As most moviegoers know, it’s becoming harder and harder to go to the theatre and watch a movie without some moron beside you whipping out their cell phone and disrupting the experience. You’d think that film festivals would be one of the few places to take the issue seriously as not only should they be catering to hardcore cinephiles but they also want to show respect to the filmmakers and prevent piracy. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is often true and this week the Toronto International Film Festival is coming under fire for their lax approach to cell phone use. Yesterday, Alex Billington of FirstShowing.net reportedly called 911 in a fit of rage due to the distractions surrounding him at a press screening. While this was obviously an insane response, the issue is suddenly getting a lot of attention.
According to reports, Billington first approached a theatre manager to complain about the amount of texting and e-mailing happening at a press screening for Ti West’s The Sacrament. He was told that industry folks have the right to use their phones during these specific screenings and that he should go to a public screening instead. He then proceeded to call 911 in an attempt to report potential piracy, but the operator apparently laughed in his face.
While in some ways it’s hard to feel sorry for members of the press who are seeing these movies for free, I have to admit that the public screenings can be pretty bad too. It also makes you wonder how much attention critics are paying to the movies that they are supposed to be reviewing. Some will no doubt see this as yet another example of how the festival is catering more to the industry folks than the average moviegoer but I guess it’s to be expected at this point. What do you think, should cell phone use be allowed at film festivals? Is TIFF alienating film fans with their lack of attention to this matter?