Movie Theaters Want to Jam Cell Phones

It makes sense.

If I were going to commit armed robbery, I'd probably want to bring a cell phone jammer with me.

EDITED TO ADD (3/25): Another article.

Posted on March 16, 2006 at 12:22 PM • 98 Comments

Comments

Joe BuckMarch 16, 2006 12:51 PM

When my wife and I manage to get a sitter and go out to a movie, we put our cell phones on "vibrate" and let most calls (other than from our home phone) go to voicemail. If our phones were jammed, we would not go to that theater, because we wouldn't want to be cut off from emergency calls.

So any theater instituting jamming would probably lose the paranoid-parents audience.

Fred PageMarch 16, 2006 12:51 PM

I'm skeptical that cell phone jaming equipment will help their bottom line - I think they need better content, and more ways to positively differentiate themselves from other methods of distribution of the same content.

I don't see much of a security argument for doing this here; every method I can think of to use a cell phone to steal content for external distribution could be done in other ways that are no more expensive.

IkesterMarch 16, 2006 12:52 PM

Question: Why not just put in electromagnetic shields?

Answer: Would be feasible in new theaters but expensive in new theaters. Jamming would be easier to implement across the board.

KidsterMarch 16, 2006 12:55 PM

Are they talking about portable jammers? The argument seems to be off.

What I believe in is that there are places where cell phones should not be allowed. One would be inside banks, coz we don't want robbers calling to accomplices the state of security inside. Another would be cinemas, where a funny ringtone could really ruin a dramatic climax.

Ideally this should not really have been necessary if people only do not abuse things. But come to look at it, alot of infrastructures, systems, etc are setup to handle this sort of thing. PGP, IPSec, CAs, Traffic Lights, Weight Loss Products, Jails, etc.

Fred PageMarch 16, 2006 1:00 PM

@Kidster-
"One would be inside banks, coz we don't want robbers calling..."
This is an odd argument; why can't the bank robber merely use a laser on a window or a walkie-talkie or a large gesture through a window to the same effect? Furthermore, I'd measure it against the advantage of numerous people having cell phones on them, any one of whom could call the police.

RichMarch 16, 2006 1:03 PM

A couple of years back a guy started a LOUD cell phone conversation during a movie. After a good minute, I turned around and whispered a request that he wrap it up. He basically ignored me, and when he finally hung up, he started trying to pick a fight with me.

I guess he kind of missed the message of the movie- The Passion of the Christ.

dfrogMarch 16, 2006 1:05 PM

@ Joe Buck

As you say, they'd lose the paranoid-parents market, and gain the annoyed-by-cellphones market. I guess they figure the second one is larger.

This would presumably also apply to any venues that do this - restaurants, concert halls, libraries, etc.

As long as there are very clear and obvious signs that you must see before you could possibly step into the cellphone jamming sphere, I like the idea. There would be some venues I couldn't visit on weeks when I'm on call; but my enjoyment of those same venues when I'm not on call would be increased.

AnonymousMarch 16, 2006 1:09 PM

@Joe Buck

So any theater instituting jamming would probably lose the paranoid-parents audience.


Jeez, what did parents do before cell phones?

Jo_AvaMarch 16, 2006 1:10 PM

@Joe Buck:

What on *earth* did parents do before there were cellphones?

Good grief. Be out of touch for two hours of your life. It's not the end of the world.

And in the meantime, everyone gets to enjoy the movie they paid their monstrous $15 to see.

DaedalaMarch 16, 2006 1:13 PM

I think that they should jam the children and the people who talk through the movie, not the cell phones.

stacyMarch 16, 2006 1:13 PM

@Ikester

You must have missed the link to the RF blocking paint. If you could shield the theatre with a fresh coat of paint it shouldn't be cost prohibitive. And if they used shielding instead of jamming, I wouldn’t have to wear my AFDB to the theatre :-)

jkMarch 16, 2006 1:19 PM

The point of the 'paranoid parent' argument is that it's comforting for us to know that the sitter can reach us if they need to. What did parents do before cell phones? They went out still, or perhaps left the kids with other family or whatever. But hey, they also smoked like a chimney in front of their kids because the idea of 'second hand smoke' was unknown. They'd also end up going to the restaurant, having 3 or 4 or more drinks then drive home, because 'everyone drove home even if they had a few'.

But what they also did when they left the kids behind was leave the number of the theater or restaurant or wherever with the sitter. The sitter would call if it were necessary. And then someone would come find those parents some place. Watch any number of movies and see the fancy restaurants drag a phone over to a table for someone to take a call.

I'm like joe buck - I bring my cellphone and switch it to 'quiet' mode. I never answer it in the theater or restaurant but will just call people back from the lobby or outside instead. I will answer it if I'm near the bar, but then, I DON'T GET CELL PHONE VOICE WHEN I USE MY CELLPHONE either. ;) And, well, it's a bar. ;)

And if they did block cell phones in the theater, I'd likely not go there as often. I'm also on call for work almost 24/7, so I need to be reached.

Of course, it wouldn't be a problem if the theater management would respond to complaints of other patrons. When someone goes out and complains to someone about MR CELL PHONE TALKING ALL THE TIME how often does the theater actually DO something about it? Really! If the theater owners really wanted to do something, perhaps more than the once a show cursory walk around by that guy with the flashlight might be in order.

memeMarch 16, 2006 1:20 PM

@Ikester...

You're exactly right. Active RF jamming is illegal, but passive RF shielding is not. Want to do this within the law?--Just make your theater a faraday cage. Use the new paint with graphite in it or some other technology (cover the walls with aluminum!) Since most theaters are already established however, it's probably not feasable for them to permanently modify their facilties--jamming is much more easier, portable and removable.

Personal preferences aside (since I am of the opinion that we shouldn't start a snowball effect by legalizing cell phone jamming ANYWHERE), my other thought was that there seems to be an all or nothing viewpoint on this topic. If the FCC were to legalize jamming in theaters, what's the problem if they were to make a parallel mandate that provides customers with a non-jammed venue? A lot of people would likely opt to have their phones jammed for a quiet movie, and the rest who want to ensure they get their calls can hope their like-minded neighbors will at least be polite. As it is right now however, everyone is shoved into the latter category.

LlamasForPeaceMarch 16, 2006 1:20 PM

I would rather see something where locations could broadcast a "where am I" message (like "you're in a restaurant"), then you could set your cell phone to change depending on the location type (think ringer settings). Would even work for the flip case, like walking into a night club, where you want the thing to be damn loud.

I think the technology is easily there. If the settings on cell phones defaulted to simple things (vibrate in movie theaters, go to 'level 4 and vibrate' in night clubs, etc.), I think it would be a boon.

Of course, you get the tinfoil people saying that they don't want their ringer settings changed by some shmoe sitting next to them with a location beacon.

MarshallMarch 16, 2006 1:22 PM

IANARE (I am not a radio engineer), but I thought that current cell communications were very difficult to jam practically. Is this not the case?

