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Woman arrested for taping 'New Moon.' What should be the punishment for talking or texting during it?

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A young woman in Chicago is facing up to three years in prison after a movie theater worker spied her filming on her digital camera during a screening of The Twilight Saga: New Moon last Saturday. According to the Chicago Sun-Times account, the theater’s managers pressed charges against 22-year-old Samantha Tumpach, who claims she shot only roughly three minutes of footage, not all of which was of the film and none of which she intended to pirate. She says she was actually documenting her sister’s surprise 29th birthday party, so while there are short bits of the film on her camera, there’s also her and her relatives singing “Happy Birthday” in the theater. The camera is relatively new, she added, so she was playing around with it during the pre-film commercials and previews as well. Her defense against the charges — one felony count of criminal use of a motion picture exhibition — is that she never meant to record the movie: Watch her footage, and “You can hear me talking the whole time.”

[Insert record scratch.] Though piracy is a serious issue, I don’t believe this woman deserves jail time (she already spent two nights in a cell before being released on a cashless personal recognizance bond on Monday, the Sun-Times reports) — but now that I know that she was not only distracting fellow moviegoers with the light of her camera but also by talking, I think she should be banned from that theater for a month. I realize this would be hard to enforce, but we need to do something to stop people from ruining movies by talking or texting (yes, the light on your phone really is that annoying and no, nothing is that important unless your wife’s water just broke or someone just died).

Seriously, what can we do? Those pre-film reminders, while nice, just aren’t cutting it. If we can’t ban people from a theater, can we at least take their pictures and put them on a Wall of Shame in the lobby? OR, if a multiplex is showing a movie on multiple screens, maybe it borrows Amtrak’s Quiet Car idea and has a Quiet Theater? If a movie is playing on only one screen, maybe the theater has one daily Quiet Show? In an ideal world, it’d be the same experience you’d have at any time, but in reality, you’d be with an audience that abhors distractions as much as you do. Thoughts?

Photo credit: New Moon: Kimberley French