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Silence less golden in movies with talking, texts
“I didn’t really like `Thor,’ so I just pulled out my phone and texted a little bit. It was during the day so nobody was really in the theater at the time,” Barnes said. “I’m just looking at the screen, I’m not paying attention to what other people are doing. But you see adults doing it and I think it’s a little immature for their age to be texting during a movie.”
Fourteen-year-old Andrea Lopez of Newhall, Calif., says she leaves her phone on during movies but keeps it on silent: “Normally I’ll just text during the end of the movie to have my mom or dad come pick me up.”
But when others are blatantly using their phones, Lopez said, “that’s ridiculous. Then they’re just ruining the movie for everyone else. The least they can do is go outside and talk.”
But not all offenders are adolescents: “I am the worst. It annoys my kids,” said Tracy Tofte, a 40-year-old real estate agent and mother of two in Santa Clarita, Calif. “If it’s a slow part of the movie I can’t help looking at my phone and going, `Oh, I have an email.’”
Theater owners have tried a variety of methods to get folks to keep quiet and stay off their phones, from showing amusing messages beforehand to having ushers sweep through the auditorium during the show, said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners. Some have experimented with dividing moviegoers into over-21 and under-21 auditoriums, but that can get disorganized.
“It’s an educational process but we and our members and the people who write about our industry know that the beauty of cinema, first of all, is that it’s a shared experience. That means there are shared responsibilities,” said Fithian.
With the expansion of the international movie market, mobile phone etiquette has also become an issue in overseas theaters.
Before a movie starts in India, warnings flash on the screen asking people to switch off their phones or put them on silent, yet some folks continue to chat anyway and theater workers don’t kick them out.
Compliance is far better in Hong Kong, where patrons generally heed a message urging them to turn off or silence their phones before the movie.
In Britain, peer pressure usually keeps theaters quiet. Moviegoers are familiar with a long-running series of ads shown beforehand under the slogan: “Don’t Let a Mobile Phone Ruin Your Movie.” The comic promos feature well-known actors having their movie projects destroyed by a clueless mobile phone executive.
Theaters in China range from plush auditoriums in large cities to basic theaters in smaller towns that may even lack concession stands. So the demographic of moviegoers tends to vary, too, along with their attention to etiquette, with audiences in the higher-end theaters typically more compliant.
Around 2004, the National Association of Theatre Owners investigated technology that would block cell phone signals in U.S. theaters. When word of that got out, responses came flooding in, said Fithian, the NATO president.
Sixty percent were in favor of the idea, with 40 percent against it, “but the 40 percent was violent,” he said. “Parents have to stay in touch with their babysitters. People are so focused on how important their jobs are that they had to be in touch 24/7. I felt like asking these people, `What did you do 15 years ago?’”
Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London, Min Lee in Hong Kong, Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Chi-Chi Zhang in Beijing contributed to this report.
By Donald Lambro
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