Erik CarlseenMarch 16, 2006 1:25 PM

Gee, considering the perils of being out of cell phone coverage, I can't imagine how the human race survived up to the point that cell phones were developed. I mean, what, with children falling ill when their parents went to the movies and exploding because their parents couldn't reach them in 15 minutes and the babysitter couldn't remember the last digit in '911'. Or crucial business deals falling apart because the customer couldn't reach you during the 9:57 showing of 'More CGI Without Plot'. Or your boss firing you because he couldn't get the latest TPS report while you were dining with your wife in a nice restaurant.

There seems to be this belief - and I see it in business people, parents (and for awhile, even myself) that the world cannot ever exist without you being wired in 100% of the time. Guess what? It's paranoid bullshit. I known that most people reading this will be thinking that I'm full of it, or that it doesn't apply to them. Wrong. I'm not, and it does apply to you. The human race survived up till 1995 just fine. And, unless you're under the age of 11, so did you. In fact, there's a simple litmus test for your importance. If you're really *soooo important* that people must have your wisdom and guidance available every minute of every day, said people will be more than happy to provide you with an entourage of folks willing to sit outside the door - nervously eyeing beepers and pagers every 10 seconds - while you enjoy your meal, movie, sex with your mistress, or whatever. If you don't have such and entourage, then get over yourself already.

What's the difference between then and now? We got lazy. We forgot that if something's important we have to *plan* around it. Remember the old saying "Proper Previous Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance"? We'd make sure the babysitter knew what to do in the event of an emergency (and make sure he/she was a "good, responsible kid"). We'd have backup plans in case we weren't available. And sometimes, despite these plans, things would still go wrong and we weren't available - and yet we're all still here (just a little older and wiser).

The expectations we place on ourselves and others to be instantly available nearly 24/7/365 create incredible amounts of undue axiety and stress. So shut off your cell phone (and blackberry, etc) once and awhile, and let other people do the same. It won't cause armageddon, and you'll find your life and the lives of others will become quite a bit more pleasant.

stacyMarch 16, 2006 1:27 PM

"I think that they should jam the children and the people who talk through the movie, not the cell phones."

Unfortunately, you can not enforce manners any more than you can mandate commons sense. That is why we try to compensate for the lack of both.

For those of you who think the $15 for the movie ticket is bad, try $50+ for the symphony and have a cell phone go off! Fortunately, most of the cretins are not dim enough to actually answer the phone during the concert.

FotiosMarch 16, 2006 1:28 PM

I'm sure they're all for this technology now, but what happens WHEN the system fails and something bad happens. I agree with some things said before, "what did parents do before cell phones". But now that they are, and your kid was just rushed to the emergency room where they need some vital information from the parent and the only reason they couldn't get the information is because of the cell blocking, who will be held liable? Or a doctor getting an emergency call from a sick patient? There are dozens of valid reasons to get a phone call during the movie. The difference is how you handle it. Considerate people will put the phone on vibrate and if they have to, take the call outside.
What would be more useful would be a better way to deal with disruptive customers. But then the movie theatre's are viewed as the bad guys because they're actively enforcing a rule instead of passively preventing it.
Where will this stop? I am in class right now, and a few phones have rang, students quickly silenced them, and it was only a mild disruption. I'm sure the same thing happens in meetings or church. People talk to loudly on sidewalks and public transportation and in buildings. Why not just block calls in all of these places?
This story is more of the movie industry looking for a scapegoat for their horrible performance in a changing world, *cough* RIAA *cough*.

Swiss ConnectionMarch 16, 2006 1:32 PM

It's very much a cultural thing. I visit a lot of movies here in Switzerland but rarely here the sound of a mobile. People are reminded before the screening to switch their phones off and most people do. The occastion phone ringing usually causes embarrassement to the person concerned who ususally switches it off immediately.

Same for restaurants. Besides lots of people are on call for professional reasons and usually have vibration alarm turned on.

arlMarch 16, 2006 1:42 PM

What did parents do before cell phones? They stayed home. Which is what they will do if blocked in a theater. The same goes for people working on call, the week they are required to be available they won't be watching a movie.

People who talk on cell phones in a theater are not much different than people who attempt to carry on a conversation in such a place. This is an issue of manners.

It would be nice if you could buy a box that gave off a signal that indicated the type of envionment so the phone could be set up to adjust. In a theater or library go to vibrate only. In the car, go to hands free only.

Daniel VeditzMarch 16, 2006 1:48 PM

If you were going to commit armed robbery, you probably wouldn't care whether your cell phone jammer were legal or not.

radiantmatrixMarch 16, 2006 1:53 PM

@stacy:

-> "Unfortunately, you can not enforce manners any more than you can mandate commons sense. That is why we try to compensate for the lack of both."

Well, you can enforce manners, but you have to be willing to (a)lose a customer or class of customers, and (b)be a mite unmannerly yourself.

If all theaters would stop the film, turn up the lights, and eject the truly unmannerly (e.g. those who answer their cells and proceed to have extended, loud conversations), I'd be willing to bet people would behave for the most part.

The problem is, most people would rather deal with the annoyance than an interruption like that, because they are too short-sighted to see that it would reduce problems in the long run. That, and you'd get people who just want to stop the movie (Cinema Trolls?).

Still -- having an usher quietly ask someone to leave, or keeping an eye on them and pulling them aside for a chat about the moviehouse rules would go a long way to creating a more mannerly theatre.

JimMarch 16, 2006 1:56 PM

If the big theaters want me back, they can start by killing those obnoxious TV-style commericals before each show. Thank heavens for local theaters.

To tie this back into security (a little), it's a monitoring and incident response problem. No one answers their cell phone at a symphony concert because an usher would notice immediately and escort the cell-phone goober out of the hall (and, hopefully, ask them not to return). In a movie theater, all the employees are long gone once the movie starts, and are unlikely to do anything anyway.

Cell phone jamming or interference is just an attempt to solve a process problem (dealing with rude people) into a technology problem (making it impossible for people to be rude in one particular way).

PeteMarch 16, 2006 1:59 PM

Why not just have ushers moving through the theaters like the old days? You talk to much/loudly or your cell phone rings they ask you to leave.

Not every problem needs a technical solution.

Pat CahalanMarch 16, 2006 2:02 PM

Solution.

I'm a movie theater. To make it difficult for inconsiderate people to interrupt the movie, I put in shielding so that cell phones don't work in the theater. And I post notices around the theater that the management, to ensure emergency contact, has a phone number (posted) that you can give out to your babysitter (or if you're a doctor, your paging service).

Then you set up a little projection service that will put in the lower right hand corner of the movie screen -> "will mr./mrs. john/jane doe please report to the concession stand" if you get a call.

Sure, you have to have someone able to answer the phone, but this doesn't seem to be an impossibility.

RaskMarch 16, 2006 2:05 PM

First theatres get mobile phone jammers, then hospitals, then airports, and then you'll find them elsewhere. There's economic incentive to do so, as well: Block cellphones at your location, and put up payphones for people to use at exhorbitant rates.

We have to stop this problem at the beginning.

RouninMarch 16, 2006 2:15 PM

I guess that means on-call emergency personnel can't go to the theatres anymore.

gregMarch 16, 2006 2:16 PM

Blocking really does not work. Wide band blocking of the singnal just does not work with modern cell phones eps in the 2GHz band. You will create black spots, but some seats in the cinima will get a signal.

