The Cinema and iPhone Etiquette*

With talk of Curzon Cinemas setting up shop in the former Keddies building in the town’s Queen Street, and Head Street’s Odeon bracing itself for this year’s summer blockbusters, Colchester 101’s resident movie reviewer Andy Oliver wants to address iPhone etiquette in the cinema.

How exciting is your life?

Are you and your Facebook friends regularly saving the world from megalomaniac, self-replicating robots with daddy issues? Have you dropped out of the back of a plane in your unfeasibly cool muscle-car lately and your Snapchat chums need to know about it? Are tweets about Sergeant Troy’s romantic and, worryingly, swashbuckling pursuit of you the trending hashtag that millions hang on?



Then what are you doing sitting in a cinema? Surely nothing, nothing, that a huge team of professional film makers, money men and actors put up there, on the silver screen, is going to be of any interest to you; nothing they sweat over, pore over, brow beat and (metaphorically) flagellate themselves over is going to excite any response from you; you are the gods who walk among us and nothing is more interesting than you.

But, for the rest of us, the ones who work in our dreary jobs, with our dreary lives and our drearily low number of Twitter followers and our dreary Facebook statuses, that stuff projected up there, that colourful, noisy, emotional, funny, touching stuff; that magical stuff for which we have had to spend our hard earned money to see and enjoy; that, “Stuff that dreams are made of”; that is about as exciting as our lives get.

And that’s why it’s so annoying when you start checking or, worse, answering your bloody mobile phone. That sudden shaft of light in the dark; that unexpected gorilla-glass glow; that unwelcome explanatory exchange (“Yeah, I’m at the pictures, mate….Yeah, it’s alright, not as exciting as my life… Yeah, that’s why I didn’t turn my phone off… lol”), these are the things that pluck us out of our cinematic reverie, that distract and annoy, irritate and, possibly, destroy our enjoyment of the moving images we paid our hard-earned cash to watch.


Here’s the thing: “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”. You are not an avenging superhero; you are neither fast nor furious; and, if you don’t turn that phone off, you are not far enough away from the madding crowd. Whilst you are there in the dark with us, you are one of us!

The cinema is NOT your home, it is a public place, more importantly, a public place where not only you but everyone who is there with you has paid actual money to be. Everyone has paid money because it is a place in which they want to be, watching a film they want to see. Like it or not, once those lights go down and the movie starts to play, you are part of a communal experience and no longer an individual; for the duration of the movie, whether or not you are enjoying it or how good it actually is, you are a small part of a whole, try not to be the bacterial interloper that upsets any part of it. Even the original hipster, Holden Caulfield, admitted, “If I ever sat behind myself in a movie or something, I’d probably lean over and tell myself to please shut up.”

Fans of Radio 5 Live’s flagship film show have long been aware of the Code of Conduct launched by hosts Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode, of which mobile phone usage is but one of ten heinous crimes against fellow patrons (a copy of “The Code” can be found here HERE. In the United States some of the smaller chains have taken a zero tolerance view on phone use, throwing offending patrons out, usually to cheers and applause from the other cinema goers.

Maybe there’ll be a time when it’ll be socially acceptable to check your social networks statuses in a cinema, though I hope not; maybe cinemas will reserve the rear few rows of seats for serial tweeters (a kind of throwback to the days when the left hand side of the theatre was reserved for smokers); maybe technology will allow “Likes” to be transmitted to the pleasure centres of your brain; maybe, maybe… But that day ain’t yet, sunshine, so keep that phone in your pocket or bag or, even better, turn it off until you leave the auditorium.

Thank you for your consideration.

*Other annoying distraction makers are available


Andy Oliver
Andy Oliver