There are two types of people in the world: Those who know it’s unacceptable to use your phone in the cinema and idiots. I’m sorry if you’re in the latter camp and I just hurt your feelings, except I’m not really because, at the end of the day, you know you shouldn’t be using your phone during a film. That’s why they show you that ad that says, “Don’t use your phone.” It’s hardly subtext, is it?
I know I sound a little grumpy, and honestly, I had a good time at the cinema this week. We got two incredible new movies, both of which are definitely going on my best movies of the year list, and it was lovely to see cinemas packed with excited fans. That said, while most people were completely absorbed by the work of Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan, there were a few malcontents who seemed determined to ruin the experience for me and everyone else who wanted to watch the movie.
In my IMAX screening of Oppenheimer, for example, a young man decided it would be fun to take photos of the audience and text through the screening. Or at least he would have done had my partner not turned to him after five minutes of irritating glare and politely asked the oxygen thief to put his phone away (that’s why she’s my hero).
The man was clearly rattled by this because despite spending the better part of $20 on a ticket, he left the cinema, never to be seen again (we’re British, so trust me when I say that public shaming like this is the equivalent of a full-on fist fight). This was just my experience, but a quick glance at social media will give you hundreds of examples of people filming the screen, taking photos, recording their friend’s reactions, and so on.
All harmless fun, you might think? They’re not hurting anyone, are they? Who died and made me the fun police? Well, I’ll happily tell you what I did to earn my IFP (Internet Fun Police) badge. Well, first of all, it’s actually illegal, but that’s a whole other can of worms that I don’t want to get into.
No, I earned my stripes on the IFP because I paid to be there. You see, going to the cinema these days isn’t cheap. In fact, nothing’s cheap right now. So when I decide to spend my hard-earned money going to the theater, I want to have the best experience possible. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and I don’t think any reasonable person would disagree.
When you use your phone, you do ruin the experience. The little burst of light that shines off your screen when you check to see if you’ve got that third like on Instagram or if you’ve got a text is like lighting a beacon of Gondor. Except this light doesn’t summon the Rohirrim, it just pisses me off by distracting me from the screen. (Yes, even when you have the brightness turned all the way down.) Basically, you might want to look at your phone, but the rest of the cinema doesn’t care about you attending to your meager social following or whatever it is you’re doing.
And I know in the grand scheme of things that being briefly distracted from the screen isn’t the greatest sin a person can commit but come on, you’re at the cinema. The social contract you struck when you paid to watch the movie suggested that you’d at least try and engage with the film, and getting out your phone five minutes into the film suggests one of two things. Either you’re bored and want a distraction, or you’ve got somewhere better to be, in which case I suggest you pack up and f*ck off.
Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I thought the point of going to the cinema was to watch the film, not take photos of the film. I know our society places a lot of emphasis on being seen to do things rather than actually doing them, but have some respect for yourself; you’ve paid a small fortune to get into the theater, so you could at least try and watch the movie.
Now some people claim it’s no different from taking photos at a concert, and I don’t have a problem with taking pictures at a gig, do I? Well, no, I don’t, but here’s the thing. Concerts aren’t primarily a visual medium. I know bands put hard work into the staging (don’t @ me), but ultimately as long as I can hear the music, a little flash doesn’t bother me. When you take a photo of the film, the flash impairs the screen, the screen I’ve paid to see. Do you see the difference?
Probably not, to be honest. I’ve had this argument with people in real life, and the two groups seem incapable of agreeing on the appropriateness of using phones in the cinema. You know, though, the other thing that irritates me about phone-checkers is just the damned rudeness of it.
Not to your fellow audience members (although we’ve established it is rude) but to the people who worked night and day to produce a piece of art for you to enjoy that you can’t be bothered to experience as the filmmaker intended. Instead, you want to sit in a room where a movie is playing and stare at a tiny screen, or worse yet, just take a photo of yourself watching the film.
And to anyone who reads this and thinks I sound about 87 years old at this point, I already know. I found a gray nostril hair the other day. I’ve clearly got a good six weeks left in me before they ship me off to the home for geriatric internet writers, but seriously, does it not bother you that you’ve paid to see a film, and the only thing you want to do during it is something you could sit at home and do for free? So get off your phone and watch the film. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.
If you’re bored of my rant, you may want to check out something constructive. We’ve got a Barbie review and an Oppenheimer review for you to enjoy, as well as a full breakdown of the Barbie cast and the Oppenheimer cast.
Not enough Boppenheimer content for you? Well, why not check out our guide to the Barbie 2 release date? We’ve even got an eye on the next Christopher Nolan movie. Finally, if you’re reading this in a cinema on a phone, then I hate you, and you should read our list of the best Christopher Nolan movies to make it up to me.