The Conversation: Should Theaters Accommodate Texting and Tweeting?

The Conversation: Should Theaters Accommodate Texting and Tweeting?

Dec 06, 2011

I can't say I've never ever tweeted or texted during a movie. But I was probably in the back row, had the screen as dim as possible and wasn't near enough to anyone to be a nuisance. I hope. But I guess I'm just another jerk with a terrible attention span, and one of the many who are encouraging some theaters to actually cater to a new generation of tech-savy, etiquette-ignorant ticket-buyers. Although no cinemas have officially adopted any such programs, theaters hosting concerts and other live events are now attempting to woo young crowds by accepting, and maybe even accomodating, phone use during the show. 

According to USA Today, one idea is "tweet seats," which are designated areas for live-tweeters, who are egged on with designated, moderated hashtags assigned for proper "enhanced" interactivity. Some establishments reportedly subscribing to this sort of thing include Connecticut's Norma Terris Theater, the Cincinnati Symphany Orchestra and the outdoor Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. Going even further, according to the New York Times, is the Tateuchi Center, which is being constructed in Bellevue, Washington, complete with a signal-promising antenna primarily for the sake of permitting "nondisruptive cell use during performances." Provided the performing artist(s) are also okay with the policy (Kevin Spacey, for one, is not). 

Loud music concerts tend to be fine for texting, tweeting, etc. anyway, but many fear movie experiences will soon be compromised as well. None of the theaters named in any of the articles are cinemas, but how long before they're included in the practice? Personally, I don't mind if somehow a theater can adequately keep it "nondisruptive." I had no problem back when Eric Kohn controversially live-blogged the Cannes premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I took no real issue with Paul Scheer and friends live-tweeting their experience with D-Box seats, and I don't worry about people using their phones so long as I can't see the screens. 

As always, what doesn't directly bother you shouldn't bother you, whether it's designated showtimes permitting crying babies or theaters that exclude minors in order to sell alcohol or maybe balconies that allow texting. Then again, as Louis CK told us at his recent Beacon Theater show (buy it from his website December 10), you can tweet your life or you can actually just live it. 


What are people saying about theaters encouraging phone use? Here's The Conversation heard around the blogosphere and Twitter: 

I can almost see the argument that this is the “wave of the future” and if they want to attract a younger demographic, it’s a unique selling point. There is probably going to, eventually, be some kind of middle ground here and I’d applaud the theater for being progressive if I thought people could be trusted to follow the rules. The fact is, though, kids will use their phones no matter what and, to me, texting during a performance of any kind is a disgusting form of disrespect. - Germain Lussier, /Film

Are you one of those people who text no matter where you are? Even darkened theaters? News flash: people hate you. Ok, maybe I just hate you, but I don’t think I’m alone. Movie theater cell phone users are the bane of my existence - Jill Pantozzi, The Mary Sue

There are few things more annoying than being interrupted by a cell phone user in a theater. Whether they are live tweeting the plot, checking text messages, or chatting with their bestie about their armrest-hogging date, cell phone users are usually anathema to theatergoers. Yet people continue to use their phones long after the lights have dimmed. - Melissa Locker, Time

Well, this is it folks, the end of humanity as we know it. [...] Perhaps it won't be that bad-- the theater has decided to let their performers decided whether texting will be allowed during each show. Of course, how is the theater to stop such rude behavior when they use the wifi and reception as a selling point? - Emily Cheever, Filmology

I’d draw the line at talking during a phone call. But texting or Tweeting seems fair game … particularly if everyone else in the theater is equally busy hammering away. - Sean O'Connell, Cinema Blend

"nondisruptive cell use"? Far as I know, it doesn't exist. - Sean M. Erickson, of trash. art. movies., commenting at Movieline

You could give me unlimited free tickets to this theater and I would never go. This is a truly terrible idea. - Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend, in a comment

Our world continues to become more tech friendly, with free wifi access available at many places, so why not movie theaters? I mean many people like to check in on Foursquare and GetGlue when they go see a movie, so why not be able to Tweet their thoughts? I personally am much more distracted by someone talking than I am by someone using their phone to text. - Tiberius, Geek Tyrant


@nathanielcollum: Theatre to allow texting, tweeting, and Facebooking. This is how the world ends.

@writerlane: The first sign of the 2012 apocalypse is early.

@atestu: New theater explicitly allows people to text while watching the movie. Why anyone would go there is beyond me…

@ologize: Theater Built Just For Texting! You won't find me in there!

@screenrant: Fill it with texters & nuke it from orbit.

@BeccaBarnesCats: Hey movie people. I found hell.

@mrbowers: I encourage my WA buddies to boycott this place.

@jaimeburchardt: I just lost all interest in going to Seattle ever.

@WilSamson: Today, I am ashamed of my state. 

@pj_campbell: This sounds like a bad, bad idea... 

@jamesmoran: You disturb other people who've paid, and ruin their experience. But also- cinemas are really expensive! You're wasting your own money!

@stevenmpaquin: Encouraging texting in a movie theater? Bold strategy

@AlejandroAdams: I agree with this. If we hope to preserve moviegoing as a communal experience, it must be adapted to how we live now

@astoehr: I don't understand. The way we live now is w/o any respect for the movie we're watching or the audience we're with?

@gemko: If that's the price to be paid for preserving moviegoing as a communal experience, I'll be here at home with the Blu-rays.

@crsryan: I'm in the middle. I want a quiet environment, but I don't like the mean-spirited, fascist advertising of the Drafthouse.


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.

Categories: News, In Theaters
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