5 Non-Annoying Ways to Check Your Smartphone in the Movie Theater

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What are the three most annoying behaviors in the world? People who interrupt. People who don’t allow you to merge into traffic. People who use their smartphone in the movie theater. I can’t help with the first two, but I’m going to help you avoid being an annoyance at the theater.

These days, movie theaters are actually encouraging people to use their cellphones during the “pre-show” part of the movie experience. These usually involve trivia questions that people can text in their answers, or vote on some advertisement. It’s a great marketing gimmick, but when the lights dim and the previews start, the theater is pretty strict about people putting those phones away.

There have even been incidents in the news where people have gotten attacked for using a smartphone in the theater.  It’s not something that people take lightly. So, if you’re going to try and keep up to date with your email, your calendar or surf the net the moment those previews start or when the movie starts, you better make sure you’ve got yourself set up so that you can do it without bothering the people around you.

1. Shield it inside of your purse

So, what’s the big deal about using a smartphone in the theater? It’s not like you’re making a phone call and making all sorts of noise, right?

Well, if you’ve ever attempted to use a smartphone in a pitch black room, then you know that you can see the glaring, white screen of a smartphone from all the way in the back of the room. That means, if someone in the front of a movie theater is stupid enough to turn on their smartphone from a front row, it nearly blinds everyone in the seats behind them.

If you’re a woman and you carry a purse, then you’re in luck. Plop your smartphone deep into the bottom of that purse.

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What this does is shields everyone around you, on all sides and even behind you, from the horrible bright glare of that screen. You can reach in, scroll through your mail, text message, whatever. This technique usually works best when the previews have started and the lights are only dimmed in the theater. Placed on your lap, you can play around with the phone without bothering anyone. Once the lights go completely dark though, people close by may still see the white glow coming out of your purse – so use with caution when you’re bored with the previews.

2. Shield it in a bag

If you’re a guy and you don’t have a purse, no problemo muchacho. If you’ve bought a bag of potato chips, or better yet, a big huge bucket of popcorn, just eat down far enough into the container and then drop your smartphone right down into that bag or container.

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Again, it shields everyone around you from the direct glare of the screen, You can reach into the bag and browse your email, surf the web, or whatever. The same rules apply – this will work extremely well during previews when the lights aren’t completely black, or if you’re sitting way in the back of the theater. No one will know you’re using the phone, but if you’re anywhere in the middle or front of the theater, they’ll probably see the glow on your face when the lights go black.

3. Inexpensive “Cover-Up”

So, what do you do when the lights go completely out and the movie starts, but you still need to exchange some last minute text messages with a business colleague or with your friend? Well, there’s a very quick and inexpensive trick that I call the “baggie-dimmer”.

The way it works is this – buy mini-sized sandwich bags. These are usually marketed as ziplock plastic snack bags. Place your smartphone inside the sandwich bag. These are even big enough to house my oversized Samsung S4.

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Then, take a black permanent marker with a wide tip, and carefully paint one single line of black marker ink from left to right across the area of the smartphone screen. Repeat this all the way down the entire screen, making sure to only make one single line per swipe – you don’t want to put two coats or you won’t be able to see through to the screen.

However, what this does is acts as sort of a pair of dark sunglasses for the screen, blocking out the bright glare. This technique is best for cheaper phones that maybe only text (not a smartphone), or where you don’t have much control over the brightness. This does a surprisingly good job dimming the screen down to the point where if you have it deep inside a container, the light from the bag or purse won’t really be bright enough to notice even a few seats away.

4. Lower the Brightness

Of course, if you do have a full-fledged smartphone, you can give lowering the brightness down to its minimum level a shot. This will dim the screen enough on some phones, but not so much on others. You can find this on your Android phone in the Settings section under “Display”. Look for the “Brightness” setting.

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Adjust the brightness setting all the way down to the minimum level.

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On my phone, adjusting the brightness doesn’t actually dim the screen enough so that it wouldn’t still glow in the middle of a dark theater.

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It might work on your phone though, so it’s worth a try before moving on to your next option, which is downloading a “Night Mode” app.

5. Night Mode App

Okay, I’ve saved the best for last. The secret weapon of smartphone users of the night. Yes, it’s the Night Mode app baby. If you’ve never used it, you should give it a shot. It’ll blow your socks off. You’ll be able to whip out that phone in a pitch black movie theater, browse the web or check your email with the smartphone perched down right in your lap, and no one will be the wiser for it (just make sure you have all the sounds turned off).

Night mode has a pretty simple interface that lets you adjust the brightness of the screen when you click the “Start” button.

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Here’s my own screen with about 30% brightness.

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That could be noticeable in a pitch black room, so it might be best to lower it even further. Also, in the settings, you can even disable the button backlights on your phone so they don’t give away the fact that you have your phone out in the middle of a crowded theater.
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Lowering the brightness all the way down to nearly zero, I was able to make it so my screen was almost completely turned off. In a lit room, I really had to squint to see that this screen listed all of my most recent email messages.

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However, in a darkened movie theater, you’ll see the nearly black screen just fine, but no one else in the theater will know what you’re up to. Except of course your wife, who will be glaring over at you from her seat. Speaking of which….I gotta run.

It’s been a great time. I hope you enjoyed these little tricks to sneak a peek at your smartphone during the movie. I’m glad I could help. Hey – us geeky tech-addicts have got to stick together right? So go ahead, check your email. Text your friend. And then sit back and enjoy the movie.

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Comments (18)
  • Allan

    Tim B,
    I hope I never run into you in a movie theatre with your smartphone ablaze. I’d give you a piece of my mind. I pay good money to see a movie in a theatre and I don’t need rude people like you justifying the usage of a smartphone in a dark theatre. Today a guy was checking his phone numerous times during the Hobbit movie. I stopped counting at ten times. I moved half way through as I was tired of holding myself back from telling him to give it a rest. When the movie ended I did tell this guy how rude he was. He didn’t say a thing. What we need is more courtesy and civility and not less. Grow up………

  • Denise E

    if you really have to, i’ve found ducking my head under a jacket along with my phone a good solution – no face glare, no glare from the screen – and usually (in the cinema near me anyway) the air conditioning is FREEZING so there’s little chance of discomfort.

  • Mike

    Oh for God’s sake – turn the phone off and enjoy the movie, or go sit in the john and use the phone there.
    Don’t inflict your selfish, boorish, addicted personality problems on the rest of us.
    And if you do it in front of me, make sure you’ve got the ambulance service on speed dial!

  • jkendal

    The number 1 non-annoying way to check your device in a movie theater is to NOT take it in there to begin with! HOWEVER, if you’re one of those device addicts, then do the rest of us a favor and get up out of your seat and go play with it in the lobby.

  • theo

    Why not just drape your towel over your head and cover the phone? You DO have a towel with you, don’t you, hitchhiker ?

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.