Butt Out Your Cell Phone

Watched Cirque de Soleil – Amaluna last night with the lady.  Fantastic show.

As with most theatre or movie outings these days, my enjoyment is always tempered by an ugly asterisk.

During one of the most daunting and tense balancing acts, several people from the audience took flash photos and many were texting throughout the show. The announcement about phones and photography was made clearly several times.

This issue of theatre/personal device etiquette has been so exhaustively addressed that ignorance can no longer be a valid claim. The only conclusion left is that these people don’t and never will give a sh*t.


Arguments, fist fights and even the odd stabbing have been in the news of late, related to an audience member of a performance using a personal device.  The socially unhinged might react inappropriately to cell phone usage and thus undermine the message, but that doesn’t negate the anger that so many of us have to rationalize away when obvious etiquette is so blatantly ignored.

Theatre companies and venue operators – it is time to risk alienating a small portion of your audience with a no-tolerance policy. Grow some cojones, get your legal disclaimers visible and boot out the schmucks who don’t abide.   The 90% of us who show respect to the performers and our fellow patrons deserve the same in return.

Bravo to the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas who made it their stamp of identity to kick out cell phone users during movie screenings.

Time was recent when one would have been thought insane for suggesting that people smoke outside.  It is now the unquestioned law.

Mental health has taken it’s rightful place in modernity alongside physical health.  The ability to “escape” via cinematic or live storytelling is an exercise that many of us don’t take lightly.  In fact, one could consider it a necessary right that is paid for and should be protected by the merchant.  This is not a crackdown on the personal liberties of you smartphone addicts – those of you who feel entitled to multitask while viewing entertainment are entitled to do that in the privacy of your own home.  You’ve likely got a huge volume of illegally downloaded movies to choose from anyway, so crack a beer, put your crocs up and fill Facebook in on the amazing details of your life while occasionally looking up at the TV to catch the plot points.  If you want to watch live theatre, switch up your routine and change sexual positions with your significant other or your left hand.  High drama will ensue.

The public entertainment domain, that is, the one where you put clothes on and watch the performance alongside other personality types?  That one requires accountability to the shared experience of all, not just you and your Plenty of Fish dates.

** “But what about doctors on call?”   Proportionally then, the entire world must be simultaneously dying of a heart attack.**

To the ones in the choir I’m preaching to: That tense feeling you get when you’re distracted in a theatre by the sudden light sabre in the dark?  The little ugly sense of robbery?  The war within on whether to keep quiet and swallow your discomfort or create an even bigger scene through confrontation?  The feeling is there because it’s valid and universal.

Sound melodramatic?

So did asking a smoker to butt out in 1954.

Any exercise in change starts with trying to nudge an elephant.  The elephant’s weight being the defiance of the abusers and the tyranny of the majority’s indecision, the masses shuffling their feet and mumbling to the Gods about their “pet peeves”.


Time to advance on this issue and man up to change.  The timid announcements and cutesy movie trailers are now an uncomfortable preamble to our beloved theatre and movie outings.  Time to put consequence in place and make toxic behaviour a non-negotiable cause for ejection.

Our lungs and our minds both deserve pollution control.


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