, and my fuse has run out. What can we do about this? What actions can one take to get these people to watch the movie they paid $11 to see, or get them the hell out? Don't hold back, I want to teach them a lesson. I want a handbook for the movie theater superhero.
posted by buriednexttoyou to Society & Culture (80 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
This will never improve until movie theaters place cell jammers inside. Why this hasn't been done is beyond me.

There is simply no reason, at all, to ever place a cell phone call from inside a theater.

Unless you are willing to ask the guy to step outside and settle it there's not really anything else you can do.

I really don't care to go to the movies anymore anyway. Wait 3 months and see it in full digital splendor at home in your underwear with your own popcorn and pause button.

Seriously, I think the "movie theater" is 10 years from being an anachronism.

When I was a teen if we had 60" screens and surround sound we would have quite literally never gone to the movies.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:27 PM on July 19, 2007


I believe the traditional approach is to smack them in the head.
posted by pompomtom at 11:31 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Buy a few of those candy-filled plastic cell phones (do they still make them?) eat the candy and throw the cell phone container at them. You'll have a snack and possibly shut someone up/stop them from texting. Kill two birds with one stone!
posted by daninnj at 11:37 PM on July 19, 2007


When I was a teen if we had 60" screens and surround sound we would have quite literally never gone to the movies.

Maybe you have that, but 95% of the population doesn't, and most never will. A lot of people have more important things to buy - like say, food and rent?

If asking the person doesn't work, there's really not much you can do. Social stigma keeps most people in line, but if they don't listen to you, the only person they'll listen to is an usher kicking them out.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:39 PM on July 19, 2007


I once read an awesome story about some guy who took someone cell phone and chucked it at the screen. Apparently he got applause from much of the theater, and the phone's owner was too humiliated/shocked to do anything.

Short of taking matters into your own hand, I think the only real response is to ask the theater staff to intervene. Even if it's late in the movie as you say, it's really the only way to remedy the situation and get the guy to realize what a prick he is. Short of taking his phone and throwing it at the screen, that is.

Why go to the movies in the era of BitTorrent?
posted by fogster at 11:40 PM on July 19, 2007


It's never too late to call an usher, it's their job. The last movie I went to where someone wouldn't stop fiddling with their phone, the guy was escorted out by a pair of surprisingly large ushers after 3 people went out simultaneously to complain. Demand a refund if the theater management cannot corral unruly patrons: enough of that kind of revenue bleed and the management will pull their act together.

Beyond the civilized approach? How much are you willing to risk getting punched in the face or causing a bigger disturbance to your fellow movie watchers than the cellphone user? I've fantasized about blackening their little LCDs with spray paint, of zapping it to death with a push of the button on my cleverly concealed HeathKit Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, with just grabbing the damn thing and lobbing it across the darkened room, all actions I'm as likely to take as becoming a Quidditch Chaser.

On preview: Daninnj's post reminded me of something that's largely gone away with the loss of balcony rows: the traditional way to get a talker to shut up during a movie was to pelt him or her with half chewed Milk Duds.
posted by jamaro at 11:42 PM on July 19, 2007


"This will never improve until movie theaters place cell jammers inside. Why this hasn't been done is beyond me.

This won't happen because emergency responders rely on their cell phones and pagers.

I think it boils down to getting your own cell phone jammer, which is a bad idea due to the above, confronting them yourself, or having the ushers do it for you.
posted by Manjusri at 11:51 PM on July 19, 2007


Alternately, it's just not that big of a deal. I don't use phones in a theater, but different people have different social norms (I was raised in a culture where it's normal to talk through weddings and funerals) and some perspective can't hurt.
posted by anildash at 11:53 PM on July 19, 2007


If it's worth asking us, it's worth calling an usher.

Unless what you're after is revenge fantasy material, in which case I recommend the Darth Vader hand crush.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:40 AM on July 20, 2007


someone throw a milk dud at anil :)

I think the problem started when the guy rudely ignored a polite request to put the phone away. Whatever he was texting, it was trivial, and it was annoying lots of people. I wouldn't consider societal norms in that situation. I would think, "you're being a dick, now your cell phone must die!"
posted by Chris4d at 12:41 AM on July 20, 2007


They should jam the damn theaters and put up signs so that medical personnel know they shouldn't go in there. What you should do is mention to the theater manager that you won't be back until they jam cell phones, demand a refund on your ticket, and ask if there is a mailing list to inform you of their new cell phone jamming policy.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:53 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's illegal to jam cell phone signals in the US, but if you want to inquire in a huff about a theater's new cell phone jamming policy, I'm sure you'd be providing the staff with mild entertainment.
posted by item at 1:01 AM on July 20, 2007


I find Sunday afternoons are a great time to go to the movies. It's the same experience but there are a lot fewer people and they actually want to watch the movie. So you avoid the situation entirely.

