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Cell Jammers In Theaters

We’ve been talking all year about what theater owners can do to get audiences interested in buying tickets again instead of staying home and watching DVDs. Invariably, whenever that question is asked, one of the top responses is: ban cell phones. Number two is usually lower snack prices, but like lower gas prices, you can forget about that.

But the good news is that theater owners agree, and they’ve petitioned the FCC to allow them to block cell phone signals in theaters, according to our partners over at M&C. Opposing the National Association of Theater Owners is the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. They’re beef with the idea is that “it interferes with peoples’ ability to use a wireless device in an emergency situation.”

It’s true, doing this would interfere with people’s ability to use a wireless device in an emergency… but do we really care? It’s not like people won’t be able to get help in a real emergency. The theater will still have landlines. If someone needs an ambulance, it’ll take maybe an extra thirty seconds to run out of the theater and scream “Call 911!” to the pimply faced kid standing behind the candy counter.

Ideally, it shouldn’t have to come to this. Responsible individuals ought to be able to handle their cell phones. When I go into a theater, I flip my phone on silent. If it rings, I don’t answer it, or if it vibrates and I want to answer it, I leave the theater. Unfortunately, we apparently can’t rely on the rest of the world to behave like human beings, so people like me will have to suffer. If this goes through, I won’t be able to text while I’m sitting in my seat waiting for the movie to start. I won’t be able to stand out in the lobby to make a phone call. That’ll suck… but that’s a sacrifice I think responsible cell phone users like me are willing to make.

Is there perhaps a way something like this could be localized? Can it be set up so that it only blocks signals within each theater and not in the lobby? Can it be set to turn only ONLY when the movie actually starts inside the theater? That might knock down at least some of the objections from more responsible cell phone users, and maybe make it a little easier for the government to OK it.

Either way, this is an idea whose time as come… but it’s just one of the things theater owners need to do if they’re going to win back their wayward audiences. Still, it’s at least a step in the right direction.