[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Cinema banned from blocking mobiles
A mobile phone
Mobile phone use in the cinema had become a "problem"

Cinema owners in Dublin have come under fire for stopping customers from receiving calls on their mobiles in the middle of a movie.

Ireland's communications regulator told bosses at Mark Anderson, the company that owns the Savoy cinema, they were breaking the law after they installed a signal blocker.

Mark Anderson would have been penalised with a hefty fine - or seen employees facing a jail sentence - if they had not removed the blocking device immediately.

Ward Anderson, which owns 200 of Ireland's cinemas, installed the signal blocker after the disruption caused by people talking or receiving text messages became a "problem".

"(It was) an increasing, persistent problem," said Mark Anderson, the chain's operations manager.

Mr Anderson said the Savoy got a visit from two inspectors from Ireland's communications regulator, or ComReg, after a local paper published a story about the blocker.

"They told us to cease and desist," he said. "The possibility of a fine and jail time got us to decide to remove the unit."


Mr Anderson was told it was illegal to have a blocker, let alone put one into operation.

The offence carries a fine of up to 25,000 euros (17,400) or a maximum prison sentence of a year.

"It has been disposed of, essentially thrown in the bin," Mr Anderson said.

"I am disappointed. I think it is an injustice not only to the Savoy but to patrons of cinemas all around the country."

No one had lodged a complaint to ComReg.

Ward Anderson spent 499 to import the signal blocker from the US to the Savoy, its flagship cinema in Ireland.

The blocker works by emitting a low-power signal that occupies the broadcasting spectrum used by mobile phone operators.

It keeps out calls within a 30m (100 ft) range.

What do you think about mobile phones in cinemas - should signal blockers be allowed, or is it acceptable to use a phone during a movie?

News Online Users sent us some of their comments on the ruling.

I think it's a stupid over-reaction, most phones have a vibrate function now, and I've never actually heard someone in a cinema having a conversation of more than a few words, mostly they just nip outside.

I always have my mobile on when I go to the cinema, but the only person likely to ring it would be our babysitter, and only then if there was a problem with the kids. I would definitely want to know about it then.

Mobile phones are a fairly recent phenomenon, and we as a society need to work out the etiquette of using one. Just as talking in the cinema is frowned upon, and could lead to you being ejected, so will be taking a phone call. It's not really any worse.
Chris Smith, Netherlands

What a fantastic idea this signal blocker is! Let's have them installed in cinemas, theatres, trains and many, many other places. If your phone call is so important, stay at home to take it, don't inflict your ridiculous choice of ringtone and incessant button tapping and beeping on the rest of the long-suffering population.
Sally Mitchell, UK

I think it is a brilliant idea. In almost every film that I have seen in cinemas, it has been interrupted by the ringing of mobiles! Very annoying.
Tiggy Apponyi, UK

Whether enforced by fines, ejection or a blocker, people should not be using their mobile phones while watching a film/ play or whatever.
Martin Ridgway, UK

Without doubt ALL cinemas should be fitted with signal blockers and the sooner the better, cinemas are very simple things designed to allow people to watch films and nothing more, if people cannot put their lives on hold for a few hours of entertainment then they shouldn't be in the cinema at all, there are plenty of other public places where people can go if they only want to talk.
Alex, England

I think its a bad idea blocking a mobile in the cinema - especially if you're a parent who needs to have a contact line with your kids
John Sims, UK

I would be absolutely delighted if public venues such as cinemas, concert halls etc. were permitted to install blockers. I find it infuriating to have an event interrupted by inconsiderate people who seem to think that their needs override those of everyone else.
Karelia, England

Go for it! Living in Finland, the home of the mobile phone, you would think that the problem would be huge over here, but no. Having been to the many cinemas countless times I have yet to hear any "interference" or beeping during any movies. However, Finns as a whole are very gracious about obeying instructions, but remembering what it was like in the UK last year, I can only say that I think the best way would be to line every cinema/theatre with signal blockers!!
Gareth James, Finland

How would you feel if your child, mother, father etc needed urgent specialist medical care, and that care was not available because the doctor was watching a Disney movie?