I understand your pain though. My friends usually don't notice the cell phone lights, but once I see it in my peripheral vision it drives me nuts. So whatever revenge you end up taking, if I end up on the jury you won't be seeing any jail time.
posted by Gary at 1:12 AM on July 20, 2007


One option might be to read his text messages and make derisive comments to him about what he's writing. Annoy him more than he annoys you. Might be considered a little passive-aggressive, but since the direct approach didn't seem to work, maybe the guy was in for it.

But in any case, getting the ushers to handle the problem is probably the best thing to do.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 1:31 AM on July 20, 2007


"It's illegal to jam cell phone signals in the US, but if you want to inquire in a huff about a theater's new cell phone jamming policy, I'm sure you'd be providing the staff with mild entertainment."

That is 100% correct. And if the theater ever did start jamming cell phones, I would stop going to the theater. I don't use my phone before or during the film. I generally forget to turn the sound back on until the vibrations remind me. But if the theater started blocking cell phone signals and a family member or friend needed my assistance and I didn't know about it for two or three hours, I would be livid.

Beyond that, if the theaters started blocking signals, what would come next? The post office? Restaurants? You place of employment? Come on now... of the over 224 million people in the U.S. that have cell phones, how many of them are spoiling your movies? People drive like crap on the highway all day long. If we close the on-ramps, people will stop driving like crap on the highway.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 2:36 AM on July 20, 2007 [5 favorites]


If you desire a handheld EMP device that will actually destroy their cellphone with a button-press if held within an inch of the phone, I think that is not only do-able, but probably quite simple to build.

However I recommend just grabbing the phone and walking out with it to find an usher to hand it to. Oh, and some burly mates in the theatre with you :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:38 AM on July 20, 2007


It's illegal to jam cell phone signals in the US, but if you want to inquire in a huff about a theater's new cell phone jamming policy, I'm sure you'd be providing the staff with mild entertainment.

Note that cell-phone jamming is not required to block reception - theatres can quite legally block reception passively with special paint, or wall fittings, etc. I think some theatres are experimenting with this, but couldn't cite anything.

No-one has a guarantee of good cellphone reception indoors in any building. Theatres wouldn't need to go all militant, just let slip that their building has crap cell reception :)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:48 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Theaters in a cell-phone jam.

Okay, blocking instead of jamming. Much more expensive, but do-able.

But you are certainly within your rights to demand your ticket money back when someone ruins a movie for you by being disruptive. The theaters can pay ushers to look in once and a while and tell people to cut that crap out. They don't because most (American) theater patrons are sheep (or don't care) when it comes to complaining about disruption.

All that said, try not to let rage ruin a movie for you. Disruptive assholes really aren't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

B(oYo)BIES, it's not that there are that many people spoiling movies, it's that there is always at least one person doing it in any given blockbuster release (so far the art house movies seem less disrupted to me). If they sat in the back text messaging in a little cell phone ghetto, I wouldn't care. A lot of Restaurants would gladly ban or jam cell phones if they could because of the voice immodulation idiots. As for emergencies, you can always leave the theater number as your outgoing message so they can come in and find you, but I'd feel like a type A control freak if I couldn't shut off my phone for two hours without taking a precaution like that.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:11 AM on July 20, 2007


I'm sure the theater's would put up a sign saying they were blocking reception. It'd be a selling point.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:12 AM on July 20, 2007


Also.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:15 AM on July 20, 2007


Active jamming is against the law.

Passive jamming is perfectly legal, but the problem is that it has to be built into the theater during original construction. It's really tough to add it later. What you have to do is to make the theater into a Faraday cage.

theatres can quite legally block reception passively with special paint, or wall fittings, etc.

You're not going to do it with paint or wall fittings. It's not that simple. What you have to do is to cover all of all four walls with copper sheeting or fine screen (or some other metal e.g. aluminum), and ground it. (In principle you'd also need to do the floor and ceiling, but at microwave frequencies that isn't really needed.

I might mention that active jamming is not only illegal, it's also damned tough to do for CDMA. Jamming any of the TDMA systems is a lot simpler because you only have to block the paging channels and it doesn't take much fuzz to render those useless. Bu for CDMA you have to jam the entire allocated spectrum (all told, maybe a hundred megahertz), and the noise level has to be huge at all frequencies because CDMA is extremely robust in the face of interference. (Ah, the wonders of coding gain!)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:00 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


i had the same problem at o of the p, tried using expelliamus! on the jerks but it didn't work.
posted by sleep_walker at 4:01 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Poor a cold drink (with lots of ice) down the aholes back. This usually gives plenty of incentive for the offender to leave the theater. Otherwise, a taser (or milder generic version thereof) might be useful if this happens a lot.

