Smart SpendingSmart Spending

A cellphone ban in theaters?

Do people have the right to text or talk at the movies? Some theater owners and patrons don't think so.

By Karen Datko Oct 27, 2011 3:47PM

Next time we go to the movies, we're taking Washington Post personal-finance columnist Michelle Singletary with us.


When a woman sitting near Singletary at the theater kept checking her very bright cellphone screen, and ignored her polite request that she stop, Singletary enlisted the help of a cop who worked at the theater. He told the woman to stop or hit the road.


The woman had rebuffed Singletary, saying, "I pay my cell bill, so I can use it whenever I want."


Is that so? And didn't Michelle just pay to enjoy a movie without having your bright light flashing in her face?


Now Singletary is asking her readers: "What do you think of a zero-tolerance ban in movie theaters and other public places?"


We felt compelled to share this with you because it's a pet peeve of ours too. We're having a hard time remembering a social function we've been to in recent years where others weren't constantly checking their phones or texting when they were ostensibly engaged in face-to-face conversation with other people. It's so rude. But we often feel we're in the minority. Post continues after video.

Singletary says the Wehrenberg theater chain in Missouri requires that all cellphones be turned off or put on vibrate in the theater. Violate the ban and you'll be booted out without a refund.


And she adds this: "Last year, a woman in Chicago sued a movie theater after the armrest hit her in the head as she was bending down to talk on her phone."


(Singletary cut Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu some slack for violating the NFL's ban on cellphone use on the field when she learned he had called his wife to tell her the extent of his on-field injury.)


Others also feel entitled to talk or text, no matter how disruptive their cellphone behavior is. ABC News reported about a woman who left an expletive-filled complaint on the voice mail of a Texas theater chain that had kicked her out for violating its texting ban. "They used (an expletive-deleted version) as the public service announcement they play before films to encourage people to keep quiet," ABC News said.


In fact, bans on cellphone use in theaters is becoming more common: Greensboro, N.C. and Lubbock, Texas, for instance. There's even a Facebook page about it (although it hasn't caught on -- yet).


Should more theaters ban cellphone use of any kind? Or do theaters have enough to worry about -- online streaming, release of movies to premium subscribers only weeks after their theater debut, to name a few -- without potentially ticking off customers who can't put their phones down?


More on MSN Money:

Oct 27, 2011 6:01PM
There is no one that needs to talk while at a movie or theater, its 2 hours relax don't use your cell phone.
Oct 27, 2011 6:03PM
I think the theaters should all ban cellphones use.  It's very disrupting and distracting to those of us who actually pay to watch the movie not listen to your conversation!
Oct 27, 2011 5:41PM

FCC should allow any place where an admission is paid to use a local cell phone signal blocker. Sadly, most people have no consideration for others, so expecting them to act civilized and not talk on the cell phone is not going to happen. 


Ban people who have to talk through out the movie as well. 

Oct 27, 2011 5:59PM
Yes, ALL cell phone use, including texting should be banned in movie theatres.  It's bad enough we have to see little lights all over the theatre without having to listen to everyone's inane babble too.  People should be booted from the theatre for violating a NO cell phone use.
Oct 27, 2011 5:34PM
It is so rude when people get on their phones during movies. I go to a movie to escape the world for a couple of hours, not to listen to buzzing, clicking, and talking loud on phones. We are already required to turn off cells during Airplane rides, why not add movie theaters to the list.
Oct 28, 2011 2:58AM
Ban them. And when lakeshia starts screaming (as she will) when she is asked to leave the theater, arrest her
Oct 28, 2011 6:46AM
Someone once said that your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.  People lived quite well for thousands of years without cell phones.  If you can't put it down, rent a video and stay home.  This is the same mindless indifference to other people that has caused the banning of smoking in so many places.  Don't expect others to suffer so you can indulge your addictions. 
Oct 28, 2011 2:19AM
Haven't been to the movies in over two years......mainly because of the rudeness of others, particularly cellphones.  Seems you young people and women of ALL ages cannot seem to be incommunicado for more than 3 minutes.  You're addicted to other people, and co-dependent.  Sad, but true. WHy spend 50 bucks plus for popcorn, tix, candy, etc. just to be continually BLINDED by idiots that are compelled to text??  And what are they texting about?  I doubt it's a massive stock trade or something.  GROW UP.
Oct 28, 2011 8:14AM

in theater and in movies, part of the experience is called "bridging the gulf, or the suspension of disbelief".  to have a rude, self absorbed individual use a cell phone is disruptive to the thought process of anyone near by.  

 the use should be banned.    period.

Oct 27, 2011 4:51PM
As far as I am concerned the theaters are well within their rights to ban them and I'd be grateful if they'd start today. Over and over I see people being downright dozy when it comes to using their cellphones. Sorry folks, you chose not to learn to use your manners with that device attached to your head and now people want nothing to do with you while you're on it. It's a consequence you brought on all of us through your poor choices!
Oct 27, 2011 7:00PM

Absolutely ban cell phones in theatres. The world can function for a couple hours without your consultation or Facebook updates. If its important, take it outside, show others some respect.


My girlfriend can't go more than five minutes without checking Facebook on her phone and it ticks me off more than anything else she does; especially when we are trying to watch a movie. We are 6 years apart in age (me 27, her 21) but miles apart in  values. She dropped her phone in a puddle last year and cried like she did when her grandma died; I forget where mine is all the time and never have a second thought about it..