These things should not be needed, people should have some respect for their fellow movie goer and turn off, or put to silent mode their mobile phones. Else kick'em out.
Philip Dagnan, UK

I suspect this is an indication of the power that the mobile companies have. If someone enters a cinema, they should be abandoning their right to use their phone for the sake of those around them, just like with airplanes.
Paul Irwin, United Kingdom

I think its a bad idea blocking a mobile in the cinema - especially if you're a parent who needs to have a contact line with your kids. I tend to leave mine on. I just switch it to silent mode so it doesn't disturb anyone. I'd leave the room if it was important I answered the call, else I'd just divert them to answerphone.
John Sims, UK

10 years ago no-one would have had a mobile, in the cinema or anywhere else, so of what are people being deprived?
Matt Costelloe, UK

Mobile phones sounding off in the cinema annoy me as much as the next person, however, when my wife and I go out we prefer it if the baby-sitter can contact us in an emergency. A text message received on a silent, vibrating phone disturbs no-one, yet provides peace of mind. This too would be blocked.
Ben Thompson, UK

I agree that mobiles in cinemas are incredibly annoying for anyone unfortunate to be near one that goes off, especially if the owner proceeds to have a conversation with the caller.

Blockers, on the other hand, are a bit extreme, they could stop doctors receiving emergency calls for instance.

I do think cinemas should be able to remove people from cinemas that refuse to stop talking on them though.
Adam Langford, UK

I think that there should be scope for allowing people to receive calls and messages provided that the phone is in silent mode. This would enable calls from babysitters in case of emergency for example.

I do wholeheartedly support a total ban on ringing and talking on phones during any kind of public performance, be it film, play, concert, etc. I once took a phone off a persistent offender who was ruining a film. He was very apologetic afterwards!
Lisa T, UK

I don't see why they shouldn't have signal blockers - why are people in the cinema if their focus is not to watch the film being shown? Irritating to the rest of us as well!!
Angharad, UK

Having a blocker in any establishment violates our rights! What if there was an emergency and someone desperately needed to get a hold of you? However, it is annoying to members of the audience when people do not turn their ringers off during events. They still have text messaging capabilities so use them. Conclusion: I feel the best way to handle this problem is institute a hefty fine against the cell user of say $500 if they don't turn off their ringers during the movie. That'll teach em!!!!
M Johnson, USA

No-one asked Mr Anderson if he would like mobile radio signals in his cinema, surely he doesn't need to ask to keep them out?
Gareth H, London, UK

It is a privilege, not a right, to receive signal coverage in every place at every time, so why should proprietors of a place of business or residence not be able to decide if and when it is available? Ten years ago no-one would have had a mobile, in the cinema or anywhere else, so of what are people being deprived?
Matt Costelloe, UK

Don't suppose there's also a sweet-cruncher or bag-rustling blocker as well?
Karen Sime, UK

Blockers are a great idea in any place where it's reasonable to expect mobiles to be switched off anyway, and where ignorant users continue to use them regardless. Some might argue that people who need to be contacted at all times should not have their mobile service disrupted, but frankly I think anyone on call and sitting in the middle of a cinema knowing their phone is likely to go off is being selfish. Go and hire a DVD instead!
Chris, Herts, UK

This is utter lunacy - there's absolutely no excuse for people using phones during films, except in an emergency. If people object to not being contactable 24/7 they shouldn't go to cinemas or theatres in the first place. I'm wondering whether there's a law stating that ruining my enjoyment of a film is a breach of human rights...
Steve, UK

People go to cinemas to watch films, not attend to calls. If one wants to call out during a film then he should leave the cinema to do so. If one is trying to contact someone at a film then perhaps a technology should be provided that intercepts incoming calls with a message stating where the recipient is, i.e he's unavailable in a cinema!
Dennis Coe, UK

Signal blockers should definitely be used. I have aost count of the times that some bird-brain has taken a mobile phone call during a film and talked loudly. Its outrageous. The opera, theatre and ballet certainly wouldn't allow it. Don't suppose there's also a sweet-cruncher or bag-rustling blocker as well?
Karen Sime, UK

I think the law should be changed so that anyone wanting to block signals to and from a mobile telephone within his or her own private property should be able to. If mobile blocking devices were regulated then safeguards could ensure that they do not affect, for example, doctors' pagers.
James Appleby, UK

