TORONTO — One of the more impossible debates in the world of commercial cinema is how to deal with cell phones in movie theaters. Cinephiles, purists, and the Alamo Drafthouse Theater chain say ban them completely, and yet more casual moviegoers and busy humans continue to whip out the iPhones and Androids as the picture rolls. Man versus technology, the past versus the future, art versus commerce: this dilemma has it all. But will there ever be a resolution?
One vigilante at the Toronto International Film Festival decided to take the situation into his own hands... and that of the police.
Alex Billington, the proprietor of the movie blog Firstshowing.net, was particularly aggrieved by an audience member using his cell phone during a Press and Industry screening of director Ti West's horror flick The Sacrament on Monday, leaving the theater and dialing 911 to report the offender. Cell phones are often used during these screenings, with industry members ducking in and out of different movies for appointments and other matters, and Billington had had enough of the scourge of little lights interrupting his viewing.
After dealing with the police and festival higher-ups, he took to Twitter to explain the situation and lead a charge against the second screen menace.
(He apparently deleted the original 911 tweet.)
Not that they cared.
Some of Billington's blogger friends got in on the act, too.
Then again, not everyone was on his side.
Like all great revolutionaries, however, Billington is undaunted by criticism.
(This is a Steve Jobs quote.)
UPDATE: Billington emailed BuzzFeed to explain the 911 call:
The man in the front row had his phone out pointed towards the screen for the first 10 minutes. I complained once to the theater managers, who looked and said there was no one with their phone on. I returned, and 5 minutes later he had his phone out again in front of him, pointed towards the screen. I thought I might be witnessing an act of piracy, a major crime being committed, and wished to report it to the proper authorities.
The call made was to report an act of piracy in progress, a major crime that many signs around TIFF remind people is a punishable offense. I simply requested that an officer confront and confirm that he was not pirating. Another 10 minutes later, a venue manager intercepted the report and responded claiming he was only texting, and subsequently stated he had the right to use his phone in this screening. My complaints at that time, based on their response, turned to the policy of TIFF and allowing phones to be used.