Get this often enough over here in South Africa. Pisses me off to no end. And it isn't anyone on emergency call, those people go to the other cinema in town. But where I go, I'm paying only $1.16 to see current movies, so I don't complain too much. (Yea, much cheaper for 2 to the cinema than to rent a DVD).
posted by Goofyy at 4:05 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


If the theatre isn't full, you could just move seats. I don't know what its like where you are but I've never been to a cinema that was full or even close to full.
posted by missmagenta at 4:14 AM on July 20, 2007


You're not going to do it with paint or wall fittings. It's not that simple.

Yes it is. As you yourself pointed out, all you need to do is make the theatre into a faraday cage. If you think a grounded conducting surface cannot be applied by paintbrush, you're not up with the times :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:18 AM on July 20, 2007


There's nothing to do except ask politely and then call an usher if you don't get anywhere.

You're basically dealing with sociopaths and it doesn't make any sense to take their actions personally; if it makes you feel better, you can think of them as the equivalent of bad weather or persistently barking dogs. You can never truly beat them, because they aren't playing the same game as you, but maybe you can take some consolation from the fact that you wouldn't swap places with them either.
posted by teleskiving at 5:06 AM on July 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


You know as a patron you're not going to get involved in a confrontation. And really, the usher? Another reason people are avoiding the theaters, is asking some 21 year old to do this (especially with a larger party) isn't going to 'happen' either.

Now, theaters ought to use the same approach to piracy that they do with cellphones (that they ought to do frequent spot checks etc.)

But, if you are willing to make the sacrifice:
Google cell phone jammers.
Yup, illegal in the US - not a single case prosecuted.
And this is even more interesting: a 70 sec blackout jammer. If this was available, I'd get one - for $70.
posted by filmgeek at 5:16 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Take a spray bottle and squirt the cel-user with it when they're not looking. Works on my cat...

Also, the Milk Dud idea is tried and true. If you don't like Milk Duds, just take a napkin and a straw in to the theater with you. Spit balls are more accurate anyway, and all you lose is a tiny piece of napkin.
posted by Pecinpah at 5:24 AM on July 20, 2007


If the theatre isn't full, you could just move seats. I don't know what its like where you are but I've never been to a cinema that was full or even close to full.

Sadly, as theatre attendance rises, so does the chance of being in the vicinity of a douchebag, be it a cell-chatting, talking, or otherwise stinky variety.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:43 AM on July 20, 2007


Again, DIY.
posted by scalefree at 5:45 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tell the ushers you think he's using his cell-cam to pirate the movie.
posted by aramaic at 5:54 AM on July 20, 2007 [8 favorites]


I like the squirt-gun/spray bottle idea. As Pecinpah said...works on the cat...and is annoying without actually being harmful.
posted by desuetude at 5:59 AM on July 20, 2007



Beyond that, if the theaters started blocking signals, what would come next? The post office? Restaurants?


Actually, I would put restaurants first, but I like the way you think.
posted by bingo at 6:08 AM on July 20, 2007


But if the theater started blocking cell phone signals and a family member or friend needed my assistance and I didn't know about it for two or three hours, I would be livid.

You actually let them out of your sight for long enough to see a movie? What the fuck is wrong with you?!?!?

Actually considering bringing a squirt bottle to the movies now, thanks Pecinpah. The kind where you can rotate the nozzle so it shoots a solid laser of water 10 feet with extreme accuracy.

Always remember that you can leave most theaters at any time before the movie ends and get a refund or voucher. If you're bothered to the point where the movie is ruined for you, it's best to just leave and come back with your voucher later on-- vome late on purpose and just catch the last 20 minutes or whatever you missed. Might not work out so great in IMAX.

I have vision problems and am very easily distracted by cell phone screens in my peripheral vision. I have had to start sneaking in drinks in glass bottles so that I'm less tempted to hurl my drink across the room at them. If the offenders are sitting too far away for me to confront them, I just practice nonattachment and dissolve my anger the good old-fashioned way, but if they are in range, I will so totally say something and start something.

Ultimately, just try to remember that it's just a movie, and therefore you can either leave at any time (no matter how much you feel you shouldn't have to) at no expense, or you can try to accept the situation for what it is and not let it get to you, or you can initiate an aggression game with a stranger. Nothing wrong with that last as long as you are prepared for any and all consequences (and sometimes, it IS worth it).
posted by hermitosis at 6:10 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've noticed that the more affluent the neighborhood, the more well-behaved the movie watching patrons are. I'm sure it sounds classist, but it's a trend I notice. If it's a comedy or action flick, I'll go to a theater in my neighborhood, which is a working class, average American neighborhood. If it's a drama or foreign film that requires concentration and a quiet atmosphere, I'll drive my Toyota to a theater with Benzes and BMWs in the parking lot.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:16 AM on July 20, 2007


If you want to do something a little more passive-aggressive, you can bring a small spray bottle to movies and fill it with bleach. Spray the person's jacket or something. Don't get it wet, just use a light mist that they won't be able to feel on their skin. When they get home, they'll be heart broken to find that their favorite article of clothing is now only suitable as a dust rag.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:19 AM on July 20, 2007


you can bring a small spray bottle to movies and fill it with bleach

Um, that's a terrible idea. What if you miss? I'd be indescribably mad if I was stuck sitting next to a douchebag in a theater and got my clothes ruined because some other douche couldn't aim or didn't bother to take into account the fact that spray bottles, you know, spray.