In some countires you can't take the cell phone into the theater, and i would tend to go to cinimas that stop irritating ppl. Even texting is bad cus of the backlight. One time i took the phone off the guy pulled the battary out and threw all the pieces up the front of the theater. Very funny. Got grumpy, but he shut up and watched the rest of the movie.

As for jamming, its like blocking. Both are hard because of the range of systems and frequences that are used. It can be done, but not easily and not reliably

dimitrisMarch 16, 2006 2:30 PM

Instead of jammers, why not install pico-cells? Make a roaming deal with the mainstream carriers, and make roaming Very Expensive on, for example, the AMCNet pico-network. If the call is important enough, I'll pick up, otherwise I won't. Or (more likely in my case) I'll just blacklist theater chains that do this, but at least I have more options than if it's a simple jammer.

MickMarch 16, 2006 2:57 PM

>If our phones were jammed, we would not go to that theater, because we wouldn't want to be cut off from emergency calls.

So what did you do before you had a cell phone?

Carlos GomezMarch 16, 2006 2:58 PM

Movie theatres are in seeing declining attendance and are looking at jamming cellphones as a way of boosting the attendance numbers? I doubt very much that cellphone talkers are the Movie theatres are in seeing declining attendance and are looking at jamming cellphones as a way of boosting the attendance numbers? I doubt very much that cellphone talkers form a large enough annoyance to justify this.

The theatres need to look at the value they bring. When you compare the price of a DVD to the cost of tickets and some snacks from the concession stand, is it any wonder some people choose to stay home instead?

Fred F.March 16, 2006 2:59 PM

Yeah. And then first responders would not be able to call out in the event of a fire. Or someone will have a heart attack and there would be a crucial delay of 5 minutes and his/her family would sue for damages. Then the theaters would put a big disclaimer about the cell phone signal being blocked.

Two things could happen (I am not a sociologist or psicologist so I am not sure which one is the most likely).

1. Since the signal is blocked all cell phones would go to high power trying to get a link and the batteries would run up. That would get people trained to turn OFF their cells. Then as the paint in the theaters deteriorate and it becomes more expensive to maintain it than to let the odd cell phone ring, we would go back to where we where but with re-trained monkeys (sorry people).

2. It becomes a game to see if you can get a call in the theater and it becomes even MORE anoying since the proof of getting a call is for the phone to ring. I particularly see the teenage group that uses laser pointers and go to the movies to talk doing this.

Mike SherwoodMarch 16, 2006 3:03 PM

@greg

I've heard many stories of people going off on people with cell phones. I make a point of not being a jerk with a cell phone, so I doubt I'd be the subject of such a person, however as a potential witness of one or more criminal acts, I pose the following question:

You witness someone being assaulted, having their property stolen and destroyed. As a witness, should you call the police from the theatre where you can continue to witness and report what happens next, or are you expected to go out to the lobby and lose sight of the victim and assailant to make a report?

I don't like inconsiderate people with cell phones any more than anyone else, but there are mentally unstable people who like to enforce their personal opinion on others using force. Physically taking property, potentially worth hundreds of dollars, from someone is definitely a criminal act.

I'm sure there are people who would say I shouldn't take calls in some places. For example, Olive Garden is often noisy enough that someone talking on a cell phone is not disruptive. I don't make a point of using my cell phone in public often, but if I got a call from our data center while I was eating, I'd take it. I don't think this has happened, and it's certainly not a common or foreseeable event. However, I've seen people advocate doing the same thing to people in restaurants. I know that in my state, possession of a cell phone does not forfeit any rights to self defense.

The underlying problem is that most people are too self centered to consider anyone else, whether it's the person talking on the phone during a movie or the person smashing the phone. I just wonder these things because I have some familiarity with the lawful escalation of force and I'm not sure which side this kind of situation would fall on.

12ob34March 16, 2006 3:07 PM

I agree with the comment above -- movie industry has gone down the tubes. Put a little less garbage on the screen and they'll pull in the masses.

Davi OttenheimerMarch 16, 2006 3:25 PM

It certainly can't be DVDs or online movies that are to blame for falling attendance...I guess if you're going to scape-goat something, might as well be cell phones since everyone loves to hate them.

Koray CanMarch 16, 2006 3:37 PM

The problem is not the cellphones. The problem is the presence of obnoxious people. Block the cellphones, and they will pull out a PSP, laptop, etc. and make other kinds of noise. Remove all electronics, and they'll yell at each other.


Moviegoing cannot remain the same because it's not as special as it used to be. I have hundreds of channels on my tv. I have seen thousands of movies to date. It's an everyday experience like brushing teeth. Don't expect people to behave as if they are at the opera. Also, don't expect me to pay that much for a remake-of-the-remake movie.

rhandirMarch 16, 2006 4:06 PM

One solution suggests itself.
Cellphones can already be pinpointed (even while "off") using triangulation. Could a theater not poll the transmit towers for cellphones physically located in the building? And then at a preset time, say, during the public service announcement, call each cellphone?

Any one who had a cellphone set to ring instead of vibrate would instantly know, and would experience social pressure to change thier settings.

There are some obvious implementation issues* with this suggestion, but it does improve upon a locale misidentifying itself as "quiet" and resetting your ring tone. [see suggestion above, courtesy of "LlamasForPeace"]

-r.
*works better if the theater owns a trio of low-power cellular access points located inside the building. Assumes a single set of frequencies/providers for simplicity. Ignores the cost of sending/recieving automated calls. Etc. Etc.

LOLMarch 16, 2006 4:10 PM

"You witness someone being assaulted, having their property stolen and destroyed. As a witness, should you call the police from the theatre where you can continue to witness and report what happens next, or are you expected to go out to the lobby and lose sight of the victim and assailant to make a report?"

HA HA HA , now that is A MOVIE PLOT SCENARIO.

So has the guy been assaulted IN the theatre, but the staff are too uncaring to do anything, or have you just come in off the street, but you're too hard arsed to actually help the person, but wanna get in and watch the trailers.

Fred X. QuimbyMarch 16, 2006 4:36 PM

"Movie Theaters... ...If I were going to commit armed robbery..."

Are you saying that movie theaters want to jam cell phones so I can't call for help when I see the ticket prices?

AndrewMarch 16, 2006 4:39 PM

"Why not just have ushers moving through the theaters like the old days?"

Money. It costs a lot less to buy a cell phone jammer once than to pay somebody to stand around and watch movies every night.

DMMarch 16, 2006 4:40 PM

All thats needed is an FCC ruling that forces cellphones sold in the US to accept a signal that sends them into a text-only silent mode.

If someone really needs to be contactable, they can step out of the theatre to make voice calls.

Such a thing could probably even be software coded into existing handsets using over-the-air provisioning.

VincentMarch 16, 2006 4:49 PM

I've always wished that phones were designed to accept a "jammed" signal. A signal is sent to a phone, which the phone recognizes, and in response forwards all incoming calls to voice mail. It might could disallow non-emergency outgoing calls, if venue wants to prevent all non-emergency phone-conversations, not just keep phones from ringing in a theater.

