It's Curtains for Phones

A New York legislator, miffed at the constant shrilling of cell phones during his visits to Broadway theaters, intends to do something about it.

His solution? Making bad manners illegal.

Councilman Phil Reed (D), said he'll introduce a bill tomorrow that will force people to turn off their phones inside performance spaces including movie theaters, libraries, galleries, concert halls and recital venues.

"It happens all the time," Reed said at City Hall in Manhattan. "This then gives the theater owner the authority to tell people, 'You are violating the law, you have to leave.'

Reed said it was one thing to turn off a ringing phone, but some theater patrons just go ahead and have frivolous conversations without regard for others in the audience or onstage.

"I think people are selfish. The phone conversations are so stupid. I would be embarrassed to have anybody listen to these inane conversations," Reed said.

"[The bill] protects the people who are talking, so they don't look so stupid," Reed said.

Fines have not yet been worked out, and the law would not apply to large outdoor arenas like Yankee and Shea stadiums.

Council staff cited reports of movie star Laurence Fishburne's profanity-laced admonition of a patron whose phone went off during his performance in The Lion in Winter and a similar incident involving Kevin Spacey during his turn in The Iceman Cometh.

Lee Silver, a spokesman for the Shubert Organization, which operates 17 Broadway theaters, said such incidents are rare. 

"There is a voice from behind the stage that reminds people to please turn their phones off just before the curtain goes up," Silver said. 

"We have never had a problem," he said.

Silver said similar announcements are made in most Broadway theaters. 

But Reed, responding to criticism that he's trying to legislate courtesy, said, "I think what we're doing as a legislative body is responding to what people are saying is a quality-of-life issue.

"We have not heard [anyone] demand their right to violate anybody else's quality of life."

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