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Radical Civility Works! A Report From the Front

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Can the simple act of asking someone to put away her cell phone in a movie theater actually work? Yes, if the experience that a reader named Ann had is any indication. Ann sent me this e-mail:

I just wanted to thank you for addressing the issue of texting and cell phone use during movies.
I went to a movie tonight only to have the lady in front of me shine her cell phone in my eyes three times. The third time I leaned forward and told her "That's really bright." Okay, so she and her husband didn't like it and gave me dirty looks at the end of the movie when the lights came on but she didn't pull her cell phone out again for the rest of the film.
I complained to the theater manager as I was leaving that they need to do more to stop that. In the course of the conversation he mentioned the ushers aren't allowed to use flashlights anymore. I asked why. Seems too many people were complaining about the light distracting them. I wonder if these same people are the ones using their cell phones and texting during movies.
IKeep up the good work!

Thanks, Ann. Two things strike me about Ann's experience. First, all she had to say was "That's really bright" and the rude texter stopped. That's a briefer message even than the one I recommend: "Excuse me, the light from your cellphone is very distracting. Can you turn it off please?"

Second, who knew that ushers gave up their flashlights? And for precisely the reason so many of us are annoyed by movie-texters. Or perhaps ushers don't need flashlights anymore, since they can navigate by the light of the various cellphones, like glowing buoys strung out along a rocky shore.

Here's something that would be helpful for me: Please pass on your recent movie experiences by leaving a comment here. I'd like to assemble an unscientific report card of what the moviegoing experience is like in various theaters around Washington. Perhaps over time we'll see an improvement.

I can report that during a Father's Day evening screening of "Year One" at the Regal Majestic Cinema in Silver Spring, not a single cell phone marred the show.

Of course, the theater wasn't very crowded. Maybe people stayed away because they were afraid there'd be texting. Or maybe it was the movie. (We enjoyed it, but it's definitely a Netflix candidate.)

By John Kelly  |  June 29, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Radical Civility  
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Comments

I just wanted to note that some theaters in northern VA (i.e. Potomac Yard and Hoffman) have added a "no texting" message before previews, and during my last 3-4 trips to the movies, I have not seen any cell phones out.

Posted by: saranred | June 29, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

A note about ushers, from a former teenage movie theater employee:

Ushers do not (or did not) carry flashlights to navigate through the theater. Theater aisles are marked with tiny lights to assist patrons in making a quick emergency exit if necessary.

In my day the flashlights were for indicating directions to patrons, and for spotlighting/throwing out people who were behaving badly. Since neither activity is conducted anymore, the flashlight also seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

Posted by: Shift_lock | June 29, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that we wait until we are angry to say something. (That includes me.) 99.9% of people respond politely if you quietly ask, "Excuse me, can you not....? Thanks."

Posted by: cmecyclist | June 29, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm the Ann from above. The theater did run a no cell phone, no texting thing TWICE before the film started. One of little messages was from Sprint. I like that a cell phone carrier asked people not to use their phones.

Mr. Kelly - the theater in question is a Regal Theater in Baltimore Co.

Posted by: spg2dd | June 29, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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