I think it's completely unacceptable for mobile phones to be allowed in cinemas. They should be switched off on entry and anyone caught using one should be escorted from the premises. If everyone showed a bit more courtesy to each other the cinemas wouldn't need to consider installing such devices.
Amanda, England

Personally I turn my mobile off before entering the cinema. I find the thought of my mobile ringing during the film acutely embarrassing. Rather like standing up in the middle of the performance and shouting "Hello everybody, here I am!"
Dan Brooks, England

If they cannot ban or block the phones then maybe they should eject any inconsiderate users from the premises
Andy, USA

Use of a mobile phone in a cinema is unacceptable and rude. Perhaps the Savoy chain could cover its walls with tin foil? This would have the same effect as using a blocker, I doubt that anyone could call that illegal.
Stan, England

I consider some mobile phone users to be the modern day smokers. These people couldn't care less for the disturbance caused to the people around them by their activity and so stopping their anti-social behaviour has to be enforced - in the same fashion as non-smoking areas have to be enforced.
Mike, UK

A cinema is private property, therefore why cannot the proprietors install such a device if they wish, as long as they tell people it is there? The world is going mad, and the law is mad.
John Ward, UK

I think it is totally unacceptable to allow people to use their mobiles in cinemas, even with the ringer switched off. I'm a little dubious about signal blockers, though - what if there were some kind of emergency, and someone wanted to use their mobile to dial 999?

Unfortunately, unreasonable behaviour and lack of consideration for others seems to be something people just put up with, and even if a voluntary ban on mobiles were introduced, I doubt very much whether it would stop those inconsiderate people from using them.
John, UK

If cinemas can't use signal blockers then they should eject from the cinema anyone using a mobile phone, and ban them from coming again. Everyone else has paid money to watch the film and shouldn't have their enjoyment spoilt.
Jonathan Makin, UK

Mobile phones are a menace to anyone trying to concentrate on anything. I work in a library and it is an uphill struggle to get students to turn off their mobiles. What do people go to the cinema for if they want to phone or text people? I am with cinemas that try to ban them. It is a great shame that signal blocking is illegal.
Helen Miller, England

You can't receive a signal underground (car-parks or the tube) or in heavily built buildings already, so what's the problem?
Kevin, London

Why should telephone companies and mobile phone owners be allowed to invade your space? After all you have paid to enjoy a film in a cinema, with surround sound and a large screen, the last thing you want is someone sitting texting their friend the whole way through the film. Something that has happened to me! If they cannot ban or block the phones then maybe they should eject any inconsiderate users from the premises. A few example cases would probably solve the problem.
Andy, USA

Many cinemas have lots of screens these days and show films at various times during the day and night. Perhaps cinema owners could designate some screens and/or showings to be mobile free (and thus blocked). People could then choose to see a showing with or without a mobile connection.
James Burton, UK

I too am going less and less to the cinema now as I don't enjoy a film as much if someone is sitting in from of me tapping a txt message or playing with their phone. Unfortunately it's always the ignorant few that ruin it for everyone and it's rampant across our society. Put the damn thing on silent and vibrate or have your limited brain cells not worked that one out yet?

Phones aren't the only problem though, recently I am finding that almost every film I go to see is interrupted by mainly gangs of youths who all sit and sneer and shout out and continually make some sort of noise throughout a film.
Steph, England

Whilst most mobile phones can be switched into some kind of silent mode, most people don't do it in cinemas in my experience, at least not in the central London ones. I think the jammers are a great idea. For those people who think "oh, but what if it's urgent?", well, what did you do 25 years ago when there were no mobile phones?
Phil, UK

If the cinema had simply coated the inside of the screening rooms with a wire mesh to shield out the appropriate radio frequencies - would that be legal. If you go into a bank safe your phone would not work, but no-one suggests that this is a problem.
Adam, UK

They are a good idea, but the range should be adaptable to suit the size of the premises so it is limited to not extend beyond the boundaries of the building so that it does not affect people wishing to use their phone outside on public streets. Also, it would be polite of any company installing such a device to have a notice advising patrons that a blocking device will be turned on for the duration of the film. Finally, the devices should be made in EU not USA to ensure that they comply with our rules, regulations and frequency bands.
Simon, UK

