Apple May Block iPhone Use At Concerts, Could Movie Theaters Be Next?

Apple has patented a new technology that blocks the iPhone's camera feature, which would reportedly allow venues like concert venues to use an infrared beam to disable a mobile phone's camera, preventing its users from taking videos and photos.  According to the Telegraph, Apple's patent says that the phone would display a "recording disabled" message when users take photographs or videos. Apple has not officially announced this feature so it's unclear if and when it will roll out.

But who's to say that movie theaters wouldn't also be able to take advantage of this new technology when it's released? And maybe this is just a first step towards something I theorized about five years ago.

blocking phones in the movie theaters

If they were to release the patented tech, I'm sure multiplexes would also be allowed to install this system to prevent moviegoers from taking photos and videos of the film. Not that any of the big movie pirates are shooting with an iPhone, but I've heard movie studios have recently been running into rampant illegal streaming of films on services like Periscope and Facebook Live. This kind of system would cut down on that sort of thing.

In June 2011, I wrote a post titled What If Your Cellphone Wouldn't Allow You to Use It During a Movie Screening?. In the post, I proposed the idea that Apple should build a system which would not allow people to pick up a phone call or respond to a text message while inside a movie theater.

The phone would be in lock mode while in the theater, from the time the trailers start until the end credits hit. And better yet, the technology would put all iPhones on minimum brightness, which would be less of a disturbance. So even if someone turns on their phone to check the time, it will not distract as many people from the film. Don't get me wrong, I understand that some people need the ability to receive urgent calls/txts — doctors, parents...etc. I'm not saying that the ability to check one's phone should be completely disabled — for example, you would still be able to see someone is calling, just not able to pick up or return the call until he leaves the theater. You would be able to read the txt message, just not be able to respond.

The response to that idea was very mixed. Turns out people don't want private companies to have control of their technology, even if they aren't the rude one texting and looking at Facebook during Independence Day: Resurgence. Also blocking phones in the movie theaters in this manner would probably be illegal, as there are probably FCC laws that would prevent a company like Apple from releasing a system like that.

Even in Los Angeles at premium theaters like the Arclight, I routinely see people on their phones during a movie. I would love it if, at very least, a system like this would prevent people from having their brightness on high during a film. Not that the low light isn't distracting, but its far less distracting than someone who has their brightness on high.