A trade-off that might be very attractive to the "paranoid parent" crowd would be letting the person who made the call designate it as an emergency, so the phone would vibrate anyway; a nominal charge could be added to the caller's bill to keep people from overriding the jamming flag for trivialities. "The person you are calling is in a location that does not allow phone-calls. If this is a serious emergency press *1 to force the phone to ring. A charge of $1 will be added to your phone bill.".

--Vincent

Anjan BacchuMarch 16, 2006 5:03 PM

hi paranoid parent,

I understand where you're coming from. It seems crazy to jam cell phones.

Actually movie theatres can have a cell phone deposit centre : this will let people deposit cell phones. Those who want to monitor their cell phones can have a service where they can get interrupted when calls originate from interested CALLER ID.

This way, the movie theatre managers can be sure that nobody is stealing anything. It will also mean that people who want to monitor their phones won't be left out.

BR,
~A

DaleMarch 16, 2006 5:20 PM

For those that seem to think that they NEED there cell phone 24 hours a day you need a life.

Doctors and other assorted professions managed quite well with cell phones before. Parents went out on dates with out cell phones before. How hard is it to to look up the phone number of the theatre before hand, write it down with the name of the movie you are going to see and give it to the sitter.

I personaly detest cell phones going off in places such as movie theatres and concerts where I am paying for the performance only to have it interrupted by some bodies inflated sense of ego.

I believe that the cell phone jammers are a wonderfull idea in movie theatres and concert halls. I hope to see more of them.

AndrewMarch 16, 2006 5:24 PM

"How hard is it to to look up the phone number of the theatre before hand, write it down with the name of the movie you are going to see and give it to the sitter."

In my experience, this is quite hard. The phone number listed in the book for a theater usually leads to a recorded message indicating what movies are playing.

MSMarch 16, 2006 5:33 PM

It seems to me that there is an opportunity for enterprising movie theatre here: a spotlight in the theatre combined with a tannoy announcement that person X is ruining the film for everyone and that the movie will be stopped until that person leaves or hands in their cell phone would bring tremendous peer pressure to bear on the offender. Word of this would spread like wildfire, especially if it makes the local press, and business would boom. If they were being particularly cunning, the theatre could even do it with a few paid cell phoners as a strategic move for competitive advantage.

JamesMarch 16, 2006 5:48 PM

I can't help pointing out the obvious: the jamming signal won't stop just outside the theater. The only way to have that happen is to install shielding.

So you won't get calls while the movie's running, but you won't get them if you're in the lobby either. Or if you're the business next door, or on the floor above/below...

This is carpet-bombing of the RF 'commons'.

ProhiasMarch 16, 2006 5:54 PM

Since cell phones are ubiquitous (and using them is relatively inexpensive), our society has come to demand instantaneous responses. A parent now becomes paranoid if he/she cannot be reached instantly by the care giver. A boss becomes enraged if an employee can't be reached anytime/anywhere to address a glitch. Even when the employee resents it.

The urge to answer a cell phone in a movie and ruin the experience for everyone else is often a manifestation of that urgency and pressure. The weakness is constantly encouraged by our society, and is inversely correlated with a huge ego/confidence.

I am curious - is this as much of a problem in Europe?

jkMarch 16, 2006 6:00 PM

re: Erik

"I mean, what, with children falling ill when their parents went to the movies and exploding because their parents couldn't reach them in 15 minutes and the babysitter couldn't remember the last digit in '911'."

Ya know, universal '911' is a new thing. Really. And if you read the other comments, you'll note that 'before cell phone' parents would leave hte number of the place they were at. And if there was an emergency, the sitter would call the restaurant/friend/theater/whatever where the parents were.

JojoMarch 16, 2006 6:32 PM

I think the solution is to have 300lb 6'5" bouncers who drag people out of the movie, dump them on the sidewalk and then cunch their phone! Take that Mr/Mrs/Ms inconsiderate.

RogerMarch 16, 2006 6:42 PM

I have to agree with Swiss Connection here: this seems to be a complicated technology solution for a local cultural problem. It simply doesn't occur in my country, at least not since phones with a silent alert became available, oh what, 5 or 6 years ago. Before the film starts, the cinema projects a polite reminder notice on the screen, and everyone complies. I see quite a lot of films at the cinema, and I really can't remember the last time I heard a cell phone ring during a film.

If they were to do it, obviously an RF blocking paint would be a much better idea than jamming the phone signals. For one thing, the paint is already legal, the jammer would require legislative changes. For another, there are far too many things that can go awry with the jammer.

@Bruce:
"If I were going to commit armed robbery, I'd probably want to bring a cell phone jammer with me."

It would be an effective surprise tactic the first few times, but if it became commonplace, it would effectively scream out "probable armed robbery in progress; roll the SWAT team while we triangulate!".

On a slightly related note, some burglar alarm systems already have a dual monitoring system, by landline or cellphone, presumably on the assumption that criminals will eventually obtain jammers, but jamming the signal and cutting the line is significantly harder than just doing one or the other. (I've been thinking that it might be a good idea to get up on the roof with a directional antenna, and a cellphone configured to indicate the base station ID, then move the antenna around until you pick up a really distant base station. Lock the antenna in place and connect it to the GSM modem. That would make it much harder to jam the signal.)

Nick LancasterMarch 16, 2006 7:22 PM

My job requires that I be on-call. I carry a pager and a cell phone most of the time.

For the folks that ask, gosh, what did we do before cell phones and pagers ... please note that our technology and the way we do business has accelerated. When we used typewriters in the newsroom, no big deal - one broke, you just moved to another desk.

As we began to computerize, we went through the usual ID-10Ts pulling form-feed paper off the printer and then complaining about jamming/misalignment. (Even had one reporter read the new sign about not pulling paper off the printer, she went, 'oh,' ... AND THEN DID IT ANYWAY.)

But now, with the newsroom operating almost entirely on computers - there's always someone on call. We're not being paranoid or lazy, we're simply working with the tools that we've been given.

another_bruceMarch 16, 2006 8:01 PM

the graveyards are full of people who were indispensable at their jobs.

Joe BuckMarch 17, 2006 12:23 AM

Several people have asked what we did before cell phones. The answer was that we gave the sitter the number of the theater, and theaters actually published those numbers, and you could reach a human being.

But you can no longer call a movie theater and get a person. You get a recording telling you movie times. While there is a phone number to reach the staff, it is not published.

Our cell phones don't bother anyone; they don't ring (they are on "vibrate"), and we don't take calls.

egeltjeMarch 17, 2006 2:56 AM

@jk

Spot on. This is just another technical solution that will avoid personal confrontation (theatermanager vs. phoner AND theaterpublic vs. phoner) for a minor problem, while introducing new problems.

I see far to much technology being used that will solve a problem for you instead of you personally doing something about it. It enhances the "somebody should do something about this" over the "I will do something about this" mentality. That is a bad thing.

Oh, and in Holland it is like Switzerland. People are embarrassed when their phones go off. Mainly because there are quite some remarks from the rest of the audience.

Arturo QuirantesMarch 17, 2006 2:59 AM

"your kid was just rushed to the emergency room where they need some vital information from the parent and the only reason they couldn't get the information is because of the cell blocking, who will be held liable?"

