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Man maced after asking woman to turn off phone at movies

At a screening of the movie "Mr. Turner" in Hollywood, a phone becomes a flash point.

Image of the Chinese Theatre in Hollyood. Caption: At the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, cell phone use reportedly sparks a macing.
At the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, cell phone use reportedly sparks a macing. Getty Images

This story may strike you as a little Hollywood.

It may also strike you as very Hollywood.

There is conflict, drama and a denouement that certainly one of the characters would not have rehearsed for.

It begins at an American Film Institute screening of "Mr. Turner" at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. This is a movie about the English painter J.M.W. Turner. Its director, Mike Leigh, describes it as "examining the tension between this very mortal, flawed individual, and the epic work, the spiritual way he had of distilling the world."

Last night, it seems that the tension was between a mortal soul using her cell phone and a possibly flawed individual who couldn't find a spiritual way to make her stop.

As originally reported by Mashable, the movie had just begun when a man asked a woman to please turn off her cell phone. It was apparently shining its distracting light.

It isn't always easy to tell from behind whether a Hollywood human is male or female. In this case, the complainer apparently misidentified the phoner as a man. "Excuse me, sir," was his reported dialogue. He is said to have tried several times to attract her attention to the distraction that she was causing.

It was then that the complainer, frustrated that the phoner wasn't taking heed, reportedly tapped the woman on the arm.

Oh, no.

In the words of Mashable's eyewitness: "She stands up and starts cursing, saying 'You hit me, you hit me, I'm going to call the police.'"

Ah. Oh.

When shining her flashlight app in the man's face didn't work, the woman reportedly threatened him with a macing. Shortly afterward, the story goes, she delivered that macing to his face.

ABC 7 reports that the man immediately left the theater. The station also suggested that the substance that had been administered to the man's face had been pepper spray.

The film kept on turning. However, after 20 minutes, the woman was reportedly removed from the theater without further drama.

The American Film Institute told the Hollywood Reporter: "There was an incident, and it has been handled, and everyone is OK."

Quite how the Institute knows that everyone is OK, I'm not sure. So I have contacted it to see whether it can offer further information. I will update, should I hear. I have also contacted the theater to ask for comment.

I've never been maced, but I imagine it could be a traumatizing experience, especially for someone living in LA. We have no information whether the man woke up this morning in fine spirits, or whether he's already breakfasting with his lawyer at the Mondrian.

What of the woman? What if she's an actress? What if she already has audition appointments today for a new vigilante movie called "Mace Ventura"?

The issue of cell phones in movie theaters is a vexing one. Theaters such as the Alamo Drafthouse believe in shaming movie texters, even in public service announcements.

But as with many relatively trivial human activities, movie texting can spark something far worse. In January, a man was shot dead by a retired Florida police officer after a dispute involving texting at a matinee.

In the end, there's always the perception that those who use cell phones in movie theaters simply don't care about anyone around them. They're like those who talk loudly in the movies and those who put their feet up on the back of your seat.

Is it really so hard to do without your cell phone for a couple of hours? Sadly, the answer for too many is "yes."