TORONTO - A New York blogger who became irate when another guest used a cellphone during a TIFF screening did what he thought was reasonable — he called 911.
Alex Billington, of FirstShowing.net, called the emergency number around noon Monday during a Toronto International Film Festival press screening of The Sacrament at Scotiabank Theatre because he was worried a man he saw using his cellphone for 10 minutes was recording the film.
“I’m trying to watch your film but guy in front row keeps using phone and theater (sic) tells me he is allowed. Ruining the experience,” Billington tweeted to the film’s director, Ti West, at 12:05 p.m.
Toronto Police confirmed a 911 call was placed by a man who was “concerned that another theatre-goer was using technology inside to perhaps record the movie,” Const. Sarah Diamond said Tuesday afternoon.
Police aren’t happy he chose to call the emergency number, but are not pursuing public mischief charges.
“When 911 operators are tied with non-emergency calls, then people with legitimate life-threatening situations can’t get through to get the help they need,” Diamond said.
A request for an interview by the Toronto Sun was not immediately returned by Billington, but he later posted his reaction on Twitter.
“My mistake is my own lesson to learn. I contacted staff first for piracy, they did nothing. Attention should be on the policy, bigger issue,” he said. “Ya, I overreacted made heat of moment gaffe ... Mea culpa. Full respect for responders.”
A barrage of people criticizing the blogger’s decision to call 911 surfaced on Twitter immediately after the incident.
“People using phones during a movie is annoying. Calling 911 over it is utterly ridiculous/potentially dangerous,” tweeted David Bell.
But there have also been those who back the call.
“Behind you 100%. cellphones have made movie theaters intolerable. I avoid them now, because of phones,” tweeted @jasons_johnson.
Toronto Police Sgt. Tim Burrows told Billington the right number to call.
“Hey @firstshowing. IN event of another emergency ... like no butter on popcorn or too much ice in your pop, 416-808-2222, not 911,” Burrows tweeted.