The Scourge of Texting in Movies


Sitting through almost two dozen films at the Toronto Film Festival last week, I had occasion to consider the notion of the viewing experience itself.

It's a strange and delicate thing -- that feeling of being so immersed in what you're viewing that you forget where you are. That's the experience I assume that most people crave when they go to a movie.

For some people, that immersion means turning their brains off and simply submitting to the sensations pouring off the screen: action, horror, comedy. For others, it's about engaging the mind, being forced to think and become intellectually or emotionally involved with the film, to meet it on its own terms and wrestle its meaning from it.

These are experiences best achieved in a movie theater, where the size of the screen and the surround of the sound pulls you into the image and takes you out of yourself, your life, your worries.

Nothing, however, pulls you out of that zone -- that sweet spot of movie viewing -- as the sudden intrusion of a brightly lit screen of someone's cell phone in your line of sight. Yet it was a regular occurrence in the press-and-industry screenings I attended at the Toronto Film Festival last week.

I'm not talking about people who accidentally left their phones on, then had them ring during the movie, which is bad enough. No, these were people who made a point of taking out their phones and checking emails or texts in the middle of the film, sometimes more than once.

This commentary continues on my website.