I've found that if asking politely doesn't work, summoning my evil death growl and telling the person again to fucking stop it now (combined with the inevitable applause from everyone around us) usually works.
posted by AV at 6:43 AM on July 20, 2007


When they get home, they'll be heart broken to find that their favorite article of clothing is now only suitable as a dust rag.

And they will connect this to using their cell phone in the movie theatre how?

Alternatives to evil death growl include mom voice and WTF dude! voice.
posted by desuetude at 7:06 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]



If you want to do something a little more passive-aggressive, you can bring a small spray bottle to movies and fill it with bleach. Spray the person's jacket or something. Don't get it wet, just use a light mist that they won't be able to feel on their skin. When they get home, they'll be heart broken to find that their favorite article of clothing is now only suitable as a dust rag.


That might or might not work as revenge but it wont shut them up during the film. Plus whats the point of revenge if you dont get to see their reaction.
posted by missmagenta at 7:07 AM on July 20, 2007


The only thing I have to add is that if you do have to resort to going to grab an usher, demand a refund since your experience was ruined by having to get up near the end of the movie. It's ultimately their responsibility to make sure shit like that doesn't happen, and it really wouldn't be hard to do without relying on customers leaving the movie to come complain before taking action./ille
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:10 AM on July 20, 2007


This didn't occur at a movie, but I feel like it comes to bear on the situation common in movie theatres:

I was at a festival concert back in April where I felt like the concertgoers were blatantly disrespecting and ignoring a good band—many of them drunkenly yakking or texting on their cell phones as they wandered back and forth in front of the stage. The band noticed this, and started making sarcastic comments about the audience's lack of attention.

The situation seemed very frustrating to the band—a nationally known touring act—and at one point I turned to my friend, who had traveled a long way and paid good money to see the show, and told him, "You know, I can't take this anymore. Just wait 'til the the next person with a cell phone walks by..."

About a minute later, this prissy, half-drunk, pink mini-skirt-and-tube-top–wearing chick with a RAZR glued to her face walked by, yakkin' it up...and I just reached out and closed her phone. Simple as that.

She got this shocked look on her face, which quickly turned to anger, and she stood off about a foot or so from me and did that little lunge that would once have been accompanied by a little "Z" of snaps. She sputtered something about how I couldn't do that, who the fuck was I...and I just dismissed her with a wave of my downturned hand, without even deigning to look at her again.

She glared at me for a second, then huffed off. After all, what could she really do? I didn't assault her. I didn't steal her phone. I didn't even touch her. I just closed her phone—and I didn't see her again for the rest of the concert.

I closed a few more people's cell phones after that, but none of the reactions I got were as spectacular as that.

In any case, that's what you need to do the next time this happens—just reach out and close the damn phone.

'Cause really—what exactly are they going to complain about, and to whom?
posted by limeonaire at 7:11 AM on July 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


I have seen a couple movies in the Boston Commons Cineplex. I get no signal in there unless I pull my phone out of my pocket and hold it up in front of my face.

I didn't realize this during the first movie I saw there. I'd gotten a series of increasingly frantic calls from someone who needed my help.

It sucked.

Some people are just ass hats.

Why do other people have to be bent on this kind of retaliatory escapade? Don't go to movies when they are packed. Wait a week or two and then enjoy the sixteen feet of personal space afforded you. Problem solved.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:14 AM on July 20, 2007


Dob them in for recording the movie on their cell phone's camera. They'll be arrested as terrorists.
posted by wackybrit at 7:15 AM on July 20, 2007


…fill it with bleach…

Oh, super idea. Just make really sure not to get it in anyone's eyes. Or to let it leak on your own stuff.
posted by adamrice at 7:21 AM on July 20, 2007


You might be interested in this: Tattletale Button. It seems like a good idea, but I like NY Magazine's version better.

--FCOD
posted by flyingcowofdoom at 7:24 AM on July 20, 2007


Without making MORE of a scene that will distract even more people and possibly make you look like the bad guy, all you can really do it go get the manager and let them take care of it.
posted by The Deej at 7:43 AM on July 20, 2007


Please don't go squirting bleach at anybody. But a squirtgun of water would be a good way to express yourself. Once you've asked politely, if the behavior continues, get an usher. Since getting the usher ruins your enjoyment of the movie, ask for a refund or a free ticket.

