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[TIFF ’13] Asshole Using His Cell Phone During ‘The Sacrament’ Has Police Called On Him!!

Updated 8:45AM PST: I’ve been going to the Toronto International Film Festival for several years now (my absolute favorite festival I’ve ever attended), and each year I deal with the problem of cell phone in press & industry screenings (it’s allowed, apparently?). While the festival does nothing about it (industry folk need their phones to work during the movie, even though it’s the journalist’s job to pay close attention…), I personally have brought it to the attention of various festival heads on numerous occasions. The worst, though, is when a buyer decides to sit in the front row, lighting up the entire theater behind them. Some of these people come with extreme entitlement – in fact, one year I was threatened by a buyer (allegedly the same one who caused this stir) for nicely asking if he’d switch rows with me, so I could sit in front of him. Yup, this is a real problem.

One person tormented by the same issue is Alex Billington, founder of Each year, the two of us sit in misery trying to find new ways to deal with the problem. This time, he got the last laugh (and I missed it!). His response has caused a major stir, partially because he called 911, instead of a emergency number…

Apparently, during a press & industry screening of Ti West’s presumably amazing The Sacrament, Billington called 911, stating that a selfish jerk using his cell phone was pirating the movie (I’m being told that Billington acknowledges that he should have called local police instead of 911, which is reserved for real emergencies – in any case, this was a bold decision). Slick move, brother! The call caused a huge disruption and has now caused a ripple through the press (with some focusing solely on Billington’s 911 call, instead of the issue of cell phones in theaters). Hopefully, this will bring some awareness to the festival that something needs to be done. (I personally have suggested that the festival allow the last two rows to be for industry; there they could use their phones all they want, without any distraction.)

Below are a few Tweets that got the ball rolling, but you can read both sides of the argument here. Clearly, Billington should not have been calling 911, which he acknowledges, but a local emergency number. Looking beyond the call, there is a serious problem here that needs to be addressed. If the Alamo Drafthouse can adopt a zero policy, why can’t a major festival, or even other theater chains? A source inside told me, “It’s just too dangerous for the volunteers.

More inside. Tell us your thoughts below…



  • doomas10

    A fear of mine that is spreading faster here in the UK. Inside the cinema there is always a tone of people using their phones texting. FFS, I cannot enjoy the film experience any more. So I either go around 11 in the morning to watch a film- just before my work!? – or not going at all and watch it home on blu ray. It is extremely annoying. Glad the dude did what he had to do but the more shocking aspect of this incident is that TIFF is allowing that. Maybe if they start having separate rows for phone users? I cannot understand why people feel the need to be on the phone all the time. When you go out for a cup of coffee they barely talk but when they tweet they mention every little insignificant detail of their lives. Being 25 and I am old school. True story

  • djblack1313

    everyone has known for YEARS that movie theater patrons (the rude ones) suck but i’m sorry i can’t just “look beyond” this idiot calling 911 to report a guy who it sounds like wasn’t pirating the movie (he was just using his cell phone to make a call right?). no, it’s not a “bold move” in calling 911 which has FAR bigger and more important things to do than to worry about BS like this.

    i can’t believe you’re even boasting about this. yes, rude movie patrons are the worst but it’s up to the theater to do something about it. if they won’t do something you just don’t go to that theater anymore (i don’t care if it’s for a festival or whatever).

    this douche bag calling 911 should get some sort of citation himself.

  • horrorking95

    Surely the police have more pressing matters than to tell someone off for using their phone like a naughty school boy. I know it’s annoying, but come on!

  • divisionbell

    It might not have been right to call 911 but good for him. If they’re going allow someone so obnoxious to use their phone then make a big scene out of it. Gets the point across!

  • ZedtheUndead

    why make a huge deal and call the cops? instead of calling an emergency number to have the police of all people tell him he needs to put his phone away, just take the phone from the douche bag and smashing it or politely telling him you’ll give it back when the movies done, or lean over and tell him where you’ll make that phone disappear too if he doesn’t put it away, ANYTHING other then calling the police who have way more important things to do!

  • was told off by a guy when all I did was ask him to stop during cabin in the woods. my fault for escalating it because I took his phone and tossed it down the aisle though.

    • ZedtheUndead

      see THAT’S what i’m talking about, went to the opening of “You’re Next” and some dumb little teen was texting on her phone right in front of us, I thought my fiance was going to drive her in the back of the head about the fourth time her phone went off, instead in the most angry evil way possible she leaned in real close and said “could you turn off you phone!” didn’t hear it for the rest of the movie, hahaha

  • Joe-Banger

    @djblack1313, There are worse people in the world than this idiot! Ive been falsely arrested twice and I spent time in boring fucking jail and after I got out Ive called the dumbass police on people who really were breaking the law in public! This whole subject was a stupid waste of time! JUST DONT GO TO THE OVER PRICED MOVIE THEATRES ANY MORE EVERYONE! PROBLEM SOLVED!

    • djblack1313

      Joe, sorry that happened to you. it sounds like you really didn’t deserve to that happen to you.

  • djblack1313

    here’s the news article on this story. notice the amount of comments who think this guy (who called 911) was completely wrong.

  • dudesareawesome

    Is this the same Alex Billington? If so, he’s a hypocritical piece of shit.

    What kind of a douchebag Twitters through a public showing of a movie? Alex Billington, the guy behind the website First Showing, that’s who.

    Tonight Alex joined some local comedians at a midnight screening of Crank 2. They all Twittered their reactions to the movie as it was going on, pulling out their cell phones during the screening to share their priceless comedy with the masses. If you’ve ever been to a theater where someone texts during a screening you know just how annoying that blue light can be, just how distracting. It’s one thing for a bunch of comedians to do it, but for a film critic?

    If Billington worked for someone other than the parents who finance his lifestyle, I would demand he be fired. Using your phone during a screening is inexcusable, no matter what the movie is. That theater had people who paid their money to see the movie, and whether you think the film is a joke or not it’s unbelievably rude to behave that way. And who is Billington to decide which films are worthy of respect or not? He believed The Dark Knight was a ‘cinematic revolution,’ but what if I thought Twittering through that film was fine? What if I didn’t think the movie and the audience deserved the basic respect of keeping my fucking phone off?

    Anyone who has been to a movie theater in recent years knows that the experience is getting worse and worse. People text, people talk, people bring their infants to R rated movies. Going to a movie can be a real hassle – you pay ten bucks to have a bunch of kids chat the whole time, distracting you. A person who loves film should want the moviegoing experience – for ANY movie – to be better, not worse. But Alex Billington tonight took part in making a trip to the theater worse for everyone else. If I thought this guy could feel any shame I would say he should be ashamed.

    And the worst part is this is the kind of retarded nonsense he was Twittering:

    Haha ‘the famous Chelios heart’ awesome subtitles yes! And that heart is covered in KY jelly… #twitflix

    Real genius, pal.

    If you love movies you wouldn’t use your phone during them. Alex Billington is a fraud, a fake movie lover. Drop him an email at to let him know what you feel about him pulling out his phone during a movie. And I swear to you that if I am at a screening where Billington uses his phone, he’s going to need to buy a new one.

    I know there are people out there who will say ‘It was funny! Chill out!’ These people are wrong. If you want to Twitter through a movie in a private screening or at home, go nuts. But we’re already dealing with absolute assholes who make going to the movies less and less enjoyable – now we need to put up with movie critics being annoying as well? If there’s any person who should know better, it’s someone who writes about movies for a living.

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