James Joseph Cialella Jr., folk hero (updated)

cialellaOn Christmas night, James Joseph Cialella Jr., 29, was just trying to watch David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in peace.

Unfortunately for him, a 31 year old man and his son in front of him just had better things to do than be quiet and actually watch the movie they had shelled out their own hard-earned cash to see. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Barbara Boyer, Mr. Cialella him told the man’s family to be quiet, then threw popcorn at the son. Presumably this didn’t work, because according to a police spokesman, after exchanging words, Cialella allegedly got out of his seat and came around the aisle to confront the family when the father got up “to protect his family,” and the argument turned physical.

That’s when Cialella pulled out a Kel-Tec .380-caliber handgun he’d had clipped inside his sweatpants and shot the father once in the left arm, before sitting back down to watch the movie — until police arrived, of course. Cialella was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons violations.

(As an aside, I had to pull together this series of events from three separate accounts on the internet, two of which were attributed to Ms. Boyer; apparently that the argument turning physical — nothing to say who struck first — before Mr. Cialella pulled his gun was not an important detail to a few newspapers/sites.)

According to Cinematical, “the incident took place at the UA Riverview Plaza Stadium 17; police were called about 9:30 pm, which means the 8:40 Button screening was barely a half hour into its 2 hour, 47 minute running time (allowing for the usual 15 minutes of ads and trailers).”

Now, I’m not seriously saying that shooting the guy (or anybody) was right. Or that packing heat and going to the movies is something that should be commended, but the fact is, the family should not have been talking. When first asked to shut up, they should have stopped talking. There is no way in hell the father cannot share the blame for escalating this incident. But, of course, Mr. Cialella pulled the gun and shot the father — so while Mr. Cialella will undoubtedly deserve whatever punishment the Philadelphia legal system throws at him, I say he should also be thanked for providing a cautionary tale to talkative movie-goers everywhere, the moral of which is: SHUT THE FUCK UP.

UPDATE (1/5/09): I’m a little behind on this update, but more details have emerged about the incident from a hearing last Wednesday, with the Associated Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting a somewhat different account (or two, actually):

[Gunshot victim Woffard] Lomax, 31, told the judge he was at the movie with his girlfriend and her three teenagers, enjoying the film and laughing, when a man in front of him — not Cialella — told him to quiet down.

“We can’t laugh?” Lomax recalled asking.

A second man [Cialella] threw popcorn at the family, and a brawl ensued. Lomax said he was fighting with the first man when the second man pulled out a gun and fired, striking him in the left arm.

A defense lawyer argued that Cialella was being choked and punched as he tried to break up the fight and fired in self-defense.

As I expected, the attempted murder charge was thrown out by the judge. “He’s a marksman,” lawyer Greg Pagano explained. “If he wanted to shoot to kill, he would have.” Lomax’s arm was broken in the gunshot.

Lomax’s new account differs somewhat from what the earlier articles say he told police — that “Cialella was walking toward his family when [Lomax] stood up and was shot.” Perhaps this is more from the newspaper’s editing than from Lomax trying to whitewash his involvement in the incident, however.

Municipal Court Judge Craig M. Washington set Ciaella’s bond at $50,000 (lowered from the initial $350,000) but also ordered him to remain under house arrest if he is released. It’s not clear if he had posted bond or remains in jail.

One other caveat about the incident found in an Irish newspaper that has also hailed Cialella as a hero (not without a little sarcasm, mind you): when officers arrived at the theater to arrest Cialella, he complained that he hadn’t seen the end of the movie yet.

Posted on December 29, 2008 at 11:18 by Gordon@MovieMakeout · Permalink
In: News

18 Responses

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  1. Written by Jorn
    on 2008-12-30 at 04:52

    As far as the legal parts of this issue, I’m not going to comment without having a detailed report of the events. But I will say that I’ve often wanted to shoot people talking in theaters, but I no longer even say anything; Last time I did, the chatterbox went and got an usher and got me kicked out, saying I was threatening them. (I wasn’t, but I’m a good six and a half feet tall, and not lanky tall, which people seem to find intimidating for some reason)

  2. Written by djpowwow
    on 2008-12-30 at 05:59

    Theaters should just flash this guy’s ugly mugshot on the screen just before the movie starts, along with a fitting text, like “Keep Quiet, or Jimmy will make you quiet!” followed by a gunshot sound effect and bullet-hole graphic on the screen. Some may call it bad taste, but as a semi-recent Multiplex comic showed, fear can be a very useful tool.

  3. Written by 504th
    on 2008-12-30 at 09:10

    I was in the 82nd Airborne (504th Parachute Infantry Regiment) with Jimmy in Iraq and he’s not a bad guy. I would like to know exactly what transpired, obviously if the man wasn’t a threat he was wrong to have pulled his gun but I haven’t talked to him yet and all I know is a few sentences I read in the paper.

  4. Written by Nathan
    on 2008-12-30 at 13:21

    Maybe people will take a note from that and shut UP. I actually had an argument with some guy sitting behind me once. He was talking and i said “Be quiet” and he said something back (i forget what) so i said “I’ll see you outside after the movie.” and i didn’t hear anything from him the rest of the movie.

  5. Written by speedbat
    on 2009-01-03 at 07:56

    While I certainly do not condone Mr Cialella actions, I have to say I’m not surprised that such an event allegedly happened. I can not count the number of times I or my girlfriend have had to ask someone to be quiet in a theatre lately. In fact it has gotten so bad that we have had to on a number of occassions move to crappy seats just to hear the movie. So my question is this why aren’t theatres doing something about it? …oh yeah right I forgot they are to busy jacking up popcorn prices and hanging out with their friends in the lobby.