And anybody who feels they need to be available during a movie (babysitter, on call at work, etc,) should make sure they read a text message as discreetly as possible, and go to the lobby if a call or text reply is needed. Some movies are more fun with an audience, but not if the jackass proportion gets too high.
posted by theora55 at 8:10 AM on July 20, 2007


This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. It seems that more than half the time when I'm at the movies, there is someone doing something rude - talking loudly, on the cell phone, etc. I am normally a calm, easy-going person, but this gets me spooled up in a nanosecond! But in answer to your question...

There's not much you can do. Simply asking the person to stop will, in my opinion, result in either 1) you being ignored (and probably getting "what an idiot" look), or 2) being confronted. Because, let's face it, the offender thinks he is doing nothing wrong - otherwise he wouldn't do it. So obviously you're the one with the problem.

Calling the usher? Not worth it. I can't remember the last time I saw an usher in a theater. Even when there have been technical problems with the movie, just finding someone to address them is difficult. And on the off chance you do find an usher, what can you expect this 17 year old, minimum wage earning kid to do? (If you thought you were afraid of the 230-pound skinhead with the cell phone, how do you think Junior will feel?)

What I do to keep the potential for assholery down to a minimum is a two-part strategy: 1) Wait until the movie has been out at least a couple weeks. 2) Go to an afternoon showing. This ensures a mostly empty theater - less people means less chance for assholes.

I keep convincing myself that ONE OF THESE DAYS I am going to grow a pair, and confront the offenders. But so far...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:17 AM on July 20, 2007


Give them one of these:

Movie Manners Courtesy Cards
Urban Asshole Notification Cards
posted by MsMolly at 8:23 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Squirting even water, in our age of terror-of-terrorism, could get you a nice visit to the county lockup until you make bail.

If you squirt bleach, you could do hard time.
posted by Malor at 8:29 AM on July 20, 2007


In my experience, shushing someone is successful about 2/3 of the time.

The poster's problem is cell phone screen brightness though, which can be very distracting from yards and yards away. If ANYONE sitting ahead of me in the theatre opens their phone, I can see the flash. It's just a second of distraction here and there, but usually you begin to see that it's the same one or two people doing it over and over, and then it's easy to get steamed.

Could be worse; at a recent screening of Hot Fuzz, a guy a few rows ahead of me in one of the handicapped-access seats would drop what sounded like a pile of electronics every twenty minutes or so. Then I heard him making complicated throat noises and he actually turned and spat a loogie onto the floor. By the end of the film he'd actually progressed to extreme hold-one-nostril-closed-with-one-finger, blow-snot-out-the-other action, all over the floor near his seat.
posted by hermitosis at 8:30 AM on July 20, 2007


Remember, texting in a theater is not a crime, but ASSAULT is.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:35 AM on July 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


You're basically dealing with sociopaths

I really, REALLY don't think so. Rude people do not equal sociopaths.
posted by agregoli at 8:50 AM on July 20, 2007


Simple solution for emergencies:

Set your phone on vibrate.
Leave the theatre if you need to take a call.

Sheesh.
posted by desuetude at 8:56 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


blue_beetle - my wife repeats that same mantra when I'm fuming in the seat next to her. Fantasizing is fun and all, but I'm not so sure a brief moment of dubious heroism is worth an assault charge on your record. Or getting the shit kicked out of you by some toughguy on a kidney transplant waiting list.

I find Netflix to be a nice alternative to taking in a flick with the hoi polloi.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:19 AM on July 20, 2007


I've noticed that the more affluent the neighborhood, the more well-behaved the movie watching patrons are. I'm sure it sounds classist, but it's a trend I notice.

I'll second this as I've found it to be pretty much 100% true all over the world. Theaters in affluent neighborhoods deliver a much, much better experience than more popular theaters. This includes everything from the behavior of the patrons to cleanliness. So you're just going to the wrong theater. Find one where people know how to act and let the management know that you appreciate the respectful environment compared to other theaters.

(Though a cellphone light is nothing. Go to Times Sq on a Saturday night and you can see people literally dancing in the aisles and having food fights in the front of the theater. It gets completely out of control and the theater staff just couldn't care less.)
posted by nixerman at 9:26 AM on July 20, 2007


As maddening as the texting/cellphone/etc. is, trying to get "revenge" on the person is probably the wrong approach to take. Escalation is not a wise approach to conflict resolution.

Late in the movie or not, alert an usher. After the movie (especially if the usher does nothing or is unsuccessful), talk to the manager and make it clear that you expect compensation.

This is what my brother does, and it generally nets him a refund and a free ticket.

(The caveat being that he is a type-A personality, which this approach pretty much requires; I'm the kind of person who just sits there and tries to ignore it.)
posted by camcgee at 9:26 AM on July 20, 2007


But if the theater started blocking cell phone signals and a family member or friend needed my assistance and I didn't know about it for two or three hours, I would be livid.

Thus does technology facilitate pathological anxiety disorder.
posted by gum at 9:33 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


It pisses me off when this happens but honestly asking them to shush -or if you are really pissed off asking the usher to get them removed or your money back- is your best bet. The idiotic suggestion to spray them with bleach should be ignored at all costs.

