The debate on texting at the movies continues! Last December I covered the discussion in a Conversation post rouding up people's reactions to news that some establishments, mainly live entertainment venues, were starting to allow cell phone use during shows. And last month we ran word of a study claiming that most young adults would prefer to be allowed to use social media and texting while they watch a movie, whether at home or the cinema. Today we are reacting, via Deadline Hollywood, to a panel discussion on the subject at CinemaCon, during which the heads of Regal and IMAX admitted lifting bans on cell use could be a way to woo younger audiences back to theaters by making them feel "less handcuffed."
Obviously there are many people who frown at this idea, including Alama Drafthouse CEO Tim League, who was there with the following retort: “Over my dead body will I introduce texting into the movie theater. I love the idea of playing around with a new concept. But that is the scourge of our industry….It’s our job to understand that this is a sacred space and we have to teach manners.”
Fortunately, League owns his own chain and can do as he wishes there, such as offer an enormous selection of beer and delicious meals. People who like it his way can patronize his theaters, more as the franchises increase. Meanwhile, if Regal wants to test a texting-allowed experience at its multiplexes, say only during films aimed at tween and teen audiences, that may be their prerogative as well. Maybe they'll lose customers as a result. Maybe they'll increase attendance. Sadly, such a huge chain may be the only option for many suburban and rural folk. But we live in a country that allows the minority opinion to just suck it up regarding whatever the majority wants.
Last month, a friend in Austin (I'll let him be anonymous) noted, perhaps jokingly, that he would love for a cinema to allow smoking in the auditorium again. Maybe in just one auditorium. I understand the desire, as I enjoyed smoking during the movies back when I was a smoker and had access to theaters after hours, when me and my smoker friends were the only ones present. What other sorts of accomodations might be allowed? Theaters that allow talking for those who like to discuss things throughout the show? Musical instruments, for anyone wishing to play along to the score? Fighting? Woodworking? Pets? Babies? Giving birth?
Well, they've done the babies thing already (bringing, not birthing), and boy was it terrible when I unknowingly attended a screening of Synecdoche, New York, that catered to that exception. And yet strangely enhancing, as well, but only because I'd already seen it.
I guess if you're against the idea, just hope that it doesn't happen to all of the movie theaters near you. And if not, just avoid the ones that do. Meanwhile, fellow critics: I bet this ironically still won't keep the studios from confiscating (and sometimes losing) our phones during press screenings.
Here's what people are saying about today's debate, including some responding to my poll on Twitter (conducted not inside a cinema):
Should Cinemas Allow Texting for Certain Shows or Movies?
To quote Chief Wiggum on The Simpsons when asked if he saw Tron: "Yes! Uh, no. I mean no." - Josh Spiegel, @mousterpiece
Hell no! It's atrocious to even consider that as an option, just wrong. Undermining the integrity of theatrical cinema. - Alex Billington, @firstshowing
Movie lovers should not be punished because morons cannot respect a movie and watch without texting. - Adrian Charlie, @Adrian_Charlie
No. Horrible idea. This has me curious though. As an experiment, offer a "texting-designated" theatre akin to a smoking area. - Dominic, @Count3D
What's next? IMing on tablets? If we're making demands I want to smoke (which I think would actually bother people less). - Jesse A Carp, @jessecarp
Theater owners want to appeal to what kids are into these days, like texting. Maybe they should also hand out percocet & oxycontin too! - Erik Davis, @ErikDavis
Yes. It's very important to let others outside the theater know right away how delicious your Icee and pretzel are. - John Gholson, @gholson
Only if they also allow me to operate my blender whilst in the theatre to make mixed beverages. - Alex Carlson, @filmmisery
If they can do it while wearing a large paper bag over them, sure. - The Almost Film Critic, @almostfilmcritic
"Why does he get to text? If he texts, we'll all text. It'll be anarchy!" -John Bender as a middle-aged man. - Bernardo Villela, @BernardoVillela
Let's compromise: when a film is popular enough to be on multiple screens in one theatre, have POLITE screenings & JERK shows - nixskits, @nixskits2
There's no room for compromise here. Compromise allows people to get comfortable not paying attention to the movie. To think that those people would then willingly restrict themselves to "phones allowed" screenings or rows is ludicrous and ignorant. I don't understand why there's even a discussion on this. Movies are God, the theater is church, and you shut the f*ck up on sacred ground - Luke Mullen, @ldmullen
With Tim Alamo on this one. What the f*ck is wrong with theater chain owners? "I don't know, kids are used to texting and talking to each other during movies now... They paid $14 to watch the movie..." What about the $14 I paid? What gives them the right to intrude on my movie-going experience? It's a debate that's been had for a while, but to hear theater chain owners use those arguments really pisses me off. For the record, most theater talkers I've experienced aren't teenagers. They're college dude-bros, families and elderly. If theater owners really gave a shit about keeping their audience they'd focus on their presentation: loud, crisp sound and bright picture. - Eric Vespe, @ericvespe
How dare theater owners consider texting during films. I've defended the moviegoing experience above ALL home exhibition and this SUCKS C*CK. You're there for a movie, asshole. Go LOL on your own time. "What's a good way to bring more people into theaters? Discounts for heavy farters, yes. Oh, and allow texting." I tweet a lot! I'm king phone use advocate! But really, not during a film. Respect what little art you get, heathens. "Oh, we allow texting during movies, so the guy who got HIS ASS BEATEN for asking someone not to text, yeah, he's at fault." -- manager. I find it hilarious that the Drafthouse is now becoming known as the WILD CARD because they have a staunch no-disturbance policy. F*ck. Dear museums of America, I'd be more likely to visit if I was allowed to piss on certain artworks. Thanks for considering it. Coke dealers have more respect for their product than theater owners do these days. Like they're selling nails or something. Amazing that we have to rally together to point out something so f**king obvious. - Scott Weinberg, @scottEweinberg
Chime in below. And follow me @thefilmcynic to join in the next poll.