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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
French cinemas act to jam mobiles
mobile phone keypad
The move follows a "long-standing request" by French cinema owners
Mobile phone signals will be jammed in French cinemas and theatres to prevent the devices disturbing the audience.

The French government has backed a move to install equipment to block signals in cinemas, concert halls and theatres.

Emergency phone calls and calls outside the performance area will still be permitted, however.

Jean Labbe, president of the National Federation of French Cinemas, said the measure followed "a long-standing request" by cinemas.

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French industry minister Patrick Devedjian backed the move, supporting a decision by France's Telecommunications Regulation Authority.

Mr Labbe told France Info radio that cinemas had invested heavily to improve comfort and "the authorisation of jammers is the cherry on the cake".

Last year, cinema owners in Dublin were told they were breaking the law by installing a mobile phone signal blocker.

Fine threat

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".

Ireland's communications regulator told bosses at Ward Anderson - the company that owns the Savoy cinema - they would be fined up to 25,000 euros (17,200) if they did not remove the 499 blocking device. The company subsequently complied.

If a member of staff sees a mobile phone being used during a film, they will ask the user to put it away
Vue Cinemas spokesperson
There is no blanket law prohibiting the use of mobile phones in UK cinemas or theatres, but Vue Cinemas - formerly Warner Village - said it was monitoring the situation.

"We have received complaints about mobile phones being used in our cinemas and disturbing other people in the audience, so we are currently researching how big an issue this is for our customers," a spokesman said.

Like many cinemas, Vue screens short films before the main feature which discourage audiences from using mobile phones during the film.

"If a member of staff sees a mobile phone being used during a film, they will ask the user to put it away," the spokesman added.

We certainly don't want them ringing and people ignoring them pretending that it's not theirs
Kevin Spacey

Picturehouse Cinemas, which owns a string of UK independent cinemas, said it would be in favour of taking action such as blocking signals if the law was on its side.

Marketing manager Andrew Woodyatt said: "There's nothing more annoying or likely to cause a fight than someone talking on a phone, and it's amazing how widespread it is.

"We would absolutely love to be able to do something about it - it's whether it's legally enforceable to block signals if that was agreed and the licensing authorities supported us."

Last month, actor Kevin Spacey declared London's Old Vic theatre a "phone-free zone" during his tenure as its artistic director.

"We certainly don't want them ringing and people ignoring them pretending that it's not theirs," he said.

"My feeling is if people don't know how to behave they shouldn't come."

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