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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
No more silent movies
Noise annoys...
The fightback against one of the greatest tyrannies of modern times - the selfish use of mobile phones during films - has at last begun in earnest, writes BBC News Online's Chris Horrie.

Or, to be more accurate, it has begun in Haverfordwest, west Wales, where exasperated local picture-house owner Trevor Harris has declared war on in-screening phone use.

Call the Police

"You come for a good night out," Mr Harris says, "and you have to put up with all these buzzers and bleepers going off and people running out of the auditorium to take phone calls. It's just not right".

If it happens now we tell them to get out. If they won't go then we will call the police. Cinemas are licensed premises and we've got the right to throw people out

Phone crusader Trevor Harris
Mr Harris, who has been in the cinema business since 1954, owns and runs the Palace cinema.

The steady increase in the use of mobiles in the two years since he and his son took over the cinema has been driving him to distraction.

Ought to know better

The main problem, to begin with, was what Mr Harris describes as "the 13 to 16 brigade" - originators of the craze for continuous, oblivious mobile use.

But, in the weary tones of a man who has coped with a lifetime of noisy Saturday matinees, Mr Harris says he is much more upset about "fully grown adults" who ought to know better.

"We've got notices all over the place which they see when they come in, and then a trailer on the screen which they all watch which says 'SILENCE' and tells everyone to switch off their phones... and still they ignore it," he fumes.

Bridget Jones
Oi!... turn that mobile off.

"I had a woman who started yapping away to her son in Spain all they way through Bridget Jones... can you believe it!


"Last week one went off in the middle of a delicate moment during Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It is getting ridiculous," Mr Harris rages, adding: "You get all these tunes going off. Last night we had the William Tell Overture."

Worse still, Mr Harris claims, usherettes are sometimes abused when they ask customers to stop talking. "I am not having people telling my girls to 'p*** off'," he says. "I will not stand for that. Something's got to be done about it."

film still
Captain Corelli; interupted by William Tell Overture

Mr Harris's answer has been to install security cameras in the foyer so that likely phone-abusers can be spotted before they get in. He has also hired extra usherettes as part of a "clampdown".

Problem increasing

"If it happens now we will tell them to get out. If they won't go then we'll call the police. Cinemas are licensed premises and we've got the right to throw people out, especially if we get complaints."

Big chain cinemas also report increasing problems with mobile phone use right across the country.

"Inconsiderate use of mobiles was by far the biggest source of customer complaints over the Easter period this year," says the Warner chain.

Frankly I've attended midnight performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show that were quieter and better-behaved than recent crowds I've sat with.

Usherette Lisa Sauls quoted by Cinema Mayhem
The company has now added requests to turn off mobile phone to the neon signs directing people to multiplex screens.


The company says most complaints are about teenagers talking during films. Instances of adults using phones in the middle of films are rare.

"If people forget to turn them off and they ring during a performance they will tend to be embarrassed, dive into their bag and stop the noise."

But mobile phones may just be the tip of the nuisance iceberg according to Cinema Mayhem, a US website set up to monitor selfish and stupid behaviour on the part of film-goers.

The site reports the increasing use not only of mobile phones and bleepers, but also laser-pointers which are used by some patrons to highlight parts of the screen as they noisily discuss and comment on the action.

The site also reports that "trash" left behind now includes not only junk food debris but items such as discarded nappies.

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See also:

22 May 00 | UK
So, how rude are you?
23 Jan 01 | Africa
Uganda's 'beeping' nuisance
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