As an avid movie fan, there aren’t many things I hate as much as someone pulling their phone out in the middle of a movie. Using your phone during a movie is so disrespectful, it’s second only to jumping up in front of the screen and yelling at the entire audience about some other movie your friend saw last week that was way better. The other people in the theater paid to be there for a reason: it’s not to watch you play Tetris on your iPhone, and it’s not to listen to you describe the entire movie to your mom over the phone; it’s to enjoy the actual movie they spent $10 to see that evening. It’s disrespectful to everyone around you, and even more so, the people who made the film. Are we really not capable of sitting down for an hour and a half to watch a film without tweeting about it?

Overuse of phones in movie theaters has gotten so bad that theater chain owners, such as Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles, are considering encouraging cell phone use in theaters to bring up attendance, even going as far as considering having separate texting and non-texting screenings. “You’re trying to figure out if there’s something you can offer in the theater that I would not find appealing but my 18-year-old son [might],” Silver said back in April at CinemaCon. Theaters currently run PSAs telling people to turn off their phones before the movie, and threaten to kick anyone out who uses their’s, but I have yet to see that ever happen.

Thankfully, as many seem to be moving towards letting everyone pull out their phones (phones that—remember anti-piracy lobbyists—have video cameras) in the middle of Magic Mike to text about Channing Tatum’s abs and set them as their wallpaper, one company is suggesting something quite the opposite.

Apple, the people who brought us one of the most popular movie theater distractions, recently had a patent approved, which would allow “apparatus and methods for changing one or more functional or operational aspects of a wireless device, such as upon the occurrence of a certain event.” Or, to put it simply, Apple could make it so whenever you enter a theater, your phone shuts off automatically.

Yes, Apple might force us all to act like decent human beings.

Graphic by: Dennis Lubensky

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. The biggest hurdle is getting theater chains to agree to this. They would have to set up devices to trigger the reaction in the phone at the entrances to the theaters, or perhaps in the theaters that turn on as the movie starts. However with theater chains moving towards encouraging texting during their movies, it’ll be tough to swim in the complete opposite direction.

Second, Apple needs to figure out what exactly can legally be banned in the theater. Reasonably, when you enter the theater, your phone should disable the camera and phone/internet, turn off the ringtone, and lower the brightness all the way. Perhaps one exception would be for 911 calls. Aside from that, if you need to make a call? Then you can simply step into the hall.

The funny thing, really, is that this debate even exists. It’s not exactly that tough to turn off, or hell, even put your phone on vibrate when you go to the movies. I’ve seen people get phone calls and hit ignore. I’ve even seen people leave the ringtone on, and people who make calls in the theater. One man even came in listening to his iPod so loud that I could hear some bits of his audiobook for the first hour or so of the film. It just begs the question: if you want to listen to music and make phone calls, why are you even coming to the movies?


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