FACED WITH AN ALARMING SLIDE in attendance, the National Assn. of Theater Owners' executive board recently agreed to try to make cinemas a less hostile play environment. The board's goals include making the parade of pre-show advertisements more entertaining and reducing the amount of rude and
disruptive behavior during a film -- including the taking of cellphone calls.
Board members insist that the typical moviegoer is a model of civility and consideration. But when you drop $40 for two tickets, popcorn and sodas, you tend to be acutely sensitive to the handful of people who read right past the "no" in the "no talking" signs.
Hushing the chatterboxes takes more effort than running a pre-show cartoon ridiculing them. It's a labor-intensive job requiring theaters to deploy ushers who can silence or remove offenders. Cellphones, on the other hand, can be silenced remotely. The association's board was taken with technologies that can jam cellphone signals, eliminating the chance that dramatic silences will be interrupted by a "My Humps" ring tone.
Now, many a moviegoer would heartily endorse the idea of cellphone jamming if it meant shoving an offending phone deep into its owner's tub of popcorn. But others -- doctors on call, off-duty firefighters, parents with young children at home -- don't want to be cut off from the outside world when they enter a theater. They won't go to the movies if they can't be reached during an emergency.