Right to punish mobile phone cinema bores

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 September, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 September, 1999, 12:00am

I agree with the letter from Thea White ('Mobile phone fines would help teach respect', South China Morning Post, September 4).

Certain cinema-goers are totally discourteous in disregarding others' rights. Even after requests for silence from ushers, I have seen patrons continue loud phone conversations during movies.

Under present regulations, cinema operators are powerless to do anything about this. I believe that should a fine be imposed and enforced for using a mobile phone within the environs of the screening area (in the same way as the 'no smoking' law was imposed and enforced), this problem would rapidly diminish.

There are those who argue that the banning of mobile phone usage within a theatre affects the user's rights and needs, such as the need for people on call to be able to receive an emergency call wherever they are.

This argument does not hold water. That person could easily arrange a vibration-style silent ringer to inform him that he had received a call and then go outside to make the call back.

Further, when one's rights (to receive phone calls) negatively affect the rights of others (to enjoy a film in relative silence), then that person must give up his right for the sake of the majority's (the other cinema-goers') right.

I even feel it is not so bad if a patron forgets to turn off his phone and it rings (although it can be completely frustrating if it happens during a tense or dramatic moment during a film) inside a theatre - the person could immediately answer it and go outside to speak, or he could simply turn it off.

I strongly advocate, however, that those who carry on a conversation while watching a movie should be fined heavily, for they are simply (as Ms White pointed out) being discourteous and ignoring the paid privileges of all the other people in the theatre. For this type of people, the threat of legal punishment is the only way to convince them to stop their anti-social behaviour.

RIGO JESU New Territories