  6. Written by Traci
    on 2009-01-03 at 18:27

    Unfortunately this is the theater I always go to, since it’s so close to my house. Talking obnoxious families are a given when you go. Cellphones are always on, and people don’t seem to care that they spent $12 for a ticket to speak to a friend on their phone halfway through it.

    He should have just gone to one of the art house theaters.

  7. Written by Molnek
    on 2009-01-04 at 00:09

    I’m not surprised at this at all. I work in a movie theatre and I do have to deal with talkers quite a lot, it’s gotten to the point where I just say get out and refuse to refund their tickets. Mind you I’m not supposed to do that but I’m big and intimidating so people tend to do what I say.

  8. Written by eyeballfish
    on 2009-01-04 at 09:36

    I’m disappointed that I have to be the one to ask this, but are you seriously making the point that talking during a movie justifies being shot or harmed in any way? yes I am aware that there was a fight that lead up to the shooting but the whole “moral” as you called it being to shut up as if there is something that should be taken away from this other than a augment over something so trivial go so out of control that someone thought that it was alright to and harm someone else, near a child no less. after all if the bullet had hit the child would you still have your new “folk hero”?

  9. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2009-01-04 at 12:26

    First sentence, last paragraph, eyeballfish: “Now, I’m not seriously saying that shooting the guy (or anybody) was right.” Good to know you bothered to read the entire article.

  10. Written by Jenna
    on 2009-01-04 at 13:49


    I don’t think that the “moral” so much was so much a celebration of what the man did (especially since there is a “I don’t think he was right” disclaimer) but rather a “this is what could happen” cautionary tale. There are some crazy people out there who do crazy things. It is common courtesy to Not Talk during a movie–especially if someone asks you to stop. While a rationally minded person would get irritated and, at the most, either move seats or tell the management, there are some people in this world who aren’t so rationally minded and therefore will go to extremes. The lack of respect shown to the shooter by the family was enough for the shooter to justify his actions (to himself). People like that obviously exist. It’s a fact of life. You can either feed their anger by being disrespectful to your fellow patrons, or you can help eliminate it by practicing a little common courtesy.

  11. Written by MaskedVigilante
    on 2009-01-05 at 06:59

    This is an altercation where we don’t even know who threw the first punch. All we know is a guy was shot after an argument about talking during a movie. Bringing a gun into a movie theater is crazy enough. Using it is homicidal. Anybody in that theater could’ve been killed.

    So whatever happens to Mr Cialella is for the jury to decide.

    The only moral to walk away with is be considerate to strangers in a public setting, and when “shushed”, seriously — stop talking.

    A Shush requires no further comment. Shush. No witty comeback, no attempt at pride-saving bravado, no explanations or rationalizations — just shut up. You’ve been Shushed. The End. You’re not the only person in the theater. Shush!!

  12. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2009-01-05 at 09:53

    I don’t know why people keep harping on the fact that he brought a gun to a movie theater. The guy probably carries a concealed (and illegal) handgun with him everywhere. It’s not like it’s LESS illegal or LESS “crazy” to carry a gun to the grocery store.

  13. Written by MaskedVigilante
    on 2009-01-05 at 18:13

    I looked it up — I didn’t realize PA is a state where it’s legal to carry a concealed handgun. Thus the harping.

    I guess it’s the fact that he USED it. He’s a walking example why people think “concealed-carry” is a bad idea.

    “It’s gonna become The Wild West!!” Yeah, well… maybe they’re right.

  14. Written by Penang Malaysia
    on 2009-01-12 at 18:53

    My hero, James!

    At that bitch who talked during Australia, somebody should shoot her and dump her in the billabong.

    Visit Penang! Love the Joker!

  15. Written by Former Employee
    on 2009-01-29 at 21:11

    As a former theater employee in management, I have to say that A) the prices at the concession stand are not the employees fault B) the concessions profit is what runs the theater as the tickets pay to rent/play the movie C) there is nothing employees can do to customers in theaters unless others complain!
    This is something that we would try to tell people, the employees have no way of knowing what is going on in a theater unless some one comes out to tell them. There are no cameras, no secret windows, no microphones. It’s a sound proof room where people watch movies. Theaters began doing theater checks years ago but this is not to look for suspicious activity, it is to check temperature, the screen clarity, sound, exit doors, lighting and a glance at the guests to be sure nothing is awry. The problem is that when the customers see the employee – they all shut up. I think this guy went a little overboard but he will remain a folk hero for all those who try to watch movies and get their chairs kicked and have to put up with RUDE people. Who pays money to go talk through a movie?!?!?!?

  16. Written by tetraskelion
    on 2009-01-31 at 09:06

    My thanks to Mr.Cialella for exercising his constitutional right to keep and bear arms. There is an old saying; “An armed society is a polite society”. Perhaps Mr.Lomax could benefit by keeping this in mind during his future appearances in public.

  17. Written by Ed
    on 2010-03-09 at 17:06

    I was in the theater when this happened. There was a fight. The two groups were sitting in the back, left side of the theater (facing the screen) I saw one guy in the aisle. I saw the guy in the row jump at him. The both men tumbled down about 10 rows, over seats. People moved away. One woman ran around looking for Security screaming, “They are going to kill him!!” I saw two other guys jump into the fight. Then I heard a “pop” and realized a gun had been fired. Then I ran from the theater. Cialella was getting the crap beaten out of him by at least three guys, while 150 people stood around watching. Cialella fired in self-defense. He was probably in shock when he sat down to watch the movie.

  18. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2010-03-09 at 17:14

    Thanks for your comment, Ed!

    You wouldn't happen to know if Cialella was found not guilty, would you? The last coverage by any press seems to be about the “attempted murder” charge getting thrown out.

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