I have found that this is much less likely to happen when going to art house cinemas or when you go when teenage mobs of fuckwits are unlikely to be in attendance (avoiding Friday/Saturday nights and the like). So depending your

It's like when people in front of you use a multitude of cards at the ATM. Yes, you feel murderous for a slight second but then you remember you are a reasonable person and worrying about something like this is utterly pointless.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 9:34 AM on July 20, 2007


BTW, all the people recommending physical assault are clueless. Theaters are very poor places to pick a fight. Because there's literally a big audience sitting there when you attack somebody in a theater they are much more likely to huff and puff and escalate the conflict. It's not like a bar where you might stare somebody down or put them in their place. I've seen situations where a row between two idiots escalates into a brawl in the parking lot involving 30 people and 17 cops. Not pretty. If somebody's being especially rude, yes, throwing your soda at might be satisfying, but you're likely to only excite their rude behavior and, if they know it was you, incite them to respond in a showy manner as you are essentially calling them out in front of a large group of people. The results can get nasty pretty quickly so don't do it unless you are ready to throw down. The appropriate solution (since fighting idiots in a theater is just so tacky) is almost always to get up and leave immediately and get your money back. You don't need to put up with rude behavior but you also need not incite such public violence.
posted by nixerman at 9:37 AM on July 20, 2007


Apologies for the incomplete sentence above.

It should have read 'depending on your location or taste in movies an alternative cinema or going at different times might be best.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 9:38 AM on July 20, 2007


In NYC and some other places, they will only give you a refund or a voucher if you leave BEFORE the movie ends. Which is to say, if you stay for the end of the movie and then complain, you will probably just have to complain harder and to more people to get it taken care of.
posted by hermitosis at 9:39 AM on July 20, 2007


aramatic has it. report him for piracy. I'd imagine that would get him tossed pretty quickly weather or not anything was actually happening in that vein.

Constantly kicking the back of his seat might help. I wouldn't take the phone or physically touch him though, that could get you locked up pretty quickly.

I also like the spilled drink idea. Oops. I somehow managed to spill it on your phone.

missmagenta, there are rarely empty seats in that IMAX.
posted by zackola at 10:11 AM on July 20, 2007


So, I went with a group of people to the very first showing of the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie. (so awesome). It was really crowded, and there was a lot of seat-saving going on before the movie. And, after a little while, there was a huge skirmish the row in front of where we were. It escalated to the point where some teenage punk decided to punch the soda out of the hand of the guy he was arguing with. It got soda over everyone nearby, got the guy really angry (so that he stood up and did the "I am so close to beating you up that I will stand all of half an inch from your face" thing), and it made us very, very unsympathetic to the teenage punk (to the extent that, now, I call him a punk).

Ushers were called, who called managers, who told the teenage punk that he had to leave, right then, because, if he did not, they would call the cops. Because, you know, punching someone's soda is assault. As is hitting them with spit balls. As is spraying them with water. As is... Well, all the really idiotic suggestions that've been given.

The moral of this story: if you do anything to the person or property of the jerk on the phone, you will end up either having him stand half an inch from your face and screaming, being told you have to leave the movie, or both. And having to leave a movie in the middle is a far worse movie-going experience than putting up with the jerk's cell phone or leaving momentarily to call the usher.

I think the real problem is that we're not really comfortable, as a culture, with calling an usher. It seems a little like tattling. There have been many times when I've just been too embarrassed to go get an usher. Also, it's a big movie theater, there are plenty of other people, and if none of them will go to get an usher, then there's plenty of mob mentality to just sit still and remain annoyed.

There's nothing to do but to just stop feeling uncomfortable with it. Start feeling comfortable going to get an usher. S'what I need to start doing. It's a civil way to get what you want... And, hey, it's what ended up resolving the fight at Pirates of the Caribbean quickly.

(The final result was that the teenage punk and all his friends left, leaving a whole row of fantastic seats open to us. Awesome! The only problem was my SO ended up in the seat soaked with Coke. Eew.)
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:18 AM on July 20, 2007


This just happened to us at Harry Potter too. Some girl a few seats over from my wife was texting the whole 2nd half of the movie (and talking on it too tho i didnt hear it) but the screen glare was bad.

If you (and others) asked them to put the phone away or take it outside was met with a "no", you could tell them, "then I'll be back with a manager, too bad" and go get one and ask for your money back too.

If they are sitting close enough to you and it's already annoying others - I might think about getting my phone out, setting the volume to high and then cycling through the ringer settings with the screen blocked or something - anyone looking in your direction is gonna see the guy with his phone out and assume it's him - of course then you just became a part of someone else's problem but it might get the guy to stop?