What is the likelihood of this happening? I would just love to know the percentage of phone calls made in a theater that really fits into the life-of-death scheme. Do you drive in a bullet-proof Humvee just because there is a one-in-a-zillion chance of being attacked with machine-gun fire? (Bagdad residents excluded)

If you're the President of a nuclear power, yes, you do need 24/7 communication capabilities so your country does not fall to the Nowherestan nuclear strike. But the average Joe? If comm links are so vital to you that you can't allow yourself a 2-hour break, the you shouldn't go to the theater in the first place.

Want to create cellphone-free havens? Bravo!

BobMarch 17, 2006 3:16 AM

The issue is one of liability. What if I have a medical emergency? I (or whoever I'm with) will need to call for medical support. So, you'd need to allow emergency services calls. But what about incoming calls? "Your house is on fire", "I've just knocked your child off their bike with my car". Those calls can come from anywhere, and so there's no whitelisting or blacklisting of numbers that you can do. Any call could be an emergency, and if you prevent that, then you're liable for what could happen.

In the UK, some movie theatres started to put in short-range jammers. About 1 month after they started going in, they all vanished overnight, because of the liability issue. I can't even imagine them getting started with putting in jammers in the US for the same reason.

In order to prevent people from forgetting to switch their cell phones to silent, we're going to have to rely on peer pressure from the rest of the audience. Instead of putting up a sign saying "Please switch off your phone", we should put up a sign saying "Please hurl half-sucked candies at anyone talking on a cell phone who is not trying to leave the theater". Anyone in an emergency will be getting up to leave anyway, hopefully the barrage of incoming sticky sweet hard candy in the dark is enough of a deterrent to people wanting to talk all the way through the movie. If it's not a deterrent to them, it'll be a deterrent to the people in the immediate vicinity of them.

My current method for dealing with this is less disgusting - spotlights make people very aware that everyone is watching them, and usually embarrass them into being quiet, or at least whispering. My Surefire L2 does that job nicely, so far.

Jan Egil KristiansenMarch 17, 2006 3:31 AM

Won't you need a Faraday cage to limit jamming to the theatre? And with Faraday in place, the jammer is redundant? (Unless Bluetooth conversation inside the premises is a problem?)

The theatre will probably only want to jam the hall where the movie is shown?

AndyMarch 17, 2006 6:25 AM

If armed robbers start to use portable cell phone jammers, will it become advisable to have a "jammer detector" in banks, etc.?

AlexMarch 17, 2006 8:00 AM

'ULLO? I'M IN THE CINEMA! I SAID, I'M IN THE CINEMAAAAAAAAA!

Nah, never mind cellphone jammers. Just permit the civilised rest of us, who want to watch the movie in peace, to use baseball bats athwart the crania of those who don't quite get the concept of not talking during a movie.

robjammerMarch 17, 2006 8:34 AM

Can we get a jammer for the workplace? And a baseball bat for those co-workers who are plain noisy? Neither of these are very likely but I can dream.
Anyway, at a movie/concert/play whatever, people are there to watch.
The problem is when inconsiderate people interrupt our enjoyment of the play/movie/whatever. This problem is not limited to just cell phones users, it is anyone making distracting sounds.
The difference between a noisy patron and someone using a cell phone is the relative cost of doing something about the problem; blocking a cell phone requires using a jammer (cheap) or blocking the signal (higher cost).
Doing something about a loud patron requires theater labor to intervene and the cost of this is considerably higher than jamming or blocking cell phones.
Technology has changed and in my view, if the theater management chooses to block or jam cell phones, as long as they are upfront about this practice, it is fine with me.

Back to Bruce's point about bankrobbers and cell-phone jammers, if you are already robbing the bank, do you really care about using a jammer legally?

aintchickenMarch 17, 2006 8:39 AM

Gone to an AMC theater lately? The 'turn off your cell phone' ads disguised as movie trailers are highly effective. This is a social engineering, not technical, problem.

Theaters have ushers. If someone is talking on the phone, go get an theater employee, they should take care of it for you. The theater will also probably be happy to refund your ticket price if you ask, because of your movie being disturbed. Most of the money collected on ticket fees are paid to the movie distributor (i.e. Hollywood), not the theater itself, so most theaters tend to have liberal refund policies. Movie Theaters make thier money on the popcorn & cokes they sell, not the movies.

I find the silent vibrating cell phone comforting when I leave my kids with a sitter. It goes off, I go to the lobby and do a call back. Pretty simple, really....

JohnJMarch 17, 2006 8:49 AM

"What did parents do before cel phones" is the wrong question. "What did parents do before movies?" is more appropriate. Answer: They stayed home and actively raised their children. Or left them with trusted family members who lived close by. In 'modern times' our society as a whole has changed. Families don't live as close to each other as they used to so they rely on friends, neighbors, and occasionally strangers. The support network is not as trusted as it once was, so parents have a desire to be reachable in case there are issues. I could wander OT and mention how behavior of children has degraded as a result of disinterested parents, but that's a whole other can of worms.

Anyway, while movie patrons can be guilty of this on occasion, the absolute worst offense I've seen in the past few years was just last month. And the guilty parties are probably reading this blog. It was at the RSA conference. Session after session, despite repeated requests from the staff, people refused to mute their phones. I was thoroughly annoyed at the rudeness displayed by supposed professionals.

Look in the mirror before you criticize.

c1March 17, 2006 8:53 AM

I guess there are also other factors in the play and cell phone distraction could be just a smokescreen.

Possibly they want to ban it because when movie stinks a lot of people text about it to friends. They have said about it in clear text some time ago. There was old article about this pointed by this slashdot thread. I was unable to find original article text.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/...

If someone locate original text, please post it here.

ChrisMarch 17, 2006 9:13 AM

One issue that theatres have with this that I've not seen mentioned is the theatre's desire to get you to go see a bad movie. Ten years ago, they were pretty much assured that, if the marketing was good, they'd at least get a strong first weekend's attendence before everyone got to work/school on Monday and let everyone else know just how bad the movie was. Ever since then, the window has been getting smaller and smaller as people are in constant, convenient communication with each other.

Now people are texting their friends *during the first showing* just how good they think the movie is. If the movie sucks, they don't even get one good night's receipts.

Unfortunately, the name of the movie escapes me, but last year just this kind of thing is being blamed for an expected blockbuster being a dude at the box office.

As Bruce says, follow the money. Here the money is maximizing the return spent marketing a film and slowing down the word-of-mouth that keeps people away on opening weekend.

Silencing rude people in the theatre is a ruse; those are the same people that will chat with their friends through the whole thing anyway.

NotThatMoMarch 17, 2006 9:16 AM

JohnJ - movies have been around for over 100 years now. Before that, parents used to go to the theater, to bars, to gatherings at other people's houses, etc. Infants were left in the care of 6-7 year-old siblings. Infants were dosed with morphine, etc. to sleep while the parents were out. (For real! While mothers worked in factories or fields as well!) There was no mythical past with glorious, wonderful parenting for all.

What did doctors do before cell phones? Well, there were more doctors at the hospital in case they were needed. Mission critical systems had a person on hand at all times.

