LAS VEGAS – Movie theater owners faced with falling attendance are considering asking federal authorities for permission to jam cell phone reception in an attempt to stop annoying conversations during films, the head of the industry's trade group said on Tuesday.
Industry leaders at the ShoWest conference for theater owners want to find ways to win back crowds.
"I don't know what's going on with consumers that they have to talk on phones in the middle of theaters," John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told the ShoWest conference in Las Vegas.
Theaters are trying a number of ways to silence cell phones, from sweeps by ushers to funny fake movie trailers urging viewers to shut off phones.
Fithian said owners were considering other steps if that does not work.
"We will actually petition the Federal Communications [Commission] to remove the block" on jamming cell phones, he said.
That may be difficult, since federal law and FCC rules prohibit the use of cell-phone jammers.
The industry is broadly trying to increase interest in the movies.
Motion Picture Association of America Chief Executive Dan Glickman told ShoWest that the industry is researching why and when people go to the movies and might consider an advertising campaign to encourage people to go out to the movies, just as the milk industry has succeeded with its Got Milk? campaign.