Short of asking for money back (I would since then theatres would enforce phone complaints more do to more $$ impact to them if more people start doing this often), I don't know what else can legally be done if they are an ass and just refuse to behave themselves.
posted by clanger at 10:56 AM on July 20, 2007




I hate this shit too. But, I live in Philly, and I expect that I would get shot or stabbed if I told the bitches to shut the fuck up already.

We've finally given up. Now, if we want to see a major release, we go to the earliest morning show on Saturday. I hate getting up early on the weekend, but I hate wasting money to hear someone talk through my movie more.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:22 AM on July 20, 2007


Okay, it isn't much of a solution, but I like thinking about the water squirting thing. Via BrotherCaine's link:

However, others such as Bay Area moviegoer Peter Brown says the issue is one of basic manners. Mr. Brown, a marketing consultant, says he and "a good friend" have found that a lightweight water pistol will work wonders with chatty cellphone users. Though he does not recommend this technique to others, he notes with some satisfaction that they've never been caught. If the guilty party looks back to see who has nipped his neck with water, "we simply practice the quick whip-around and affronted look that insinuates that you, too, have been hit."

With some theaters adapting by creating showings just for parents with noisy, squirmy kids and showings just for people without them... how plausible is an opt-in jammed/blocked program? "By entering this theater, you agree to have your wireless communication devices made inoperable for the duration of the presentation."
posted by pzarquon at 11:45 AM on July 20, 2007


In this day and age, we have a conflict of interest caused by our own selfishness.

On one hand, we have people who want to go out in public and see a movie on the big screen (as the filmmakers intend), but at the same time want it to be a personal experience (that is, they want to FEEL as if they're alone, oohs and aahs and laughter of the audience notwithstanding.)

On the other hand, we have people who want to go out in public and see a movie on the big screen (as the filmmakers intend), but at the same time want it to be a personal experience (that is, they want to ACT as if they're alone, making noise and chatting and using their phone, annoyed theater patrons and usher intervention notwithstanding.)

In the first case, you have a person who cares about the experience as much as their own isolation, and in the second case, you have a person who cares about their own personal freedom as much as their own isolation.

So what can you do, if you're in the first group? Rather than get frustrated or get usher intervention, I advise the following:

See movies with like-minded people.

You love movies, and hate interruptions? Go see movies in theaters that cater to the movie fan. You'll pay more, and may have to travel further, but both of those inconveniences will weed out more of the other type of person, and you'll be paying for responsive ushers who will escort people out at the drop of a hat.

That'll leave you at peace in a room full of other folks who are concentrating on the movie and trying to be respectful of others at the same time. Plus, those extra dollars you're spending will keep the good theater in business, and those are dollars the crappy "let anyone get away with anything" theater won't get.
posted by davejay at 12:40 PM on July 20, 2007


Continuing from previous comment:

At the same time, you need to recognize that by attending a public event, you're going to have to deal with the public. There's no panacea for inconsiderate, selfish sociopaths, and whether you realize it or not you've probably recently behaved in some way publicly that someone else found annoying and abrasive.

So if you truly want a perfect experience free of all distractions, you're going to have to rent DVDs, or get invited to movie screenings, or something similar. Public activities aren't invite-only, and you will never truly get rid of the repercussions of that without avoiding them altogether.

Which is why my wife and I occasionally rent a video projector, set up a theater in the backyard, and invite our friends over for early-evening movie viewings, complete with movie nachos and whatnot; it's expensive, but it's public movie viewing with like-minded people and a restrictive guest list.
posted by davejay at 12:45 PM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Side note: there's a theater in Illinois called the Yorktown Premium; it's a little restaurant/80-seat theater in the middle of the Yorktown mall movie megaplex nightmare. You pay a ridiculous sum of money per ticket, but you get this (or did, back in the day):

1. A lovely dinner;
2. When it's almost time for the movie, each person/couple enters the theater in the order of ticket purchase, and each has a reasonable amount of time to pick the seats they want before the next patron is let in;
3. If your dinner isn't finished, they bring it into the theater for you;
4. Leather seats that recline, and have food/drink trays;
5. Free popcorn;
6. They bring you drinks and whatnot during the movie.

The one movie I saw there, which wasn't very good, was still the best theater experience I ever had.
posted by davejay at 12:49 PM on July 20, 2007


I sadly used to work at a movie theater. We rarely had to go check during the movie to make sure things were ok. We spent that time running around cleaning other theaters as the movies ended.

The policy was, however, that you only had until about 20-30 minutes into the film to get your money back.
posted by PinkButterfly at 2:13 PM on July 20, 2007


When I was in Singapore I was delighted to see that the theaters all had cell-phone jammers in them. PLUS they assigned seats (after asking what section I preferred), starting people as far away from others as possible. And when the film came on everyone became silent to the very end. I almost applied for citizenship on the strength of that experience alone.
posted by foobario at 6:27 PM on July 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


They jam cell phones in Japan:

http://archives.cnn.com
... only in a government-approved place, like "theaters or concert halls where the degree of public nuisance is significant,' according to the Ministry of Posts and Communications policy guidelines.
Cell phones are one of those things that people feel they have to attend to NOW! I've even heard people on the crapper at work discussing business ...
posted by zaphod at 11:34 PM on July 20, 2007


Richard Griffiths threw cellphone-using audience members out of the theater during the London run of the History Boys...and yelled at someone during its run in New York (babbling on cells in NYC theaters is now illegal, but one of the myriad NYC laws not enforced).