Doctors and emergency personnel will stop every effort to block cell phone calls anywhere.

My solution to the theater problem: People who use cell phones in a theater become liable for the cost of the tickets of everyone else in the theater.

I do also like the idea of a noise detector that would shine a spotlight on people disrupting the show.

IkesterMarch 17, 2006 10:56 AM

How expensive are these jammers? I ask because I see a market opportunity here:

"Annoyed by obnoxious cell phone users? Just carry this 'personal space' protector with you and activate to have the annoying call terminated"

Totally illegal of course but it wouldn't be the first time an illegal solution is offered when there's a demand....

Pat CahalanMarch 17, 2006 5:15 PM

The liability issue is a little bit of a smoke screen.

There are areas where your cell phone won't operate. If you get into an emergency in those areas, you can't sue your cell phone provider (well, this *is* the U.S., you certainly can but I doubt highly you'd have a snowball's chance) for not providing coverage.

You can't get cell reception in the basement of a parking garage (usually) due to building interference. If you have an emergency in a parking garage you can't sue the owner for not putting a cell phone repeater in the basement.

My point is, if a theater decides to block a cell phone signal and this decision is communicated in a reasonable fashion to people who choose to go to the movies at that theater, there *is* no liability.

John David GaltMarch 17, 2006 9:25 PM

As I understand it, current law in the US prohibits active jamming but allows passive methods such as embedding Faraday cages in the walls of buildings. If this were done on purpose, though, it is far from clear that the builder or owner of the building would not be liable, since the blocking of the signal is intentional. Whatever case law will ultimately cover these cases is yet to be decided.

I agree with Swiss Connection that this is primarily a social problem -- if theater owners want their audiences back, they should go back to taking responsibility for obnoxious people who interrupt the show, even though it means hiring ushers they wouldn't otherwise need. "Solving the problem with technology" not only has unacceptable side effects on people such as on-call employees, it also leaves most of the problem unsolved.

Fortunately, two can play the game of "solving problems by technology". Most of the public have now solved the problem of theater managers with bad attitudes by abandoning the theaters for video rental stores or cable or satellite channels -- all of which allow you to watch the movie whenever you want, and without any rude strangers around.

Of course, home video technology is changing in ways that take away this user friendliness, mostly because the Hollywood studios are paranoid that you and I would flood the world with copies of their material. Sooner or later, the public will find a technical solution to that social problem also -- probably by abandoning Hollywood and its products in favor of other forms of entertainment. Let the innovation continue!

JojoMarch 18, 2006 5:13 AM

Here's the SOLUTION!

Add headphone plugs to the chairs in all movies! The theater would pump sound to these jacks and you would bring along your own headphones (you know, the expensive BOSE things that cut out all sounds). This not only solves the problem of people taking cellphone calls but also that of the generally obnoxious talkers and restless whispers who seem to be in every movie these days. Then all you need is a poison dart gun for those people who stand up in front of you. [lol]

EdT.March 18, 2006 7:09 AM

Only one teensy-weensy problem with the idea: it is a violation of Federal law. Jamming radio frequencies is a pretty serious beef, and can earn you some equally serious time in a Federal pen. Movie theaters aren't the first to think of the idea, either: if I recall, there are some Catholic churches in Mexico which engage in the practice.

-EdT.

IkesterMarch 18, 2006 3:01 PM

"Add headphone plugs to the chairs in all movies! The theater would pump sound to these jacks and you would bring along your own headphones (you know, the expensive BOSE things that cut out all sounds)."

If headphones are OK, I'd just watch at home from a DVD. The theater experience offers a top-quality "surround-sound" with a full range of frequency response that headphones just can't match. Unfortunately some of the surrounding sound is uncalled for - cellphone conversations being at the top of the hit list. :(

Pat CahalanMarch 19, 2006 10:07 PM

> "Solving the problem with technology" not only has unacceptable side effects on people
> such as on-call employees

These "on call employees", in fact, are solving a problem with technology, no? Companies used to only be able to have 24/7 support if they had people parked at a desk in a building "on shift". Okay, maybe it is the company solving the problem with technology, not the employee, but the point stands.

To say that this is an inappropriate use of solving a problem with technology seems to be a little biased. If you're required to be on call 24/7 and as a result you're leaving your cell phone on during a movie, you're imposing your work arrangement on everyone else in the theater.

It's easy for us techie types to argue that we need to be connected "all the time", but it's baloney, we don't. Or rather, our requirement to be connected "all the time" doesn't outweigh anyone else's specific desire not to have our digital addiction impede their enjoyment of the movie experience, for which they have well and duly paid.

RvnPhnxMarch 20, 2006 12:05 PM

There seems to be very little discussion here of the point brought up by (indirectly) Bruce--namely that cellphone jamming (if it were easily done) would also jam the area around the theatre. Since most cinemas are located in malls and commercially zoned areas, putting a jammer up would impede the normal function of communications in the area and be a possible inducement of crime. It could also harm the ability of other businesses and law enforcement to communicate.
In fact, considering the way that cellphones work, a single jammer could take out cellphone communications over an area up to several miles/kilometers (1mi=1.6km) on a side (depending on cell size and location).
This is (part of) why the FCC takes a generally dim view of any RF jamming technology. The FCC makes it quite clear that non-licensed/non-primary allocation users SHALL UNDER NO CONDITIONS INTENTIONALLY INTERFERE WITH LICENSED/PRIMARY USERS. It does not get much more absolute than that.
This is not about the "right" of some moron to talk in a theatre--it is about rule of law and due process. Just because some theatre wants to do away with all of the "Joe Cellphone" people does not give them the right to prevent the function of infrastructure, to iterefere with the ability of surrounding businesses to make money, to take away duly granted permissions to use spectrum (whether the feds have the ability to do this is a question well beyond this discussion), or to expect that some existential "special circumstance" be applied to themselves with respect toward compliance with the laws of the land.
Those are the real issues.
As for the annoying cellphone users, perhaps the theatres need to hire bouncers, no?

LarryMarch 20, 2006 1:01 PM

The problem is that movie theaters don't want to rub patrons the wrong way, so they let patrons talk, bring infants who disturb other patrons, and allow those with cell phones talk during the movie. It's manners. Although I would like a portable "blocker" for the drive home or the train ride home so that I could stop those that disturb others or are driving while under the influence of the cell phone could be temporarily stopped.

Clive RobinsonMarch 21, 2006 10:10 AM

For all the folks that think jamming cell phones is hard it is actually not that difficult.

Also it may not be as illegal as you may think (it depends on your local laws) however in the UK you are alowed to put out any signal you like as long as it does not cross the boundries of your property (this appears to be the same for a lot of jurisdictions).

There are two basic ways to jam any and all cellphones,

1, Put up a wobulator across the control channel frequencies (a Far Eastern company has been making these for a number of years and a UK company will sell similar to you across the internet

http://www.globalgadgetuk.com/yo50.htm

2, You have a receiver that waits untill it picks up radiation from the covered area for more than a given period of time (ie longer than required for re-registration), your box then calculats the correct frequency to jam the base station signal and it puts out a moderatly high power signal for a second or so. The cell phone loses sync with the base station and the call gets dropped, the phone also usually shows a loss of signal so the user generally blames it on the place thay are in.

