Open Forum Friday: Should Movie Theatres Allow Texting?

I realize that I’m probably about to open a real can of worms here, but I thought this was an interesting enough topic to warrant some discussion. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly difficult to enjoy a movie at the theatre without being interrupted by someone receiving a phone call or texting in the middle of the movie. While you can blame some theatres for not actively enforcing the standard “no cell phone use” policy, the real problem seems to be that there is a generation growing up who are more attached to their mobile devices than ever before. The idea that you shouldn’t be allowed to have access to them somewhere simply doesn’t compute. The Hollywood Reporter conducted a study this month with 750 social network users ages 13 to 49 that only seemed to reinforce this fact.

In addition to acknowledging the value and influence of social networks in their lives, 83% of the survey participants said they surf the web while watching TV and 55% of moviegoers claim to have texted during a movie. Nearly half of the respondents also said they would be interested in going to a theatre that allows texting and web surfing — this despite the fact that 75% also said that using a mobile device during a movie makes it “distracting and less satisfying.” Go figure. I’m not entirely sure what these results mean, but I can certainly see a day where designated theatres or screenings may allow the use of cell phones during a movie. After all, if that is what the public demands, that is what they will probably get. What do you think? Is there a situation where allowing cell phone use during a movie could actually be beneficial? Would you like to have access to your cell phone during movies without feeling like a jerk? Or should the moviegoing experience always be sacred and completely distraction free? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

  • Macleans magazine did a story on theatres and orchestra halls setting aside certain sections to allow people to tweet. They hope to encourage young people to come see and experience live music.

    Here’s the link:

  • This is what should be happening…

    However, I’ve never had Poutine. Or a large pickle on a stick. Therefore, this argument might be null and void.

  • Kasper

    I’m fine with it as long as there would be rules like only certain seats at the back of the theater, so us that gets annoyed by it can sit in front of those people and therefor not see or get annoyed by the light from the screen. No sound is a must too ofc.

  • Colin


  • ChuckDeNomolos

    Personally I think theaters should have signals blockers installed that block 100% of all cell phone coverage. If you are in a position where a possible emergency could arise at any second and you need to be able to answer your phone then my solutions is: YOU SHOULDN’T BE GOING TO THE MOVIES.

    I would also gladly pay $0.50 more a ticket to have all theaters hire security guards to constantly stand guard at EVERY showing and the second a sound is made that isn’t a reaction sound (laughing, crying, screaming) they will escort the person out of the theater immediately.

    Yes, I’m a fascist when it comes to this.

  • Steph

    I like sitting in the back row. Should I have to give that up for people who can’t put life on pause for a couple hours. Besides, the most annoying movie experience I had didn’t even involve a phone. Just loud inconsiderate people.

  • Honest Dave

    I say never. I’f you have to text you are not there to watch the movie anyway. Don’t ruin it for those that are!

  • max

    I would be fine with it if there was a texting and non texting theater made available. That way the dicks that take out thier phones wont be going to the same theater as me. Then again from those numbers people are ok when they use their phones but annoyed when someone else does the same.

  • Steve

    NEVER!!…wtf you wanna chat go get coffee..movies, watch the #&%$ing movie

  • This is why drive-ins will make a comeback.

    I agree with Chuck. Block all cell phone signals. If you don’t care about the movie you paid to see, get the hell out of the theater if you want to use your phone.

    The only way that it would be all right is if every seat had a “cone of silence” that could be lowered over your seat, Get Smart style.

    On a related note, are there theaters that have headphones for viewers, wireless or plug-in?

    Until then, I look forward to hearing about Greg yelling at noisy kids.

  • rob

    no the light emitted is incredibly distracting and can easily detract from the viewing experience – which is what i am paying for at the cinema

  • NakedGord

    Meh…the movie theatre experience has already become to annoying to enjoy compared to watching it on DVD so why not?

    I suspect most who’d find this annoying have already abandoned the theatre like myself.

  • ButtonMan88

    Good Forum Topic.

    While I personally think that the use of any electronic device in a theater should be banned and enforced, I think the studios could actually use this rampant form of movie-goer disinterest to their, and our, advantage.

    Instead of populating test-screenings with the usual random mall-walking dead at 2pm on a Tuesday in Cleveland, they should fill the seats with hipsters and slackers who are armed to the teeth with their iPhones and iPads and tell them that device-usage is not only permitted but actually encouraged.

    The studio should then, in some fashion, try to measure the amount of data and phone usage occurring at every stage of the movie. In this this way they could plot which parts of the movie were gripping enough to distract the audience from their devices and which parts were so un-engaging that the audience went right back to tweeting/FBing etc.

    We, the general movie going audience, get better movies that hold our attention longer and the light-polluting hipsters get quarantined into free-movie screenings that pander to their PDA peccadilloes.