I can appreciate the peace of mind that parents with babies and small children would get from being contactable at all times, but I support the use of these devices. There are enough annoyances already in the cinema: obscured view, people talking, sweet wrapper rustling, pop corn and sticky drinks on the floor, without phones ringing. You can't receive a signal underground, (car-parks or the tube) or in heavily built buildings already, so what's the problem?
Kevin, London, England

To all the people concerned about emergencies, babysitters etc. In a cinema with a mobile blocker, these would be dealt with in exactly the same way they were BEFORE mobiles were invented. Remember those times? People SOMEHOW managed to cope while being away from a phone for two hours. Imagine that.
Jeremy, England

If the phonecall is so important, then would you be willing to pay to have it answered? Cinemas could install a signal blocker, and have a service to hold your phone while you're in the cinema
Ian Mepham, UK

I work in a cinema and although many people who receive or need to make a call glady go outside and do it, there is still the problem, particularly with younger customers, of mobile phone disruptions. I'd like to ask the public if it's really necessary anyway to use a mobile phone during a film you've paid quite a bit of money to see?
Tasha, UK

Watching a film with a big audience can be a great shared experience and a real joy. So why do people want to spoil it?

If you're an adult, you don't need to go to the toilet during a movie, you don't need to go into the cinema late, you don't need to talk to people around you, you certainly don't need to talk on a mobile. To be frank, if you're worried about being in contact with your babysitter - hire a professional carer, not a teenager!

All cinema-goers have to accept a degree of disruption. Occasionally I've been grateful for it! But if cinemas tried having half-decent staffing levels most disruptions would be minimised.
Simon, UK

I think blockers in the cinema are a great idea, I pay to see and hear a movie not listen to some ignoramus telling his friend 10 rows away that he can see him. As for all these people who "need" to have their phone with them in case something comes up that might need their attention I have some questions, what did they do before the advent of the mobile phone when they were in the cinema? Did they sit at home beside their phone?
James Keogh, Ireland

The cinema has every right to install this blocker, although I agree that they should inform customers. If patrons of the cinema don't like it then they can vote with their feet. I'm sure the cinema will soon remove the blocker if it appears to be affecting their business.
Sarah, UK

If the phonecall is so important, then would you be willing to pay to have it answered? Cinemas could install a signal blocker, and have a service to hold your phone while you're in the cinema. If it rings, they'll look up your seat number, and tell you that the phone had rung.

People are used to others needing to squeeze past them for the occasional break, and having the lobby-staff deliver a message would be no more than that. This way, no more annoying chattering after the ringing has stopped, and anyone who must have a phone on will not have it annoying anyone else. A couple of pounds and the problem is solved.
Ian Mepham, UK

I go to my local cinema about twice or three times a month and I have never had a problem with mobiles ringing during the film. The last advert that plays before the film starts asks mobile users to turn their phones off and it seems to work.

Maybe it's an arrogance thing that's not an issue around here. Signal blockers aren't the answer. We should be putting the message across that it's an anti-social practice that's just not acceptable. Cinema/theatre = no mobile.
Mike T, Cheshire, England

What is the point in having a 'mobile' telephone and not being able to use it where you want when you want?
Mark Dowie, Northern Ireland

I agree that phones should not be used in cinemas. But the issue is whether or not signal blockers should be available to the general public. I don't believe they should. A signal blocker has a radial range of 30m. It pays no regard to walls or physical boundries. So there's a good chance that the blockage will be leaking out onto the streets. Imagine living in a flat above a pub where the publician has a signal blocker active. You'd be cut off. Or if your neighbour decides to run one. That's why ComReg came down heavily. To stop the floodgates from opening.
Jonathan Downey, Ireland

People that leave their phones switched to ring whilst in the cinema are incredibly selfish and can spoil the performance for others. If the phone is essential (if the person is on emergency call-out, for example) then they should be switched to silent (vibrate). This is further evidence that few people give a damn about the feelings of others.
Nick H, UK

I'm not a telecommunications expert but if the baby-sitter needed to get touch with the parents watching a movie, don't cinemas have telephones? Surely any responsible parent should always leave their contact information or whereabouts with the the child's guardian. I'm all for signal blockers in the relevant places such as cinemas.
Paul Goodfellow, UK

How about an alternative, a device that triggers the ringtone once every 30 seconds. That way the sane would turn their phones off themselves whilst hyper-paranoid parents could just put up with a vibrating pocket!
Darren Barratt, UK