Several years ago, there was something on NPR about a priest in Spain who jammed his church.

Most of the time, I will go to a (well-reviewed) mainstream film during the day, but this happens at art and revival theaters too.
posted by brujita at 1:11 AM on July 21, 2007


I've noticed that the more affluent the neighborhood, the more well-behaved the movie watching patrons are.

As I said above, this is an issue of social norms. It's almost always obvious that people who get really mad about things like cell phone lights or talking during a movie are equally insulted to have had their expectations infringed upon by someone of a lower class.

Put more succinctly, a lot of this is a slight variation on white folks complaining that "gee, black people sure are loud!" I wouldn't have enjoyed Transformers half as much as I did if it hadn't been for the enthusiastic, engaged, expressive audience I saw it with. Though I'm quite sure some prissy fussbucket in the back was upset that their THX experience had its perfection marred by the cheering in the crowd.

So yes, if you're so fortunate that the greatest frustration in your life is that a stranger's mobile phone 20 feet away has more illumination than you prefer, go ahead and assault them. Or you could just act realize, as davejay so eloquently stated, "There's no panacea for inconsiderate, selfish sociopaths, and whether you realize it or not you've probably recently behaved in some way publicly that someone else found annoying and abrasive."

Being a smug, whiny, overentitled movie watcher is just as annoying as being the talking, texting person at the film. Trust me, those of us who are sanely in the middle enduring you both can tell.
posted by anildash at 9:12 PM on July 21, 2007


Anildash, one can never be overentitled to courtesy. I love watching a movie with a cheering audience, but those people are engaged in the film. People who text and talk on the phone are assholes, full stop. If I can't hear the conversation I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it is an emergency. Sadly, I'm usually proven wrong when they fail to leave, and repeatedly call others.

Partly I blame the rise of DVDs and home theaters. Everyone born in the last twenty-five years seems to equate movie theaters with their living room and act accordingly. God help me if I ever pay $150 for an opera ticket and someone acts that way. I might be going to jail.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:29 AM on July 23, 2007


The real question here is whether jerks in the theater are ruining a few minutes of your time, part of your movie-going experience, your evening, or your long-term appreciation of that film. I'd say those are ranked in incremental order of importance. If it's one of the first couple, will you even remember this incident in a few weeks? Will you remember it when you think of this movie in a couple years? If not, brush it off. Jerks happen, and while some people are habitually jerks, we all have our moments. Don't linger on someone else's moment of being an asshole.

I can only really remember having one movie experience partially ruined by cell phone use in front of me during the entire course of cell phones being commonplace. I can vaguely remember having asked others to be quiet, or glaring at cell phone users, but I would not be able to tell you what movie it was or even what year. I can also remember times when I've seen others express being very bothered by the actions of others, and those times are probably more vivid memories -- what's more memorable, a lone jerk or feeling empathy for a group that seems very bothered that gets into some sort of confrontation?

So, my advice would be to ask politely, or demand a refund in extreme circumstances. Barring that, have thicker skin. Be the movie watcher who isn't bothered by such things, especially in the face of people who are attention whoring their way into a confrontation.
posted by mikeh at 7:00 AM on July 23, 2007


Late to respond to this, but

It's almost always obvious that people who get really mad about things like cell phone lights or talking during a movie are equally insulted to have had their expectations infringed upon by someone of a lower class.

Put more succinctly, a lot of this is a slight variation on white folks complaining that "gee, black people sure are loud!"


In my experience (mind you, I'm in LA) the people behaving this way are almost universally white and wealthy, and I'm white (but not wealthy) so my limited feelings in this arena are more oriented towards "money sure doesn't buy class."

Nevertheless, consider a phone ringing in a dark theater, where many patrons are annoyed but few can see the perpetrator; are you suggesting that most of the audience assumes they're of a lower class? Since cell phone usage is now ubiquitous when it comes to age, gender, race and class, that seems off-base to me, and I think you might want to question your assumption.
posted by davejay at 4:02 PM on July 23, 2007


An alternative, of course, is that you're saying in YOUR experience it's usually someone of a lower class to most of the people in the audience, or perhaps to yourself, or perhaps you're of a lower class and frequent the upper class. In which case I'd say broaden your sample pool a bit.
posted by davejay at 4:03 PM on July 23, 2007


« Older How do I help my girlfriend know what she wants?   |   Reinstalling Windows Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.