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Do We Really Need The New iPhone 'Theatre Mode' To Check Messages In Cinemas?
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Do We Really Need The New iPhone 'Theatre Mode' To Check Messages In Cinemas?

Picture of Cassam Looch
Film Editor
Updated: 3 January 2017
Of all the updates Apple users have been crying out for (er, can we have our headphone jack back please?), one that was pretty low on the list appears to be on the way in the latest iOS system upgrade.

But what exactly is the point of the rumoured ‘Theatre Mode’, and won’t it just encourage bad habits to continue?

Regular iPhone news leaker Sonny Dickson recently tweeted about the upcoming iOS 10.3 update, and highlighted one feature that has got everyone talking.

In 2012, Apple patented ‘Cinema Mode’, an option similar to the now familiar Aeroplane Mode which will also limit incoming and outgoing communications.

The idea is that users will still be able to check their messages, but presumably on an ultra-dark screen that won’t disturb fellow cinema/theatre goers.

The original patent application was something of a confusing mess, stating that:

“While the user is in the movie theater, the mobile device deactivates its cellular communications interface and/or automatically sets the device to a silent mode.

When the user leaves the movie theater, the portable device enables phone communications and/or restores the ringer setting to the setting utilized prior to the device’s deactivation.”

So basically Aeroplane mode, right?

The real issue is whether we want people to check their phones at all in cinemas?

The distraction isn’t just from the vivid light display that bathes the phone user in light when they check their notifications, it comes from the whole idea of fidgeting unnecessarily. What we really need is a total blackout on mobile devices in cinemas. In fact, while we’re at it, let’s ban popcorn, nachos and fizzy drinks from screenings as well.

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Robert De Niro in ‘Cape Fear’ | Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Bad habits shouldn’t be encouraged in any way. We know ushers and cinema managers are now too afraid to tackle nuisances in theatres for fear of reprisals, so let’s just take away all possible annoyances.

At some press screenings, journalists are regularly asked to hand in their phones to security prior to the film starting, or even before they enter the cinema itself. It’s a mild inconvenience when leaving, having to queue up to pick up your phone again, but it’s worth it for the sheer bliss of watching a film in peace and quiet.

Of course most journalists and general members of the public can be trusted NOT to use their phones during a film, but there is always the minority.

Ostensibly, the handing in of phones is to prevent piracy, and with the latest mobile devices having high quality cameras and increased storage capacity, this would be a welcome side effect of the outright phone ban.

If you’re desperate to keep your phone with you, and on at all times, then cinemas should go through with the mooted special screenings where patrons can use their phones to their heart’s content… while the rest of us can enjoy the film as intended. I can live without social media updates for a couple of hours…