Reuters – March 15, 2006:

Movie theater owners faced with falling attendance are considering asking federal authorities for permission to jam cell phone reception in an attempt to stop annoying conversations during films, the head of the industry’s trade group said on Tuesday.

“I don’t know what’s going on with consumers that they have to talk on phones in the middle of theaters,” John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, told the ShoWest conference in Las Vegas.

“We will actually petition the Federal Communications (Commission) to remove the block” on jamming cell phones, he said.

This is already legal in France.

  1. Wayne Bradney says:

    Why does common courtesy have to be legislated?

  2. I have mixed feeling about this. First Yes, I hate it when a cell phone goes off in a theater. But second, no bad idea, My mother has many illenes, that could at any moment need to dial 911 any where, and I am sure most would agree, that in a life or death situation it is ok to interupt anything, be it movie, church, live proformance. If the theater is covered with the jammer, how would that call get out, every second wasted brings some one that needs 911 closer to death.

    I will have to say my compation for my fellow man (and my love for my mother) wins out here, I would oppose such a jammer, I know that the 911 thing is rare, but when it happens, do you want to be the one that had turned on the jammer and delayed (even if it is by 20 seconds) that call to 911?

  3. fezzik says:

    I find it amusing that theatre (I’m Canadian so theatre is spelled correctly) owners are blaming cell phones for the drop in attendance. I’m sure it has nothing to do with ridiculously high prices for tickets and snacks, having to sit through ads before the movie, or that no one has made anything worth watching.

  4. Steve, yes it is amazin we did “survived for thousands of years” with out technology we have today, oh hold on, we have longer lifes now to, gee I wonder if technology had a role to play in that.

  5. Dave Drews says:

    Michael, no offense, but if your mother is that sick, she probably shouldn’t be going to the theater. But if this whole thing gets implimented, I bet this is the reason it’s struck down by the courts.

    I’m a movie fanatic, but I don’t go to the theater much anymore because of the rude people. I want there to be a jammer for the people who talk during a movie and automatic seat ejectors for people who talk back to the screen. They get dumped into a psychiatrist’s chair where they can be analyzed and treated as to why they think the people on the screen can hear them.

  6. Dave, first the ADA would struck be the reason, but you are saying that people that have problems, should not be going to movies, this is why we have the ADA. And Steve, I am not just saying cell phones, I am saying all tech, and I am sure there are cases where cell phones have saved lives. That phone call from the middle of no-where from the person having a heart attack. Yes Steve I would say cell phones might have helped us live longer. Remember in life and death situations, be it theaters or the middle of no-where, seconds count.

    Take a CPR cource, and they will pound that into you, every second saved could be a life saved.

  7. The ADA would apply since, if there was a problem and 911 would need called, and there were cell phone jammers, that is how the ADA would apply. Not all people that are handicapped are in wheel chairs. I am not saying yap on the phone for no reason, I am saying haveing the option avalable to call 911 at a drop of a hat, not having to run to and find a pay phone (find those if you can now) or getting a manager so they can call 911 or turn off the jammer so you can call 911. Remember every second in a medical emergancy counts.

  8. jeff says:

    I have mixed emotions on this. I want the cell phones to go. But theaters shouldn’t have the right to jam them. Just put signs up to turn off ringers and remind people not to talk on their phone during a movie. Thats annoying. But it comes down to the fact that some people just have no respect.

    But, yeah, cell phone usage in movies IS one of the reasons why I don’t watch as many movies at the theater as I used to.

  9. Scott Gant says:

    Why ask the FCC? Just do it. Don’t ask this morons. What are they going to do? Revoke your broadcast license? Hey guess what, you aren’t broadcasting. They going to levy a fine against you? Don’t pay it and send back the fine with a big “SCREW YOU” on it. The FCC only has power because people say they have power.

    Here’s another solution for failing box office…make better movies! Stop with the commercials, block the cell phones, kick the crap out of people that talk during the movie (I think a Mob-run movie theater chain would be great). Also, stop with the 10 dollar popcorn that costs you only 10 cents to actually make.

    Gee, can’t understand for the life of me why the box office receipts are falling. It must be those pesky movie pirates! Yeah, that’s it!

  10. Eric says:

    You know, I’m not going to get into the whole ‘should be able to call 911’ argument. The reason I think this is a bad idea is I have two small children. If my wife and I get a babysitter and go to a movie, what happens if one of my children gets injured?

    If this goes into effect, it will last until the theatre chain gets sued the first time because a child died and the parents could not be notified.

  11. Dave Drews says:

    I could be wrong, but I don’t believe there is a requirement in the ADA or any federal or state laws that mandates a business establishment have phone service of any kind. The reality of business operations is that they have them, but they aren’t required to. Same for cell phone service as Steve states.

    Don’t forget, every theater has a fire alarm. Perhaps there should be a 911 alarm that works the same way. It would be white instead of red. Pull that and an ambulance is sent. Even more time saved since you don’t have to explain to an operator where you are, what the problem is, etc. Assuming you aren’t put on hold as happens at times with 911 in big cities.

