They’ve got American films unspooling in unprecedented numbers. Now Chinese moviegoers have a familiar Western headache to go along with them: interruptions by the increasingly ubiquitous cell phone.
And one Chinese city is looking to nip the growing trend in the bud, using jamming equipment to block the signals.
As incomes rocket in China’s wealthy eastern cities, more people are buying cellular phones and pagers, leading to more interruptions of theater performances, and movies are frequently interrupted by the ringing. Many users engage in lengthy and noisy phone conversations in the auditorium.
“I would say that a phone rings somewhere in the hall once every two minutes,” complains one theater producer in Shanghai. “We ask people to turn them off at the beginning of every show, but people are unwilling to cut themselves off from the world for that length of time.”
Answering the ringing discord, Guangzhou, the capital of China’s Guandong province, will begin blocking all phone signals in theaters and music halls next month, according to Guangzhou-based New Express News. The local initiative will use equipment imported from Japan.
But in Shanghai, several exhib managers expressed surprise at the need to introduce such measures.
“Most people are pretty good at turning off the ringer on their phones these days,” says Crystal Chu, a marketing exec at the Golden Cinemas multiplex. “… We would never make someone leave because they were taking calls during a film. That’s something the opera theaters do; we are a cinema. It’s a different kind of entertainment.”