Blogger calls 911 over cell phone use in TIFF screening

TIFFSeptember 10, 2013

Is it a crime to use a cell phone during a film? An audience member at the Toronto International Film Festival screening of "The Sacrament" on Monday thought so. So he called 911.

According to BuzzFeed, creator and blogger Alex Billington alerted Toronto's emergency services on Monday when he noticed another audience member pointing his phone at the screen for several minutes in the Press and Industry screening of Ti West's latest horror film.

"I thought I might be witnessing an act of piracy, a major crime being committed, and wished to report it to the proper authorities," Billington wrote to BuzzFeed. "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."

The movie blogger noted on his Twitter feed that calling the emergency line was a "heat of the moment gaffe" and what he actually meant to do was "reach police to report piracy."

"I saw what I thought might be piracy. I care about film and anti-piracy," he tweeted. "I left the theater, called it in. Simple as that."

Billington admitted that the dispatcher laughed at him and that the theater managers -- who allegedly said he was the only one to ever complain about cell phone use at TIFF -- told him to go to a public screening instead.

"The theater managers claim he was 'watching the film' (while using his phone) and that I was disrupting because I complained. So sad," Billing ton tweeted, adding, "They told me @cameron_tiff [TIFF's artistic director Cameron Bailey] would be briefed but that I could not arrange time with him during this festival."

But that is not dissuading the film fan from taking action. "I will be starting a petition & support group for any/all TIFF press & industry who want to voice their concerns about phones being allowed," Billington ultimately tweeted.

Do you think cell phones should be allowed at TIFF press screenings?

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