  12. Steve, Dave, you have convinced me of one thing, before today I did not really thing the ADA was all that importnat, you have convinced me as long as people like you are there, the ADA is needed.

  13. Mister Mustard says:

    Most of the problems I have with cell phones in theaters is people RECEIVING calls, not dialing 911 to save the life of their ailing mother. Even the biggest theater I’ve ever been in doesn’t have any seats that are more than 5 or 10 seconds from the door. They could step out into the lobby to call, perhaps? And if somebody is having a heart attack in the middle of a movie, cell phone disruption is going to be the least of the other viewers’ problems.

    I agree though, that cell phones are only a small part of why people don’t go to the movies any more. Garbage movies, scalper prices on the snacks, interminable ads before the movie starts….the list goes on.

  14. I don’t agree with jamming frequency.
    Its just rude to use a cell phone in a contained publc space.
    New York the hands free cell phone law has no impact.
    Now they are talking about allowing people use cell phones on airlines..UGH !

  15. Scott Gant says:

    As I said Steve, if EVERYONE did it, and they did in fact get fined….send the fine back and say “EAT ME” on it. Jail time? For thousands of people? Again, I say the FCC only has power because everyone says they have power. Much like the RIAA and the MPAA. This power is only built upon a house of cards…it’s not real.

    That’s just it, everyone caves in. If EVERYONE stood up to the FCC bullies and called them on their bullshit, they would crumble away. But no one will. They’ll just ask and the FCC will wave it’s hallowed hand and grant an audience.

  16. Dave Drews says:

    Radar detectors have been outlawed in many places for a long time.

    Michael, you still haven’t answered the underlying question regarding cell phones and the ADA. Do you believe that a commercial establishment (this would have to apply to all businesses, not just movie theaters) MUST provide cell phone service under the ADA? That is what you are implying by being against cell phone jamming under ADA.

  17. Me says:

    Choice 1: Jam cell phones in a theater.

    Choice 2: Make it illegal to NOT chop someone’s head off with a machete if they talk on a cell phone in a theater.

    There are NO other options. Pick one of the above.

  18. Sean says:

    Where I work our CEO has a rule that if during one of his meetings someones cell phone rings that person must donate $50 to our companies preferred charity, if they answer the phone the donation goes up to $150. They should have the same rule in theaters (same for placing calls), if the call is that important, it’s worth a $50-150 donation to the Jimmy Fund or Roy Rogers insitute.

  19. Paul says:

    Why can’t the ushers ask the people to leave? I am tired of the government taking care of our problems. The theater (spelled correctly) owner/manager can simply put up a sign: “Talk on your cell outside or else forfeit your ticket.”

  20. Zuke says:

    I think the cell phone jamming is a GREAT idea.

    I can’t believe these people that think it’s a critical importance that they can be reached every second of the day no matter what they’re doing or where they are (driving a 5,000lb SUV, standing in front of the cashier at the store, attending a meeting, sitting in a movie theater, etc.) because someone may die otherwise. Really, if it’s that perilous, what is your dumb ass doing in the theater for 2 hours anyways? Heard of video rentals? I agree, it’s truly a miracle these people survived all these years without cell phones.

    I am a movie fanatic, but rarely go to the theaters nowadays because of rude people talking or text messaging on their phones and phones ringing during quiet points in the movie. And yes, there’s a HUGE message displayed prior to the movie asking to please not smoke or talk and to turn off cell phones. Whoopdee doo. As an alternative, we’ve been going to the drive-in a lot nowadays and also buying a ton of DVDs to watch at home. Why would I want to pay almost $30 for two people plus refreshments to sit in a theater, only to have some jackass 2 rows up yapping on the phone, ruining “the movie experience”????

  21. Ethan says:

    Even easier, have the theaters employ ushers that actually observe behavior and remove people who don’t follow the rules.

  22. Trevor says:

    I am also for jamming. You’re not forced to see movies, you can make a choice. If your mom may die at any moment you wait for the movie to come out on video.

  23. Marty says:

    The ADA has NOTHING TO DO WITH cell phones! Nothing! Go read it, seriously. Now, if there was some provision in cell phones that made it so that someone with a disability couldn’t use one BUT someone without a disability COULD, then that would be an ADA-worthy event. However, this would be equal opportunity – phones for no one! ADA is about accessibility in public places and providing accomidations (alternative formats, for example) where necessary. I hate what the cell phone has done to this country and I wish I could remove it from existence.

    To the parent worried about his kids above – your kids could die at any time. Are you going to confine them to your direct supervision for the rest of your lives? That’s why you hire a responsible babysitter who is smart enough to get help, and if you can’t find one you stay in.

    And because every time I make a comment about children someone always accuses me of not being a parent, well, I am, and I follow my own advice. I’m also in the assistive technology field, so I know what a real disability is and isn’t. Anyone who claims that the ADA is needed for cell phone access needs to experience real disabilities for themselves so you can see why we REALLY need the ADA.

