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Apple's new 'theatre mode' is an embarrassment to us as a society


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A ringing phone in the cinema is probably one of our most irritating first world problems, right? Well, Apple may have the solution.

Pretty much everyone has made a trip to the cinema only to have it ruined by an inconsiderate person who has answered a phone call and doesn’t even try to speak in their indoor voice. It’s unbelievably frustrating and can easily ruin the film.

How can we be expected to be thrilled in the unbearable silence of a horror film if someone’s booming voice fills the theatre? How can we be truly mesmerised by romantic dialogue if someone behind us is taking calls? How can we be star struck by the talents of dancers and action stars if we’re blinded by the glare from someone’s phone?

Cinema is one of the most effective forms of escape. What better way to shut yourself out from the stresses of life than to sit in a dark room for two hours and be transported to a different world? I jump at the chance to ignore the scarily addictive social media that we can’t seem to get away from. So why ruin your little escape with the one device that reminds you of all the stresses of real life?

I love social media, and I love modern technology for the speed we can contact someone, and for the constant connection we can have with friends and family. But I go to the cinema to watch a film how it deserves to be watched: with my full and uninterrupted attention. Phones should have no part in the cinema.

However, Apple may be trying to make the cinema experience more enjoyable for everyone. Rumours of a Theatre Mode on the next IOS 10.3 update came from the twitter of Apple leaker Sonny Dickson, who shared the news of a new popcorn shaped icon to be switched on in the cinema.

The new mode is rumoured to disable sound, block incoming calls and messages, as well as reduce brightness. But can all these things not be achieved by simply putting your phone on ‘do not disturb mode’ and putting it away for the duration of the film?

If by some chance I’ve forgotten to put my phone on do not disturb, I’ve been as guilty as the next person for wanting to have a sly check to see who a message is from. But we can easily slide our phones out of pockets (keeping the light low and out of sight of other people) and glimpse at the message. Within a few seconds it’s pretty clear whether that text is worth replying to or not.

Obviously, it can’t be denied that not everyone can go to the cinema and pretend like they have no other responsibilities. For example, parents who are out for the evening may understandably want to check for messages from babysitters. It’s not fair to suggest that phones should be banned altogether in cinemas.

However, this isn’t the first attempt to try and encourage better cinema etiquette. The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square has used ‘cinema ninjas’ in the past - an army of volunteers who dress in black lycra morphsuits, with the role of stopping any ‘naughty behaviour’, from failing to turn your phone off to loud popcorn crunching.

While cinema ninjas would most definitely make visits to the cinema more interesting, it’s still not providing a long term solution. All it takes is a bit of common sense and respect for people around you. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen that not everyone shares this mind set. How someone can happily speak in their loudest voice in the quietest of cinemas, and how others can let the glare from their phone shine for the entire screening, we’ll never know.

What does it say about us as a society that our technology obsessed brains have rotted to the point where we don’t even have the capacity to concentrate on something for more than five minutes without checking social media or messages? And surely introducing a theatre mode will just make it seem acceptable to go on your phone in the cinema?

It seems ridiculous and even a bit embarrassing that it’s got to the point where our technology obsessed society actually needs a theatre mode. This is not Apple’s best idea, but it's definitely reflective and perhaps even sadly necessary in the society we live in today.

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