If reader reaction to Celluloid Junkie posts is any indication of broad public sentiment, then a majority of moviegoers are infuriated by fellow audience members using their mobile phones in the middle of screenings.
Raising the topic in conversation or in posts like the ones we’ve published on CJ evokes impassioned arguments about why such behavior is selfish, disrespectful, rude, arrogant, impolite… pick whatever contemptuous adjective you’d like and it won’t be hard to find someone who agrees.
Those who feel that whipping out a mobile device during a movie is nothing to be ashamed of are significantly outnumbered. Actually answering a call and speaking on a cell phone mid-screening is unanimously despised for the most part, punishable by a long list of justifiably malevolent actions.
If exhibitors are struggling with mobile phones making unwelcome appearances in their cinemas during regularly scheduled showings, imagine how such behavior can be magnified in a film festival setting. This is especially true of special screenings held for the press and industry, where journalists must be accessible to receive last minute requests from demanding editors and acquisitions execs may need to counter offers from a sales rep or producer.
The unbridled use of mobile phones during festival screenings is so widespread that one journalist attending the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival infamously called the police to arrest offenders for possibly pirating the movie being shown.
Those who have similarly strong opinions about mobile phones being pulled out during film festival screenings are beginning to speak up – literally and figuratively. Gary Meyer, publisher of EatDrinkFilms and the recently departed longtime programmer of the Telluride Film Festival, is a self-described fascist when it comes to cell phones in cinemas.
At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which concludes today in Park City, Utah, Meyer often preemptively warned audiences to put away their cell phones during the movie. This was in addition to the announcement made by a festival volunteer before each screening requesting that all mobile phones be silenced (not turned off) and their screens dimmed, should they need to be used during the movie.