That's the simple ways, if you want to be more clever with GSM and other cell phone protocols you can abuse the cell handover features to dump a phone into a fake cell when the call is active it does not require a greate deal of technology, and now that you can use Pico Cells in your home / office etc (use your cell as a cordless) the price of the hardware is going to drop down to sub 100USD within a short period of time.

AnonymousMarch 22, 2006 8:24 AM

Movie theatres in Paris, France already jam cell phones since at least 1 year.

CalinApril 10, 2006 5:17 PM

Let me share with you something that I learned on this subject during a recent demonstration.

Essentially, there are 2 methods of controlling a cell phone inside a building. The active method, which is based on jamming or switching a phone to "silent" and the passive, which involves blocking the signal to enter in the building by creating a Faraday cage by various methods.

The passive method is legal, in fact we lose signal inside buildings many times... However, the method is expensive, interferes with the decoration options and may impede desired signals (WiFi, radio/TV reception, walkie-talkie signal of emmergency personnel, etc.)

The active methods involve sending a signal that either jamms the reception or "switches" the phone to "silent". (There is a UK company that developed a technology that would do that). The problem with any type of jamming/switching method that is intended to affect the inside of a restricted space (such as a building) is the fact that signal "leaks" outside, beyond the wall. Imagine the liability of a theatre jams/switches a phone automatically by sending a signal and the signal goes beyond the the walls. A doctor sitting on a bench *outside* the theatre would have the phone switche/jammed unknowingly and miss an important call! This is the biggest obstacle the Theatre Owners association are facing. Even if they obtained permission to jam the phones inside (after giving ample warining, disclosure, etc.) there is no way to ensure that no leakage occurs outside and affect passers by.

The trick would be to have an active method that affects only the cell phones, allowing emergency personnel to talk on their radios, radio/TV reception, etc, but which doesn't leak outside the walls.

If you think that is a pipe dream, it is not! I know of a system that it is being developed and which will do just that! Is switches the phone to "silent" inside the theatre and automatically switches it back on after leaving the theatre. It will cost $2000-$3000 to fully secure a restaurant, probably $5000-$6000 to secure a multiplex theatre and $20000-$30000 to implement it in a convention center or sports arena. The method can be implemented in any type of building, with or without windows, with any type of wall surfaces, any color, etc. The prototype has a discrimintion of +/- 2", or less than the thickness of a wall!

The entrepreneur is in the process of getting his patents and is looking for VC money, so let's hope that the technology would become available, soon!! What do you think...

PinkApril 15, 2006 7:20 PM

Lots of good debate an valid opinions. Ultimately it is not about jamming it is about control and ownership. A pico cell takes ownership of any mobile phone in range, typically about 30metres. Not taking into account block walls etc. Once it has control it can effectively rsetrict how a phone is used. It can force calls to be made over its own circuits, and charge the uses more for the privelage or offer a discounted service.

We are working on the same systems for aircraft which will enable passeners to call over satcom links. Phones will b disable lthough when the plane is taking off or landing (below 11000 ft). Also the crew could selectively disable phones until the plane has reached the pier or at night to enable other passengers ot sleep.

Control is needed for safety reasons on a plane due to the same selfish human actions that occur in a cinema. People go in and leave their phone on, not even in silent mode, then they take a call and spoil the enjoyment of the film for others.

As for those who need to be in touch with their babysitter... who is most insecure? Them or the babysitter... just trust her/him you might enoy life more.

Debbie WymanJune 17, 2006 9:05 AM

While I agree that yakking it up on cell phones in the middle of a movie is rude and incosiderate, here is the other side of the spectrum: My husband and I had just sat down in a small town theater. It's an outdated, dirty, smelly place with non-existent customer service, but it's the only place within 40 miles of our hometown, and we just tell ourselves it's not THAT bad. We were 30 minutes early to an afternoon matinee, there were about 5-10 other people in the whole theater. My two teenage sons had called us on our cellphone when we were outside the theater to tell us they were stuck out on a country road ( In June in Arizona) with a flat tire and that they were going to try to call a tow truck. As we sat down, I called my son to let him know we were in the theater and make sure they were ok, and to tell them we were turning off our phones. As I was disconnecting - a theater employee stood at the end of our row and said "Excuse me - are you aware of the federal regulations regarding the use of cell phones in a movie theater?" (She couldn't just ask me to turn it off, which if she had asked, she would have seen that I already had.) I was a little taken aback at her rudeness - but I said "no, I'm not". She then ordered me to follow her to the lobby where she would explain the law to me. Now remember - the lights in the theater are on, and it's practicly an empty theater - but even the few people who were in there were saying things like "that's ridiculous" and "we should all just leave". I told the employee that my phone was off and that it wasn't necessary to "explain the law" to me. But she said something like "if you continue to argue with me I'll be forced to take other measures" so, not wanting to cause further problems, I followed her to the lobby where she informed me that I could give her my phone to place in a bag behind the counter, or I could get my money back and leave, or we could call the police. Needless to say, I was stunned. As we stood listening to the owner of the theater spout off about some federal law regarding not being allowed to even have a phone in the theater even if it was turned off, we witnessed numerous people walking in the door with their cell phones in thier hands. (How many people do not have cell phones on them when they go anywhere, even, God forbid, into a theater!?) They did have a statement posted regarding the use of cell phones in the theater, but it was on the back of the door to the theater, which was opened up against the wall and not visible. After a round and round - my husband and I did get our money back, and of course we will never patron this establishment again, but I think it's sad that this issue has escalated to such an unreasonable state. People ask what has happened to common courtesy with the use of cell phones everywhere we go - and I agree. But tell me, what has happened to common courtesy and customer service in public places? I know it must get frustrating for theater employees to say the same thing over and over to people they consider rude, but it is still thier job and their task to be polite, and to inform patrons of their policies in a reasonable manner. Not only is it rude to treat paying customers like this, but it's just bad business.

VinceOctober 12, 2006 5:24 PM

I work for a major telecommunications company and I can tell you this, we were better off before cell phones. I'm a father of 3 and my wife and I do go out to movies on occassion and I leave my cell phone in the truck. My being at the hospital in case of something happening will not change the outcome on way or another. People today need to realize life is not worth living if you live in constant fear of something bad happening. As far as a fire at your house, chances are it will be burned to the ground before you get the call anyway.

VinceOctober 12, 2006 5:26 PM

Also, the babysitter should know to call 911 in an emergency before they'd call you since EMS will get there way before you could.

MichaelMay 6, 2007 3:41 PM

I cant believe any theater owner would be stupid enough to waste their profits on a jamming system. There is a very simple solution. Put up a big sign at the door,and play a nice message at the intro. "Anyone using cellular phones during the movie will be asked to leave." Then enforce it. If theaters started doing this,people would learn very fast to stop doing it. Overall however I have never seen anyone on the phone during a movie. Its not very common,and it certainly does not warrant the kind of expense and inconvenience of putting in cell phone jamming equipment.

