Do people talking on mobile phones in the midst of a packed cinema while your favourite movie is playing bother you?
If so you’ll be heartened by the efforts of a New York city council member who wants to outlaw such behaviour. There are eight million stories in the naked city and even more mobile phones ringing everywhere. Increasingly New Yorkers are placing and receiving calls when they go to the movies.
But now if a new law does come into being in December – the very act of talking into a mobile phone in a cinema or any other place of public performance could become illegal and result in a $50 (£31) fine.
The drive to restrict mobile phone use comes from New York city council member Philip Reed – he and his constituents have become bothered by mobile phone users having loud conversations while watching a film.
“I have witnessed people sit in the theatre and dial their friends and give them a blow-by-blow description of what is happening,” he said.
The proposed law has strong support from cinemagoers.
“It is annoying when people in a movie theatre use their mobiles in the movie theatre. You end up missing parts of the film and wasting money,” said one New Yorker.
Mobile phone use in live theatres and music venues would also be included in the ban – many showbiz figures support the proposed law but Moulin Rouge director Baz Lurhmann, who is mounting the opera La Boheme on Broadway, wonders if the punishment is appropriate.
“It’s a terrible thing when a phone does go off. I do not know about the price, whether it’s too much or too little,” said Lurhmann.
Nikki Weispfenning, who sells cinema tickets, is one of many in the business who think the ban will be tough to enforce – that it will be hard to catch transgressors. “Who would be there to fine them, it’s a movie theatre,” she said. “You can’t call the cops and have them come to the theatre to fine someone for their cell phone.”
Mobile phone companies are not too happy – the new measure could cut down on revenues – they view the legislation as draconian. Telecommunications lawyer Martin Rothfelder said: “It is a government intrusion into an area of common sense and courtesy. “It should be addressed by theatre management by methods that available to them.”
But council member Mr Reed is undeterred – he wants to use the law to modify anti-social behaviour and send a message. “You just need to close it up, turn it off, put it in your pocket and enjoy the show,” he said.
Last year New York became the first state to outlaw use of hand-held phones by motorists – if Mr Reed has his way – it could also become the first to punish cinemagoers for anti-social behaviour.