    My work here is done :)

  • Falsk

    “This is why drive-ins will make a comeback.”

    That’ll be the day… but here’s hoping!

  • Owozifa

    I think people just seem to have a hard time accepting being “off the grid” for any period of time, even two hours.

    I sometimes text about the movie I’m watching when I’m at home, so I suppose some of these texters might actually be talking about the film at hand.

    Unfortunately it is a distraction, and any distraction in a theater that you have no pause or rewind functionality is ultimately majorly impolite. I think it benefits everyone, even the people who want to text, to enforce a no texting policy. They might just find focusing their attention on one thing for two hours very revelatory.

  • Gerry

    Texting absolutely RUINS movie watching.

    I was in a nearly empty theatre and thought great, no munching and slurping sounds for the first 20 minutes of the movie. Then some dildo texted. It didn’t matter which way I angled my head away from the resulting light pollution from one phone – an annoying thing in itself – I couldn’t escape it and it ruined the first 15 minutes of the film.

    Films showing on 2 screens, one for texters and one for regular customers who are happy to be text free for 2 hours sounds like a solution to me.

  • This also reminds me of the last time I went to a concert (Sam Roberts) and half the audience was watching the band through their camera phones instead of with their own naked eyes. That boggled my mind. You’re there live and you don’t even want to look at the performance first hand? I don’t get it.

  • Maybe theaters can invent some special 3D glasses that have a text screen built into the lenses.

  • deadmic3

    If I go to a movie and the worst thing that the audience does is text, I consider myself lucky. I think jaw wiring should be mandatory for entrance. Too many hilarious jokes.

    Everyone thinks that they’re hilarious these days, and its because of social media. Check a trending topic on twitter– everyone is making the same jokes. And don’t even get me started on “memes”… good God.

  • Texting is an efficient communications medium, a powerful fund raising tool and even a crime reporting method – to name a few upsides. But I also think technology should be able to help us facilitate unplugging.

    After my three year old daughter was nearly run down by a texting driver in 2009, I invented an app to manage texting whether the user is at home, in the office or on the road. Its simple and easy to schedule “texting blackout periods” with all notifications silenced so you can focus on the task at hand (like a good movie!) without feeling disconnected from your social network. Teens can study or sleep and adults…well maybe we can remind ourselves that technology should be complimenting our lives and not the other way around.

    Erik Wood, owner
    OTTER app
    do one thing well… be great.

  • anonymiss

    wow, go otter!!!

  • bugsyoz

    Of course it should be allowed. As long as the phone is on silent. If someone needs to contact me they will be able to. If it’s a phone call then get off your arse and go outside (or hang up and let em know you’re in a flick). If it’s a text obviously it’s not super urgent – either don’t reply or quickly reply saying you’re in a movie.

    Social media..ah no. Different story. Leave that bullshit alone for an hour and a half.


  • patrik

    Absolutely not. If they ever fully condone this I’m gonna stomp on someones face.

  • patrik

    Preferably the theatre owners face.

    Frank really should open a theatre. People would flock from all of the world.

  • Is this really a serious question? I don’t think there’s a single movie lover that thinks texting in the theater is something that should be encouraged.

    Something is very wrong with our society. We have become hypnotized by our small, bright screens. We’re addicted to them. Enough already.

  • Goon

    While at an advance screening earlier this week I remarked that its the ONLY way I can guarantee people arent using their phones. And people complain about the Advance Screening Police and how they behave, when really their over the top fascism is right up my alley.

  • It’s a serious question. Based on that study, there are people out there who would be in support of this, but I guess none of them read Film Junk. (Not that I’m complaining.) I thought the idea of designated theatres could be an interesting compromise though.

  • Yeah, Sean, I just meant that I’m pretty sure the vast majority of FJ readers are anti-texting. As far as casual movie-goers, those percentages are, sadly, completely different for sure.

    I just think the idea of designated texting theaters is insulting to the art form, and it’s sad that there’s even a need for such… compromise.

  • True, if you look at film as art, it’s almost unforgivable. But the average person just looks at a movie as entertainment and a social outing. Texting and social networking plays right into that, which is where the conflict arises.

    Ironically, the place where I have probably encountered the most texting in a theatre is at TIFF.

  • Cinema is still a very young art, and I don’t think there’s any other art form that has been through the ringer as film has during the last few years. Since the making of it and experiencing of it is based in technology, and technology has been progressing in leaps and bounds, who knows how that will effect cinema.
    Young generations are already growing up with the streaming culture, where movies are products to be activated or discarded at the click of a button.

    Thing is film can be so much more than just entertainment. Such a waste, I think sometimes, that Hollywood has forsaken the roots of cinema to such a degree. Maybe because the movies are mostly so mediocre, audiences don’t respect them or give them much attention anymore, hence the texting.