  24. malren says:

    “Michael, no offense, but if your mother is that sick, she probably shouldn’t be going to the theater. ”


    Michael, stop forcing the rest of us to deal with YOUR family and YOUR problems. My wife is extremely ill and essentially housebound. We don’t force the rest of the world to conform to her problems…we simply work around issues like grown-ups who are responsible for their own lives.

    I wish we could sue these faux victims for intentional infliction of emotional annoyance. If your mother is that ill, stay the hell out of the movie theater.

  25. Lou says:

    The discussion is rather rediculous, but did make me think of one idea.

    Cell phones should have built in voice synthesis/program that when a phone is in “vibrate” mode, the person who received the call can pick an appropriate phrase that the phone would “say” to the caller, such as:

    “cant talk now… call me (or will call) later”
    “I can not answer the phone at this second. Please stay on the line while I go to somewhere I can speak”.

    The second option would put the person on hold, presumably where the receiver would go to the movie lobby to actually talk.

    Yes, its still rude in so many ways (the distraction to those around you is so lame), but it is better than someone talking.

    My 2cents.

  26. forrest says:

    See…I do not believe that there should be signal jamming. There is a perfectly legitimate reason why the FCC bans it, jamming actually is stealing the airwaves from the companies that are licensing the wavelengths from the FCC.

    The best method is to signal block. There are composite materials in the industry that can be used to “block” radio frequencies depending on the composition of the composites used.

    Or you can simply go very low tech and use really fine chicken wire. Radio frequenies have a harder time getting through it.

    So…if you combine the right composites with chicken wire…in theory…it should work in blocking cellular signal.

  27. Alex says:

    All I want is to be able to enjoy a movie that I have paid good money for. I cannot count the number of movies that have been spoiled because some idiot answers the phone in the middle of the movie. And they don’t just say, “I am sorry I am in a movie” and hang up, no they have an actual, extended, loud conversation at leisure. If you need to be accessible 24/7, stay home and rent a movie. I have the right of enjoying the movie I paid for.

    The amount of rude, uneducated people found in theaters today is the main reason why movie box office is down, in my opinion. It is just too expensive to go to a movie these days to have it spoiled by all the people who don’t know how to behave in public. It used to be, once long ago, that being disruptive in a movie theater could have you thrown out. But when was the last time you even saw an usher that you could complain to? I only go to the movies that I know would only look good in a “big” screen. It is much cheaper to wait and buy the DVD than spend 8 or 10 times that much to take the wife and kids to a theater and have some snacks. Why spend all that money so some bozo can talk through the best parts of the film?

    I am old enough to remember what a big screen looked like. Back in 1977 I saw Star Wars in a theater in NY City that was immense. The escalator alone took a couple of minutes to ride down. The screen was the largest I have ever seen. The image of the star destroyer coming overhead was absolutely impressive. Today, you would easily have 12 or more screens in that space. The movie going experience has degraded so much that the “downgrade” to a home theater is not a big problem anymore.

    If you are too stupid to put your phone on silent after the repeated reminders that precede a movie these days, you deserve to be taken out and shot, then quartered and finally burned. But since there are laws against that sort of thing (sigh), impeding cell phone reception will have to do. Theaters have to do something to improve the movie watching experience. I am not holding my breath for bigger theater screens or considerate people who know how to operate a cell phone. A good start is to kill the phones inside the theater.

  28. Alex says:

    For all the people who are freaking out about 911 and the theater:

    What about a landline emergency phone right outside the theater? If you or someone next to you has a heart attack, or chokes on a hot dog, anyone inside the theater can pick up the red phone and call the paramedics.

    Was that so hard?

    Besides, the jamming/blocking can be limited to the inside of the actual movie theater and not the hallways. If you have to make a call, you get out of the theater and dial. Easy, no?

  29. Mr. Fusion says:

    I agree that jamming is not the best idea. Signal blocking inside the theater should be allowed and is the best way to go.

    If there is a medical emergency then calling out for help while administering first aid is preferable. If CPR is being used, it is very difficult to give artificial respiration, chest compressions and dial 911 at the same time anyway. In a true emergency, other patrons would be more then willing to give up their movie to save a life.

    We seldom go to indoor theatres (correct spelling in the rest of the English world) anymore. We much prefer going to the Drive-in. A double feature is $5.00 and they don’t complain if you bring your own snacks. Almost everyone knows each other around here so it becomes a social event every weekend.

  30. joshua says:

    whats a drive-in theatre???
    I haven’t been inside a theatre for 4 years, to damn expensive for one thing. Highway robbery legalized. Lousy movies for another, and rude people. But, there are rude people in almost all public settings now, even in church people feel a need to answer the damn cell phone.
    I ventured out to see Brokeback Mountain in England with my mates and it was a good experience, except for the prices. But the U.K. still has some manners left in public places(football matches excepted).
    Block the damn things, then lower the prices, expand the seating and screen and make better movies…..and all will be right with the world.


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