THE STORY: On Monday night at an AFI Fest screening of Mr. Turner, a man was reportedly maced in the face after he asked another theatergoer to turn off her cell phone. According to Mashable, here’s how it went down: As the biopic about painter J.M.W. Turner got underway at the TCL Chinese Theatre, a viewer repeatedly asked a woman sitting in front of him to turn off her phone. When she ignored him, he tapped her on the shoulder. She stood up, started swearing, pulled a canister of mace out of her purse, and sprayed him in the face. The movie kept playing. Twenty minutes later security showed up and escorted the macer out of the theater. Can’t an audience watch a Mike Leigh drama in peace?!
THE BOTTOM LINE: Let’s begin with the ineffective response by the theater’s security team. Staffers should have told the texter to turn off her cell phone and when she didn’t, she should have been escorted out immediately. Then there’s Etiquette 101, which dictates that if you’re not interested in seeing a movie with other humans, you shouldn’t go to a theater. Don’t plunk yourself down in a stadium-style seat only to ignore everyone and everything around you as you swipe left and answer those oh so urgent emails. Stay home and binge watch your favorite Netflix series instead. Finally, while we support the Alamo Drafthouse’s policy of ejecting and ridiculing cell phone scofflaws, it doesn’t go far enough. The death penalty, on the other hand, goes a little too far. Let’s settle on a happy medium and go the pleasantly practical route: Giving cell phone addicts the smoker treatment. Just imagine walking past a noisy, iPhone-lit theater reserved for viewers who refuse to give up the right to talk and text as you head to a blissfully uninterrupted showing in a different theater down the hall, knowing full well those phone-wielding viewers are getting what they truly deserve: An hour-and-a-half with each other. Now that’s a good movie-going experience.