It is time to reclaim our theatres, cinemas and music halls.
It is time to reclaim our theatres, cinemas and music halls.

I did something a few weeks ago that I rarely get to do. I saw a movie.  In an actual cinema.

[pullquote]It is time we reclaim our theatres, cinemas and music halls.  It is time for a confrontation.  Who’s with me?[/pullquote]Deciding on one of those loud, frenetic summertime blockbusters, I pushed back on my oversized chair with plenty of leg room, placed my equally oversized soda in the drink holder, and surrendered to the Hollywood magic.

It didn’t take long to find myself immersed inside the dystopian future where apes were not only creating fire, they were creating sentences too.  And just as the cacophony of music and special effects took a sudden turn to the relative quiet of the obligatory love story, there in the front row a small flash of light appeared and caught my attention.  You guessed it … someone had just pulled out their smartphone.

At first I gave them the benefit of the doubt as I found myself caught up in the fantastical world that had been unfolding before my eyes on the screen.  My immediate thought was that they were a neurosurgeon on call receiving an urgent text summoning them back to the operating room to save the foreign diplomat with the codes necessary to stop a nuclear Armageddon.  But quickly realizing I wasn’t in actually in a movie myself, I moved to more mundane thoughts where the indiscretion was a simple quick glance to find out what time it was (although the movie wasn’t that bad).

But rather than racing out of the theatre to save the world, or quickly putting the phone back inside their pocket after determining that, yes indeed, there was still another two hours left in the flick, they started texting.  And it wasn’t a quick text to say they would text them back after the movie; it went on for a full five minute.

That is when I decided to take action.

Marching down to the first row (I was tempted to shout from ten rows back, but realized that would be rude to those around me), I politely but sternly asked her to turn off the phone.  I wondered, perhaps a little too loudly as I marched back to my own seat, why on earth someone would actually pay money to see a movie and then spend time texting?  Never mind that it was a huge distraction for the rest of us.

But while the idea of establishing some sort of Emily Post rules for the new millennium is nothing new, what gave this rant an entirely different flavour was after reading something in one of the local dailies about an audience so busy recording what was happening on stage that they actually missing what was happening on stage.  Apparently as everyone jockeyed for position to get the best photo or video on their iPhones, they interrupted that writer’s enjoyment of the concert.

But it wasn’t the behaviour of the recorders that made me angry; what made me mad was that the writer felt their only way to fight back was through a letter to the editor, rather than saying something at the time.

Our British heritage may insist that we politely mind our own business and avoid confrontation, but isn’t it time we all took a stand and asked people to stop those annoyances in the moment?  While we silently fume and grumble under our breath we are giving them the power and allowing them to ruin our experience.  Plus it is obvious that all of the reminders at the beginning of a show just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

So the next time you encounter a Tommy Texter or a Sally Soundtrack (I stole those names) at a movie, a play, or a concert, ask them to stop.  Or say something at intermission.  Don’t let it slide. Sure it will be uncomfortable and they may even tell you to take a hike, but until we start to demand more from our fellow audience members, the more this behaviour will continue.

It is time we reclaim our theatres, cinemas and music halls.  It is time for a confrontation.  Who’s with me?