Cell Phone Jammers at the Theater?

Here’s a new example of how we lose our freedom at the hands government by the demands of corporate America. Like always, the reason sounds nice on the surface. In this case, movie theater owners are trying to silence cell phones in their seats.

Many hospitals have signs informing people to turn their phones off. Some strip clubs inspect phones to ensure they don’t have cameras on them. Airlines make reminder announcements to turn phones off. This isn’t good enough for theaters, who want federal authority to jam cellular frequencies:

Fithian said owners were considering other steps if that does not work.

“We will actually petition the Federal Communications (Commission) to remove the block” on jamming cell phones, he said.

That may be difficult, since federal law and FCC rules prohibit the use of cell phone jammers.

The industry is broadly trying to increase interest in the movies.

I guess they’re not too interested in doctors (or others constantly on call) being in their audiences.

UPDATE: OK, OK. Poor posting. I was trying to make two points. One is that it appears they will try to use corporate influence to obtain special licensing others aren’t afforded (I can’t legally run a cell phone jammer at my business). The other had nothing to do with libertarianism, just stupidity. What they propose will eliminate their best repeat customers (doctors, military and emergency personnel and others who are frequently on call). With rules like that, neither my wife nor me (nor my stock broker friend, military nephew, etc.) could go to the movies any more. All they have to do is request that people turn their ringers off. Vibrate works just fine in situations like this.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. I don’t think your opinion on this is libertarian at all.

    A private business should have the right to do whatever they want in this regard. It would be nice practice for them to let you know before you buy the ticket that they are a “no cell” zone. Then your hypothetical doctor can descide whether to go in or to go to a theater that doesn’t block cell calls.

    You are advocating more goverment intrusion not less.

  2. I wasn’t making a libertarian observation with that — merely one about how stupid the theaters are being.

  3. With repsect to the first portion, while I don’t agree that the FCC should exist in the first place, I also find it deplorable that a major corporation might get a licensing exception not available to the rest of the public.

  4. I think this is a good idea if private theaters are doing it and therefore require the approval of its consumers. However, many theaters arent private and can act without worrying about what it will do to their customer base, becuase they can always expect a check from uncle sam regardless.

  5. I see your update but even docs get paged before they make a call. Anil turns the pager to vibrate and then leaves the viewing area to return a call. That way there is no HIPAA violation and our seatmates aren’t pissed that they heard about so and so’s gall bladder instead on Mr. Incredible explaining why it is wrong to make everyone the same to prevent anyone from being special.

  6. Michelle — We do the same – vibrate and leave to return the call. But if the theater is jammed, then one doesn’t get vibed. (talking about phones, here — not sex toys).

  7. Playin the devil’s advocate for a moment, and being someone who doesn’t need to be reached at any critical point, I’d say that this may be a good idea for those of us who would like to hear the movie, instead of some jabbermouth (not you, per se) on their cell phone. However, doctors, etc, should be allowed to keep their phones on vibrate should an emergency arise.

    Just my two cents.

  8. Stephen, you dare to share my intimate moments!?! I hoped to keep the toys private. hehe I haven’t the mental acumen to know the difference between vibe/talk frequencies. Pardon my ignorance. Going to rattle my brain…zhzhzhhz

  9. while I don’t agree that the FCC should exist in the first place


    They need to.

    Most of what they do is un-libertarian, but they are, in effect, the broadcast version of a register of deeds. They split up a common resource (radio bandwidth) and privatize it, and record and protect the owner’s exclusive right to his own property.

    The regulation of content, and things like that, shouldn’t exist… but that was their original mission and it’s a necessary one.

  10. Stuart, if that was all they did, I’d be fine with it. However, they regulate the content of the airwaves, too.

  11. The problem is, I know of at least one that has a sign asking for cell phones to be put on vibrate yet not only do people not do that, but they also talk on them during the movie. I say lets use cell phone jammers and the docs and emergency peeps can use netflix.

  12. There should at least be a zero-tolerance policy for people whose phones actually ring during the movie: throw them out immediately.

  13. I think it is sad that it has gotten so bad that we are even having this discussion. Personally, I don’t go to the movies very often because I don’t like people.

    I have to agree fully with msc though, no strikes, you’re out! People are too ignorant for their own good. But I guess that’s why we are in most of the situations we are in…How else would Bush have been re-elected.

  14. It would probably be rather too costly to most movie theatres, but there’s an incredibly simple solution: Leave an usher in every theatre. If someone is creating a disruptive influence, they get *1* warning: eliminate the source of noise or loose out on seeing the movie.

    This applies not only to cell-phones but to screaming babies as well. Living, as I do, in central Phoenix, this is a major issue as to why I don’t go to movies all that often. (Racist disclaimer here) The saddest part is that the majority of instances where this is occuring is poorer hispanic mothers bringing their infants to the theatre and then not leaving it when the baby starts screaming at the loud scary noises. I know all the arguments on both sides of *that* little gem — but the fact of the matter is that it ruins the experience for dozens upon dozens of people (on opening weekends of popular movies anyhow) for just one person to be a source of nuisance.

    Cities have noise ordinances. Why not theatres?

  15. It would probably be rather too costly to most movie theatres, but there’s an incredibly simple solution: Leave an usher in every theatre.

    I bet you could find plenty of people willing to do it for free, just for the ability to watch free movies and maybe get some free popcorn. Retired people, bored teens, etc.

  16. I would usher for free. Have you seen the cost of tickets and popcorn lately?

  17. It’s not practical. Any jammer powerful enough to successfully disrupt a cell signal will spill over into the public outside the theater, and thus be violence. Further, it will only encourage folks to switch to anti-jamming technology (stronger signals, spread spectrum, etc). A better solution (if you think cellphones, rather than rudeness, is the problem) is to put RF detectors in the theatre, tuned to cell freqs, and don’t start or shut down the movie every time someone turns on their phone. A single theater in a multiplex might be set aside for those who need to keep their phones on.

    The RF spectrum is public property. There is no excuse for any commercial or private entity to deprive me of the use of my property, even at his convenience. I don’t surrender my property rights at the door.

  18. How else would Bush have been re-elected.

    He stole the election twice, fair and square.