and Cell Phones:
Whats An Exhibitor To Do?
Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
NATOs Regional Units Committee meets, the issue arises
regarding what to do when a patron is caught using a camcorder
in your auditoria. There always seems to be general confusion
about what should be done. More recently, there have also
been an increasing number of questions about how to handle
patrons refusing to turn off their cell phones or talking
on their phones during the show. Many exhibitors have expressed
the concern that patrons have taken to confronting one another,
resulting at times in actual fistfights or screaming matches
during the film, or a showdown in the parking lot afterwards.
We thought therefore it would be helpful to get clarification
on these two issues from the MPAA and NATOs general
talk first about what we can do. Short of camcorder and cell
phone legislation in each state (there are a few states that
currently have camcorder statutes on the books but
more on those later), the recommended solution is for each
company to institute its own policy regarding the use of cell
phones and camcorders in their auditoria. This policy should
then be clearly posted in your theatres. The patron is thereby
put on notice, and when escorted from the premises, he knows
that management is following company policy. The suggested
language for your theatre sign is as follows:
USE OF CAMCORDERS, STILL CAMERAS, ANY OTHER RECORDING
DEVICES AND CELLULAR TELEPHONES IN ANY AUDITORIUM WITHIN
THIS THEATRE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.
VIOLATORS WILL BE ESCORTED FROM THE PREMISES AND MAY
BE SUBJECT TO CRIMINAL
general counsel has cautioned us to remind you that there
are some patrons such as physicians and parents with young
children who legitimately need to be available by cell phone
in case of an emergency. These patrons, however, should put
their phones on vibration mode and leave the auditoria when
taking calls so they do not disturb others. Managers should
use their own discretion when dealing with these exceptions.
However, counsel advises us not to post these exceptions on
your signs since everyone would then claim that they too have
a legitimate reason to use their cell phones in the auditoria.
note that the language on the sign does not prohibit patrons
from using their cell phones in your lobbies, but restricts
them only from using them in the auditoria. Many of you expressed
the sentiment that you feel it is important for patrons to
be able to use their phones in your lobbies to call parents,
check on babysitters, etc.
Now to address what we are advised not to do when catching
a patron violating this policy. Without specific camcorder
or cell phone legislation in your state, you are advised not
to try to detain the violator. Management should also not
attempt to confiscate the perpetrators cell phone or
camcorder. As the laws stand now in most states, the best
solution is to simply remove the patron from the premises.
are, as they say, exceptions to every rule. The states of
California, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all have
camcorder-type statutes on their books. The statutes are different
in each of these states and too lengthy to get into in this
article. Therefore, if you are not familiar with the camcorder
statutes in these states, we would recommend that you check
these with each states NATO affiliate. Hopefully, this
information will help alleviate some of the confusion that
exists on these issues and will be useful to you in your operations.
to a peaceful (and non-infringing) moviegoing environment!