I also agree that there are reasons to have your cell phone on vibrate in your pocket. Some people are on call for work,or need to be available for various reasons. Yes,there was a time before cellular phones when people couldn't do this. They would leave a contact number,or just not go out. If they left the kids with a babysitter and the child was injured or became seriously ill,the babysitter would call 911,but after that,they would of course try to contact the parents. Even though I have no children,I an certainly understand why a parent would want to be called and told that their child was just taken to the hospital rather than finding out two hours later.

In short,blocking cell phone coverage is just a dumb idea unless your protecting the president from cell detonated bombs. There are simple,and cheap ways to deal with this.

MichaelMay 6, 2007 3:50 PM

"Doctors and other assorted professions managed quite well with cell phones before. "

Doctors had answering services. They would notify their answering service where there were going to be. It was a royal pain in the a$$. There were ways of dealing with it,but NONE of them worked as well as a cell phone does.

ShelleyJune 6, 2007 8:43 AM

While surfing for "cell phones and the movies" found your site. I hate the people using their cell phones - not the cell phones. In my opinion, phones should be OFF in movies, lectures, etc. And not just on vibrate. In a movie, it is also those lights in the dark that are as disturbing as the ringing and talking. If you are someone that is so important that you must be reachable at all times - ok let it vibrate but take it outside. Is it so hard to see how rude you are being to so many other people? If just one person at every movie showing was escorted out and not allowed to return ... maybe others wouldn't take the chance. Theaters just need to set it in motion ... Thanks for letting me vent.

JacqJuly 23, 2007 6:57 PM

My husband and I had a really bad year of movie theater experience. After today's incident, we swore to never go to a movie theater again until they have resolved the problem with people using their cell in the theater.

Here's a letter I wrote to them today after we left.

The VIP showing in this theater is only for people who are 18 and up.

++++++++++++++++++++

Dear Santikos' staff, owner and managers,

My husband and I have had it today.

We are big movie goers for many years. Since we moved to Texas, your theater was our first choice for movie watching. But the past year or so, we have not had a good movie watching experience. Not once. People will talk out loud, answer cell phones, carry on conversations, text message and such that take away not only ours but I am sure many others' right to enjoy the movie they paid for.

The thing is that we know you understand the situation, and have many attempts of informing people to turn their phone off.

Today, we were watching our favorite movie The Transformers for the second time in the
Palladium 19 - IMAX... VIP showing.

I felt that paying more to watch movie in the VIP should give us a more pleasant movie watching experience without having to deal with chatty teenagers. But the experience proved us wrong, yet again.

The couple sitting next to us have not only chatted loudly, but turn on their cell phone with the bright screen on to text message and such. We told them to turn the phone off. But the boyfriend started threaten us
that he will "take us down" outside the theater after the movie is done.

We did not feel safe and asked for staff's assistance. Your staff was kind enough
to come in and tell them to turn it off. Stayed in the theater to monitor the situation. But they both keep turning the phone on, and started flashing the cell phone screen at us. Waving it, flashing it... And continue making threatening comments.

We had enough and left. We thank you for your refund and the free tickets. But until the situation is totally resolved. We have made the final decision of never going into the movie theater again. This is not a happy decision. But it is a decision that we have been thinking about since last year, and reminded every time we visit the theater.

This is an on going trend and problem that we all know is hard to resolve. But we just want to let you know how we feel. And to take into consideration of other policy and action to help with this situation.

We saw in a movie theater in Memphis, TN that has a very visible note at the entrance of each theater, saying that if reported having cell phone on, the person will be escorted out of the theater, no exceptions!

I know our little action of not to watch movie in theaters ever again will not affect your sales. But, if the trend continues and more people follow. With Blockbuster and Netflix, even iTunes... your sales will definitely drop, from people who are tired of dealing with this kind of rude behavior.


We wish you luck and hope the future generation will learn to respect others.

Sincerely,
Jacq and Jeremy Davis

mikeAugust 30, 2007 4:52 PM

I wont go to movies because of cell phones, but maybe theatres who want to jam signal should implement a check in with a restaurant style buzzer if there is a emergency. please comment

Fed_up_in_MichiganSeptember 26, 2007 3:02 PM

Sorry to hear about your experiences, especially to you, Jacq and Jeremy Davis. In addition to the cell calls mentioned above, the text messaging is a huge problem - akin to having a flashlight on. These theatres are trying to do things on the cheap, and as a result are ruining the industry. Responsible adult managers need to be on duty in the evening, with ushers regularly marching up and down the aisles with their flashlights in tow, escorting out the perpetrators (like the golden age of theatres). And, the theatres need a good relationship with the police force in order to throw the book at the malefactors such as those that the Davis family had to deal with. Somehow the movie theatre industry needs to get the message that they need to respond to their rule-abiding customers' concerns.

joe booDecember 19, 2007 3:38 AM

Just something to think about... there is a music venue in LA, Califonia that will promptly eject anyone who even looks at their cell phone/pager... However, this is not the cheapest place to go to see a show, but for that kind of service I am always willing to pay.

PS: Well done Erik Carlseen!

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jamedyaFebruary 4, 2008 5:29 PM

The jammer I built works just fine I use it all the time in the car. Seeing as driving while on the phone makes you drive worse then if you are Drunk! I chop Your Carrer and you think it's just your phone! 10k fine from the FCC or a 500k doctor bill?
We make laws for thouse who Can't Not for the one who Can.

Larry HarrisonJune 20, 2009 11:51 PM

Devices like this are tools of cellular phone bigots. Anyone that applauds the banning or blocking of cellular phone usage due to the aggravating noise, but doesn't support the same measures pertaining to noises from noisy children, people talking loudly to each other, playing with GameBoys etc--such people are exhibiting the attitude of bigots.

Judging me or others as "self important" because I like having a cellular phone around, even if I'm responsible with it, makes you no better than the Pharisees from the days of Jesus--not trying to impose religion, just pointing out a group of persons exhibiting the attitude I speak of. You are off-base and wrong in making assumptions about who & what I am because I have a cellular phone with me.

Maybe I have a child with a terminal disease and I need to be on-call in case something goes wrong. Maybe I just love being able to check email wherever I go. Regardless, it's not any of your business and I don't have to justify myself to you. You think I do because of the noise? Well then you have to justify yourself for letting your noisy brats scream or for talking too loudly to your friend sitting next to you.

"What did we do a generation ago?" Who cares what we did, and what of it? I mean gee whiz--what did people do in the days before air conditioning? What did people do before polio vaccinations, automobiles, cameras (especially now that they're digital), dentists, roach spray--so what? The whole "what did we do 30 years ago" is irrelevant.

M&TCWAugust 17, 2009 8:07 AM

I remember before cells, people that went to theatres would call home when ever they felt like it. Also parents or whoever would tell the babysitter or whoever, where they were going to be. If there was a reason to be notified at the theatre, they could call the theatre and the projectionist whould project down in the corner of the screen the persons name, meaning you have a message at the snack bar. It seem to work good.

Jonathan NApril 26, 2010 4:17 PM

I would welcome this. The average person now a days has lost the concept of being courteous towards the people around you and routinely end up txting in the theater. The number of soft white glows down front is enough to be very distracting. So much so that I would pay an extra $5 if it meant a theater wouldn't have a cell going off or some idiot txting in front of me.

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