    As for TIFF, I went to industry screenings last year and there was texting all over the place.

  • Anthony

    Texting should totally be allowed.

    Here’s the thing: The texting is not bothering anyone else. Anyone who says they get annoyed or distracted by the light is fucking retarded, nosey, and/or just a complainy pants. If the phone is on silent or vibrate, and the person isn’t talking on the phone or reading his/her texts out loud, calm the fuck down. I avoid texting during films and even looking at them most of the time myself, but that’s because I’m just interested in the movie, not because of some courtesy to the jackass sitting 5 rows in front of me in a barely half filled theatre.

    And to the guy who said “If you are in a position where a possible emergency could arise at any second and you need to be able to answer your phone then my solutions is: YOU SHOULDN’T BE GOING TO THE MOVIES.”

    Yeah, good solution, except here’s the thing with emergencies: They usually pop up out of nowhere with no indication or warning before hand. There’s no planning for that shit. So if I want to have my phone on vibrate so I can get a text or get a phone call from someone in case something happens, I’m going to do that. I’ll obviously wait until I get outside of the theater to answer such a call, but still.

    That picture someone posted above makes a good, yet somewhat inadvertant, point (since it includes a lot of noise making situations, not just texting/cell phone use) in that people are so upset about someone silently texting (most phones these days are touch screens) with a little light that’s on that you can barely see, yet the assholes who munch on popcorn, hard candy, and eat snacks out of loud bags are totally tolerated and accepted. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be, but fair’s fair, you know?

    So unless someone is texting right in your face (being next to you or 2 seats away from you is not right in your face), calm down and stop caring. If that person wants to not pay attention to a film they paid $10-$15 for, that’s their loss, not yours. I’m totally for banning talking on phones and talking loudly during movies, but the texting thing has always irritated me when people complain about it.

  • patrik


    I don’t think the guy sitting five rows in front of you would be bothered but the guy sitting five rows behind you will definitely be disturbed by the fucking light coming off of your phone. It’s not the texting itself that is annoying, it’s the fucking light. It’s very bright.

  • Crowkiller06

    Consider this:
    The Film Industry complains that they are losing money now, and they want to come up with ways to entice more people to the cinemas !! What better way than to piss off the most loyal movie goers( all of us) by making the movie going experience less enjoyable!!
    Go ahead Hollywood. You will get the younger crowds(sure), but, those of us who have persevered and continued all of this time to support films will just stop going. Watch it happen.

    By the way. My opinion, if you couldn’t tell, is that texting is a bad idea!

  • I was working on a screenplay that actually incorporated txting…put it on shelf after the news about paint/sealing theaters to prevent cell phone use. should I dust it off?? txt me at 1800UR2PH@

  • manjiscud

    Anthony is a fucking moron. Just 10 years ago this was not an issue. Why is there a need to be plugged in at all times? Emergency? Fuck that excuse. It’s not commissioner Gordon on the other line. What are you actually going to do in the event of an “emergency”? Are you a doctor, EMT, cop, or superhero? No, you’re an asshole that’s self obsessed. The world turns without you.

    And let’s not forget that this is not a technological issue it’s a social one. Everyone is vying for their 15 minutes and made to believe that they are important. Parents send un parented, heavily medicated kids into the world that then have more shitty kids. And here we are. One person’s text is more important than another’s movie experience, dinner conversation, or life. (in terms of driving while texting) We nee parameters and punitive measures or will just get worse.

    Or you can just go to the Alamo.

  • Gerry

    Maybe ipod and phone manufacturers could invent / introduce a cinema texting mode / app for their products that enabled severe dimming of the screen during texting at the cinema.

    It wouldn’t be a solution but would be a step in the right direction.

  • BubbleDubble

    Anthony I’m sure your a nice bloke in real life, but on this thread you are pretty much the dumbest son of a bitch to ever move his fingertips across a keyboard. Please, take your opinions out to the garage, rape them to death, then shoot them in the temple for safety reason.

  • BubbleDubble


  • SunnyPistol

    Holy jumping shit balls!
    Enough with giving into this “Me first” mentality. Unless you’r a surgeon and someone’s life hangs in the balance you’re not that important that you need to text or talk to someone during a movie.

  • let me break it down as we’ve gotten off track. people go to their phone if they are not fully engaged by whats on the screen. they are already allowed to do this all they want RIGHT NOW. you can txt, check messages LOOK FOR EMERGENCIES by gong out in lobby. this issue is about LAZINESS not txting.

    if I can’t PEE in my used coke cup during the 3rd act of INCEPTION you aren’t allowed to txt the girl that isn’t going to suck u off anyway! PERIOD!!!