Oct 27, 2011 5:27PM
NO ONE is that important -- and NO CALL is that important -- that it requires a person to interrupt others in a theater and make or receive a call or a text -- PERIOD.  You want to do any of those?  Then leave the theater area and go out in the lobby with your toy.  Cell  phones -- smart phones in particular -- have given rise to new levels of obnoxious behavior in public places.  I thought I'd seen it all until I went into a men's room at Chicago's Midway Airport 2 weeks ago, and next to me at a urinal was a guy in a suit, holding his you-know-what with one hand and texting with the other. As I said at the top of my rant, NO ONE and NO CALL is that important -- ever.  Let's get back to reality, folks, and stop letting these devices run -- and ruin -- our lives.
Oct 28, 2011 8:55AM

I wonder how we ever survived going to the movies back when there were NO CELL PHONES?  My goodness, it's a wonder we ever made it out of the house, let alone through a 2 hour movie.  As I read comments on here, I am appalled by the number of folks who feel it's the other guys' fault if they object to the bright lights of a cell phone in a dark movie theatre!  I am heartened, though, by the majority here who seem to agree with a ban. 


Back in the day, we had emergencies, we had kids at home, we had folks on call, and we all managed to go to the movies occassionally anyhow.  Ridiculous.  Turn them off.  NO ONE is that important!


Oct 28, 2011 1:04AM
When will people on cell phones wake up and realize there is a time to SHUT UP!
Oct 27, 2011 5:43PM
People in America are just plain rude. They have no respect for other people or not even themselves. People drive using their cell phones and nothing is done about it. Yes, they ought to be out-lawed in theatres.
Oct 28, 2011 10:17AM
okay, I am in my 20's- the generation of cell phones, right? But I have to agree with this. Cell phones should be placed on silent in a movie theater. I don't even like vibrate because you can still hear that (especially if its in a purse hitting against something else). It is very disturbing to have a cell phone out at the movies, and extremely rude. Yes, I pay my cell phone bill that is not cheap by no means. BUT  I also paid to watch a movie, as well as every one else. My phone remains on silent and I don't touch it until the movie is over. Now the parents with children, I can understand then their phone being on vibrate in case of an emergency. But walk out to answer so the others are not disturbed. These days everyone is out to take care of themselves and do not care who they disturbed in the process. I'm sorry, but my mother would still let me know real quick that was not acceptable. And please don't get me started on tweens with cell phones!!! I guess just called me old school, but I was raised the good ole fashioned way.
Oct 27, 2011 5:16PM
Cell phones must be turned off in any area where the public pays an admission fee, except for medical emergency purposes only... PERIOD!!
Oct 27, 2011 5:12PM

The constant use of cell phones everywhere needs to be addressed, but the movies are right at the top of the list.  I was at a movie recently and this gal a few seats down from me turned on her phone several times to check messages.  What is SO important that it can't wait two hours?  And if is that important, then stay home!  The light from the phone screen can be very distracting and, of course, it gets even worse if they start texting or talking.  I just think the way that these devices have taken over people's lives is sad.  And it's even sadder that some people's behavior with them is making life more annoying for those who aren't so obsessed!

I asked this woman a couple of times to turn it off, but she could have cared less. 

Oct 27, 2011 4:59PM
We might get to go to the movies once a month due to the high pricing and when I go its 3-4 of us including the kids. I'd like to enjoy it since I'm paying good money. If you can't go for an hour and ahalf to maybe 2 hours without texting or talking on the cell, then your life is crap and you need to re-evaluate it. I'm hoping this smart phone crap will wear out soon like disco as too many people are living on their phones litterally. I support the movie theaters on this one.

I do agree that once the movie starts cell phones need to be off.  I have had to answer my cell at the theater more than once when I am on call...I get up and leave the theater to actually call back and deal with whatever the emergency is.  I also turn the brightness level down on the screen so that when it goes off I can get an idea of who it is without disturbing those around me.  There are very few other reasons for using the cell during the actual movie.


Because I work with high school students through a high school youth group I understand how instinctive it is for them to instantly respond to each other...they think they will 'die' if they have to leave the phone off for any period of time or not immediately reply to a text.  Funny thing is we ban those same phones from some of our more popular weeklong events.  Within the first day they have forgotten all about having to constantly check their phones or constantly text...


Moreover, when their phones break, run out of juice, get stolen, shut off for lack of payment, or taken by parents:  no one dies...there are really NO issues where someone is going to suffer irreparable harm from no phone for a couple of hours.  At 53 I remember 'back in the day'.  We had one land line to the house and no answering machine.  Yet we managed to have a very full life and communicate with all of our friends just fine.


I think you will find the parents more resistant than the teens to shutting off the phones.  I would urge every theater to have a damping field that blocks cell phone signals.  I would leave their number on my service and if there was an emergency they could call the theater and they would come get me...that's how we used to do it in the old


Parents:  get over don't need to be attached at the hip to your kids 24/7...a call before the movie and a call when it is done is adequate...


Adults:  you are NOT that me, you don't need to be plugged in 24/7...much less for 2 hrs for a movie...relax, turn the phone off...

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.