The signal blocker is indiscriminate and is no respecter of property boundaries. It will block mobile phone signals within a given radius of the blocking device, which could extend into the street or another building. It is broadcasting on frequencies allocated to the mobile phone networks, and it is this that is illegal. It is governed by the same legislation that stops people blocking TV, emergency services or air traffic control frequencies.
Peter, UK

Cinemas don't need to use signal blockers, that advert before the movies with different ringtones going off works fine. I'm always tricked into thinking some inconsiderate fool's phone is going off - then I realise its the advert and switch off my own phone! It should be played before every film.
John, UK

It's surprising that people who are too stupid to switch their mobile phones off inside a cinema can actually cope with the task of buying a ticket.
Giles Clinker, UK

What is the point in having a "mobile" telephone and not being able to use it where you want when you want?
Marc Dowie, N.Ireland

A simple fine system and more control by the cinema staff is all that is required
Kevin, UK

I feel very soory for the poeple who just "have " to be contactable 24/7. What did they do 10 years ago when we did not have a mobile phone network? There is another way to block radio (phone signals) - install a wire cage (Faraday Cage) around the cinema/theatre in the wall of the builing, it is a completely passive device. If the building has a high content on metal in the construction then you are half way there. Phones would just not work.
Damian James, UK

Yet again, enter the Fun Police. I agree that cinemas should have the right to block my mobile phone (even though its kept in vibrating mode). However, I would expect a discount on the cinema ticket as my mobile is a monthly contract and the cinema is interfering with that contract.
James DeRoest, UK

It's a pity that most mobile phone users do not have the sense to switch off the ring tones and SMS alerts and use the silent alarm instead. Perhaps all adults should be made to attend lessons on how to use their mobiles - given by any 7-year-old school kid!!
Gromit, UK

If the cinema itself had been fully lined with lead to passively block out the mobile phone signals they would have had no legal problems I presume. Unless of course their patrons started licking the lead and were poisoned. Which is unlikely.
Tariq Nakano, UK

Where can I get this signal blocker, it would be good to have it on the train at night. At last a way to stop those annoying calls: I'm on the train and will be home in 10 mins".
Paul, UK

Not using a mobile pnone in the cinema should be a matter of courtesy. Unfortunately not everyone is courteous. I have seen a fight break out because of a persistent mobile phone user in a cimema. Mobile phones should be taken away from patrons before entering a cinema and returned when they leave. I suppose a blocker is the next best thing.
Richard, England

Why not impose a hefty fine on people whose mobiles make a noise in a cinema? This is what they do in cinemas in America and also what they used to do in my University library. Our local cinema is terrible, people yakking away on their phones, even trying out ring tones, it's terrible. I have to pay to have a film spoilt. I have given up now and just wait for them to come out on DVD.
Claire Munro, UK

I am an avid film fan and like peace and quiet in a film but I don't agree with blocking the signal. The idea that someone cannot be contacted when their child or anyone else has been hurt or their services that are required to help another person is proposterous. Be realistic - it is just a film, it is not worth even one person suffering this situation, never mind a group (no matter how small).

A simple fine system and more control by the cinema staff is all that is required - people will learn soon enough if the cost of their cinema trip is quadrupled due to their ignorance.
Kevin, UK

Think about the thousands of on-call emergency services workers who may rely on being able to be contacted away from home. What are they meant to do, stay away from cinemas? Would you prefer your house to burn down, your gas, electicity, water or phone to be affected because a fault couldn't be repaired as the engineer was uncontactable in a cinema with a signal blocker? Signal blockers are a dangerous overreaction.
Charles Gage, UK

If you feel you can't switch your mobile phone off whilst at the cinema then you shouldn't be there. Pure and simple.
Jim Driscoll, London, UK

All this abuse towards mobile phones, it is just a question of etiquette and education. Just like beeping watches people will sort it out fairly quickly and the interference will be a thing of the past. But when will they ban all the appalling eating, buckets of popcorn gallons of fizzy pop? That's what really inferferes with enjoying films at a cinema.
John Lewis, UK

New York bans mobiles in theatres
13 Feb 03  |  Americas
Fines for mobile use in NY cinemas
23 Nov 02  |  Entertainment
Wooden solution to mobile chatter
26 Jun 02  |  Science/Nature

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific