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Man calls 911 to report cell phone use in movie theater

Blogger during the Toronto International Film Festival is so incensed about cell phone use during a screening that he calls the emergency line. Later, he explains that he thought the cell phoners were pirating the movie.

3 min read
No place for a cell phone. SchmoesKnow/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Some people have no respect.

They often show it by going to a show and texting their BFF Samantha.

One man, though, took drastic action against what he deemed unwarranted use of a cell phone during a movie.

The Associated Press reported that Alex Billington was so fed up of sitting in a movie theater and tolerating texters and e-mailers that he decided to take a stand.

He called 911.

Billington, you see, is a movie blogger for FirstShowing.Net. He actually wanted to watch the movie at this midnight screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.

When he tried to remonstrate with the theater management, he allegedly got nowhere. Hence the call to the authorities.

The 911 dispatcher immediately sent a SWAT team to the movie theater in order to pin the miscreants up against a wall, just like they do in movies.

Oh, that's not quite right. All Billington heard onthe phone was laughter.

Following reports of this frustrating kerfuffle, he took to Twitter to explain.

"Ya I overreacted made heat of moment gaffe, should've called police dpt. Mea culpa. Full respect for responders, no intention to waste time," he tweeted.

But he wanted to make clear that it wasn't so much the use of cell phones per se that bothered him to extremes.

He tweeted: "My mistake is my own lesson to learn. I contacted staff first for piracy, they did nothing. Attention should be on the policy, bigger issue."

It seems that he feared people in the front row were quite simply filming the movie.

While a call to the local police department might have been a better maneuver, it's inevitable that such a story yet again raises the painful reminder of how prevalent cell phones use is in theaters.

Billington is not the first to overreact at the rude or the ignorant.

Who could forget the heroism of writer Kevin Williamson when he was so annoyed at a theatergoer's constant texting that he grabbed her phone and tossed it away?

There also remains the stoic stance of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Austin, Texas. It not only ejected a texter, but when she called to complain, it turned her whiny voice mail into a brilliant PSA.

There are those, however, who think movie theaters should bow to the modern electronic obsessive.

Former Googlie and now venture capitalist Hunter Walk caused much debate when he wondered whether theaters might offer special zones, just for people like him who cannot bear to be apart from their superior technological experience.

He wrote on his blog: "Increasingly I wanted my media experiences plugged in and with the ability to multitask. Look up the cast list online, tweet out a comment, talk to others while watching or just work on something else while Superman played in the background."

Reflecting an attitude that some might find so very modern, he added: "I'd love to watch 'Pacific Rim' in a theater with a bit more light, Wi-Fi, electricity outlets and a second screen experience. Don't tell me I'd miss major plot points while scrolling on my iPad -- it's a movie about robots vs. monsters. I can follow along just fine."

Actor Elijah Wood tried to explain why Walk should take a walk. He tweeted: "You can have that experience. In the comfort of your home. A ludicrous idea to create a passive viewing experience at a theater."

Oh, Elijah. The ludicrous are taking over the world. Hadn't you noticed?

Hollywood has even started making movies about them, so it must be true.