Your head is on fire. A spaceship spewing bug-eyed aliens just landed in the backyard, and they look mean. Someone in the movie theater is using a cell phone, but the staff doesn’t seem to care. The neighbors have turned into ravenous zombies intent on noshing on your brains. Three of the aforementioned scenarios are all emergency situations and thus warrant calling 9-1-1 for help, while one is not. Let’s take a guess which is an inappropriate reason to get emergency responders involved.
Ding ding and ding — alerting the authorities because someone is using a cell phone, even perhaps in an act of piracy, is not a valid use of emergency resources. Movie blogger Alex Billington of FirstShowing.net now knows that all too well after calling 9-1-1 to report a cell phone disruption during a screening of Ti West’s The Sacrament during the Toronto Film Festival. He says he tried to complain to staff first, but that they said cell phone use was allowed in the theater.
The tweet has since been deleted, it seems, but reportedly read: “I literally just called 911 & reported piracy to the police. This has been elevated to max.”
When that emergency call didn’t work, he took to Twitter to make his case against the perpetrator… which begs the question: Didn’t he have to use his phone in the theater to tweet about his outrage during the movie?
In any case, he’s admitted to this bit of 9-1-1 trigger happiness, telling BuzzFeed of the situation:
The man in the front row had his phone out pointed towards the screen for the first 10 minutes. I complained once to the theater managers, who looked and said there was no one with their phone on. I returned, and 5 minutes later he had his phone out again in front of him, pointed towards the screen. I thought I might be witnessing an act of piracy, a major crime being committed, and wished to report it to the proper authorities.
The call made was to report an act of piracy in progress, a major crime that many signs around TIFF remind people is a punishable offense. I simply requested that an officer confront and confirm that he was not pirating. Another 10 minutes later, a venue manager intercepted the report and responded claiming he was only texting, and subsequently stated he had the right to use his phone in this screening. My complaints at that time, based on their response, turned to the policy of TIFF and allowing phones to be used.
Since his story started making the rounds, Billington has been busy with damage control on Twitter, saying his mistake is his own to learn:
Remember this the next time you stub your toe or see someone littering. Not all your personal issues are emergencies. But also — don’t be that person using a cell phone in a movie theater, for the bajillionth time. No one wants to employ their eyeballs in a battle with your tiny screen while watching the big one.