  • Anthony

    “Just 10 years ago this was not an issue.”

    Yeah good point. Maybe we can tell people to stop trying to get certain newer medicines to help them with their health problems as well, because they didn’t need them before. Someone with Crohn’s disease should have his large intestine removed because Remicade wasn’t around 15 years ago. Maybe i’ll tell that kid with type 1 Diabetes to not take his insulin shot since treatment for diabetes hasn’t always existed. Because something wasn’t always around as an aid to a problem or emergency, we shouldn’t have to worry about it now. After all, it wasn’t an issue before, why have something that can help you prevent a bad situation or respond to an emergency situation sooner if it wasn’t around 10 years ago?

    “Are you a doctor, EMT, cop, or superhero?”

    None of those (well, at least not the first 3), but a family member getting in a severe car accident, someone breaking into your house, some other sort of family emergency. There is middleground between “being a doctor or cop called to your job” and “being informed about something Kim Kardashian is doing.” Just because you’re not the most important person in society doesn’t mean important shit isn’t happening.

  • bugsyoz

    from #31…”Yeah, good solution, except here’s the thing with emergencies: They usually pop up out of nowhere with no indication or warning before hand. There’s no planning for that shit. So if I want to have my phone on vibrate so I can get a text or get a phone call from someone in case something happens, I’m going to do that. I’ll obviously wait until I get outside of the theater to answer such a call, but still”

    Nail, head. Well done son. My phone will be on (silent) so that if someone needs to contact me they can. I’d like to see someone try to tell me to turn my phone off. Having it on vibrate/silent is perfectly fine. Get off your backside and tend to the message, go back to your seat. Who is that harming? People who have a problem with that..with a light or whatever, it’s only tossers who leave the phone out so everyone can see the light that cause an issue. It’s very flipping easy to shoot a message back to someone without the light bothering fellow cinema goers. If it does bother them, do they tell tell ushers to fuck off with their little torch?…..

    I have one word. Bridge. I’ll be fucked if someone can’t contact me when necessary.


  • Jr

    No, it shouldn’t be allowed. It can be annoying to other people and there’s no need for it. If you have an emergency, leave the theater and deal with it. It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s annoying or not, what matters is your consideration of other people.
    And to Anthony: It IS bothering other people. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  • Anthony

    “If you have an emergency, leave the theater and deal with it.”

    Isn’t that, like, what I’ve been saying? Read my posts again dude. Also, the point I’m making is not that the emergency should be handled right then and there in the theatre, but that in order to know if there’s an emergency, you need to check the phone if you receive a call or a text.

  • Goon

    “I avoid texting during films and even looking at them most of the time myself….”


    “…most of the time”

    Are you that douchebag in every theater who very slightly turns his phone on an angle checking his texts, thinking it goes unnoticed?

    “The texting is not bothering anyone else. ”

    This thread alone proves you wrong and should invalidate your argument, unless you believe a forum full of people who care about films don’t matter suddenly.

    May you one day get a punch in the back of the neck from a Greg Gaspari-like figure.

  • Anthony

    “This thread alone proves you wrong and should invalidate your argument, unless you believe a forum full of people who care about films don’t matter suddenly.”

    Because we all know that majority = truth, right?

    Maybe I should have been clearer in my comment about my cell phone use in theatres. I don’t think i’ve ever initiated a text conversation while watching a movie. If I recall correctly, at most i’ve felt my phone vibrate in my pocket, check to see what the alert was, and handled it accordingly. If it’s a text, i’ll open it, read it, and respond to it later if it’s not an emergency text (which I haven’t received while at a movie theatre yet). If it’s a phone call, i’ll usually ignore it, but that depends on the person calling and the movie.

    As far as how i’m holding my cell phone. Sometimes I tilt it when there’s not many people around. if I have people on both sides of me who aren’t my friends and therefore I won’t know how they’ll react, i’ll kneel down a bit and hold my phone between my knees a little more so the light isn’t as visible.

    Is that good enough for you? I don’t know where you live, but I wouldn’t want to bother you on the off chance you sit 5 rows behind me in a movie theater while you’re disliking the movie you’re watching anyway.

  • mplo

    I think that you’re wrong, on all counts here, Anthony. First of all, as several other posters on here have succinctly pointed out, if you’re in a position where you’re going to have to take emergency cell phone calls, you shouldn’t be going to the movies in the first place.

    Secondly, when people text in the movie theatre during a movie, the small, brightly-lit cell phone screen isn’t just simply an annoyance and a distraction if they’re one, two or three seats away from you. Texting can be from a number of rows down, as well. I once attended a movie where a guy who was much closer to the front of the auditorium of the library was texting (I was much more towards the back of the auditorium.) was texting, and I found that extremely annoying and distracting also.