please turn off your phone during the movie

Last month I decided to get AMC A-List. Less than $24 a month and you can see up to three movies a week. See between two and three movies a month and you’ve already gotten your money’s worth. I had previously used MoviePass and loved it, but didn’t love the technical issues and the lack of customer service, and then they started restricting which movie screenings you could see. Plus the outages due to their own bankruptcy was kind of unacceptable to deal with as a customer, you know?

And to be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever really been a movie person. At least I never used to be. Sure I saw movies once in awhile when I was younger, but the high prices of tickets and concessions is a real turn off when you’re looking for something to do, no matter your age. But I took a film class while pursuing my second B.A., ended up minoring in it and now I really truly love and appreciate film in a multitude of ways and now, enjoy going to see movies. When I had MoviePass (which was priced at $10/month), I loved going with my friend Stan, talking about the films together, and not just seeing mainstream films, but indie films too. Anyway – where’s this all going?

Well, since I’ve started going to the movie theatre on a fairly regular basis (which is probably going on a year and a half now), I have become appalled at theatre etiquette, or rather, lack thereof. People are so rude. Like, you’re sharing a public space. Be respectful.

So since I’ve gotten A-List I’ve been to 4 movies (well, really 3 and 1/4 – The projector broke when I went to see The Mule and the theatre ended up giving me and this other woman (the only people in the theatre at the time) comp tickets and sending us home). And since it’s been cold and I’ve been busy with work or at yoga or just plain tired from doing both those things (along with other various social obligations), it’s been difficult for me to motivate myself to go to the movies and get my money’s worth out of this stupid subscription service I decided to pay for (which locks you in for three months and is a pain in the ass to cancel…But I digress).

So after I cleaned up after my hot yoga class this morning, I decided to take myself out. I looked at the showings being offered and The Kid Who Would Be King was closest to the current time, and I did want to see it because Patrick Stewart’s in it and the trailer looked good. And I have to say, it actually was a very good film and I enjoyed it very much – and learned a little something about the myths about King Arthur.

When I went out, I was expecting kids (it’s the weekend), as well as couples who perhaps had to delay their Valentine’s Day plans. But I was not expecting a woman to pull out her cell phone in the row in front of me while we were two-thirds of the way through the movie and continuously use it despite my vocal objections.

Now here is what I don’t understand – This woman (she was also accompanied by two teenage boys, one was her son, the other presumably his friend – who both were enjoying this movie) paid money for tickets, paid money for concessions, and made the time to drive over to the theater to see this movie. She is taking time and money out of her day to make this happen. If that is the case, then why don’t you just come and enjoy what you pay for?

So first, she takes her phone out on full brightness and is continuously opening and closing her AMC app, which is pointless. You’re already in the movie theatre, you’re already here. What are you doing? Then she is literally holding the phone in front of her (at full brightness and directly in my line of sight), literally just staring at the home screen with all the apps on it. She does not put it on sleep mode or try to hide it at all. So I told her to turn off her phone, explained that it was distracting, that the whole theatre could see it. She says nothing, ignores me, and continues to use it. This time, opening her texting application and sending messages. Again I express, if it’s so important for her to be on her phone, use it outside the theatre. She continues to ignore me. I thought of shining my own phone flashlight on her. I thought of videoing her. But to what end? I was so upset because she was spoiling the movie. It was the preparation scene before the last epic battle. And I have dealt with movie theatre / annoying cell phone users before, but never have I encountered one like this. Even one time, I saw Lindsey Buckingham perform live in New York City and the gentleman seated next to me look so bored and unenthusiastic and wasn’t singing along with anything. He had arrived alone and again, had spent money on this ticket and in the middle of the Fleetwood Mac part of Lindsey’s set (arguably the best part of his set), this guy takes out his phone at FULL BRIGHTNESS and is reading an article on it. Not sending a message, not casually checking email or the time, but is reading an article. THIS ISN’T YOUR LIVING ROOM. YOU ARE SHARING A SPACE. And it honestly got to the point where I leaned over to him and said if what he was reading was so important, maybe he could take it outside. He mumbled to me and proceed to pull his coat over his cell phone so the light wouldn’t get in my eyes – which it still did. Just unbelievable behavior. No guilt, no self-consciousness.

But the woman at this movie – She then proceeded to start playing word games (in full brightness). Just clearly bored and treating the theatre like it was her home. So then I offered a compromise: “If you’re going to be on your phone, at least turn down your brightness”. She did not oblige. And mind you, this was all during the quiet parts of the film so I didn’t have to scream over it. And I hate doing this. I hate calling people out. It makes me heart pound in my ears, it makes me very uncomfortable because I hate confrontation. But I continued to ask her to turn it off to the point where her son actually got up and tried to take the phone away from her, and she yanked her phone back, swatted him away, and told him to leave her alone. Is this what it’s come to?

Now she did turn off her phone once the last battle sequence took off, but the damage had been done. She ruined the movie for me. And this is also why I hate going to the movies during peak days/times, by the way. Once the credits started rolling, I got the hell out of there. The woman and her son looked like they were exchanging words and I honestly felt bad for both of them. So grateful I wasn’t that woman, so desperate for distraction to resort to playing with her phone in a dark movie theatre with other people in it, ruining their experiences. And so grateful I wasn’t that son, embarrassed, scarred, and frustrated by his own mother.

When I told my brother this story, he asked why I didn’t leave to get a manager and here’s why: If I did that, I’d miss the last third of the movie (which I didn’t want, especially after what happened with The Mule – Also, I’m not one of those people who gets up during movies. Even if I have to pee really bad, I will usually hold it ’til credits). Even if I went to get someone, what are they going to do? Take her phone away from her? Probably not. And then if she obliges when they come, when they leave she could just take it out again. Would they give me comp tickets? It does me no good, especially when I already pay monthly and have a tight schedule which prohibits me from seeing movies whenever I feel like it. It would have been such a waste of energy.

But for the future, if any of you are ever in a movie theatre with me, please do not go on your phone, because maybe next time I will hit the record button and turn that flashlight on.

Author: Roe

30. she/her. Songwriter & Trek Punk Soul™.

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