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Today in things that make us scream incoherently

Theater Executives Seriously Discuss Allowing Cell Phone Use During Movies

We’ve brought you stories before about texting in movie theaters and musical venues but now, some major theater executives have put their hat into the ring. The boxing analogy fits here, you see, because these executives are considering allowing cell phone use in theaters and a lot of moviegoers are not happy about it. 

A panel on industry issues was held at CinemaCon in Las Vegas this week. According to Deadline during the talk, the subject of cell phone use in theaters was broached.

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Jeff Blake kicked off the discussion saying that 20 years ago “kids would come every week” to the movies. But no more. “I’m concerned that the moviegoing experience isn’t just for baby boomers.” Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles says that her chain currently discourages cell phone use “but if we had a movie that appealed to a younger demographic, we could test some of these concepts.” For example, she says the chain talked about being more flexible about cell phone use at some screens that showed 21 Jump Street. “You’re trying to figure out if there’s something you can offer in the theater that I would not find appealing but my 18-year-old son” might.

IMAX’s Greg Foster agreed. His “17-year-old son ‘constantly has his phone with him,’ he says. ‘We want them to pay $12 to $14 to come into an auditorium and watch a movie. But they’ve become accustomed to controlling their own existence.’ Banning cell phone use may make them ‘feel a little handcuffed.’”

Is this where we’re going? Will those of us who despise cell phone use in movie theaters be pushed aside in favor of the younger crowd who can’t be without their mobile devices? /Film points out that smokers adjusted just fine to not being able to smoke on airplanes, etc. and that kids should be able to deal with it. Don’t worry though, there was a voice of reason on the panel.

Tim League, CEO of Alamo Drafthouse — a small chain that makes a point of throwing out customers who talk or text during a film. “Over my dead body will I introduce texting into the movie theater,” he says. “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.” He says it should be “magical” to come to the cinema. But Miles shot back that “one person’s opinion of magical isn’t the other’s.”

Does texting or talking on a phone make for a magical experience? I can’t possibly see how but I suppose there are some that enjoy it. Perhaps we need to install sound-proof seating areas in theaters for these individuals. “I understand that theater chains feel increased pressure to compete against TV, the internet, games, and other entertainments,” writes /Film. “But the answer is not to allow behavior that will make the experience worse for other people. Cell phone use makes things worse, period.”  And really, are younger moviegoers really not going to go see the newest blockbuster on opening weekend because they wouldn’t be allowed to text during it? Doubtful.

Regardless, I’m with Miss Piggy on this one.

(via /Film)

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve read a theory that this will lead to another money-grab: “premium showings” with a ban on texting in place. Here’s another potential problem with the idea, though: what’s to stop somebody from live-tweeting, say, Avengers 2 on opening day? 

  • Chandri MacLeod

    The reason kids don’t come to the movies every week anymore is because twenty years ago, movies cost seven bucks, and now they cost fourteen. This is not a brain-twister, people.

    I say if you want to allow cell phones in movies you should also be legally required to play the upcoming Wil Wheaton “Shut the fuck up” video before the trailers.

  • Wendy Whipple

    Heaven forbid we should expect polite behavior from the younger generation, or from the movie-going public in general! Sit down, shut up, and watch the movie. (And take your trash out with you when it’s over.) Really, it’s not so hard! Seriously… the world doesn’t revolve around that precious teen and his/her omnipresent phone.

  • Ividia Kt

    Perhaps it’s not the lack of cell phone use that keeps them away but the prices of both the tickets AND the concessions.  And while I left that particular demographic behind quite awhile ago, I also ALWAYS have my cell phone with me.  In movies like in the much less enjoyable meetings, it gets turned to silent once the actual movie starts (and sometimes before if the trailers interest me).

  • Lindsay Beaton

    If your attention span is so short that you can’t focus on a single thing for two hours, you shouldn’t be going to a movie, anyway. I’m one of those people who can be found at the theater nearly every weekend, and turning off my phone to escape in some good visual storytelling is precisely why I go. If I have to start fighting the distraction of the annoying cell phone users on either side of me, I’ll be highly annoyed–and will simply have to move up my master plan to build my own personal home movie theater, thus avoiding the problem entirely. >:}

  • Jessica Seeser

    Yet another reason for me to throw all my love towards the Alamo Drafthouse chain. If only the closest one to me wasn’t an hour and a half drive away. Sniffle.

  • Jennifer Vetere

    So, wait… let me get this straight…  They want to attract 17-year-olds to go see movies that they’ll see with their friends anyway with policies that will offend and annoy every other age group that could potentially pay to watch a movie?  Why in the world would I hire a babysitter, go out on a Friday night, and spend $12 – 14 a ticket to run the risk of sitting in a theater with a few inconsiderate 17-year-olds who spend the entire time texting and talking, thus ruining the movie-watching experience for everyone in the theater?  

    No thanks.  I’d rather stay home.

  • Joanna

    Not to mention, 20 years ago kids didn’t own cell phones =P

  • Eva Marie Heater

    I stopped going to movie theaters about 3 Harry Potter films ago. People are so rude I can’t stand to go anymore, and wait until they’re out on DVD/on demand before I see them. I miss the whole movie experience package, but the rudeness was simply too much for me. I’d like to think I’ll be able to suck it up and see Brave in the theater, but I don’t even know about that. 

  • Julian Beedee

    I’m 20, and I’ve been to the cinema maybe once or twice a year since I was 16. My friends all go to the cinema with roughly the same frequency. 

    You’re half-right about the prices, I think. It’s not so much the fact that cinemas are pretty expensive that stops me from going, it’s that the competition (i.e. watching films on my computer) is *so much* cheaper and more convenient that I never have any desire to go to the cinema. Why would I pay loads of money to watch a film in the cinema, when I can *pretty much any film ever* whenever I want in the comfort of my own home?

    At the moment, the only edge I can see for cinemas (beyond the huge screens, obviously) is that they get films before they are available on the internet. The problem is, though, there are so many films I haven’t seen yet (I just watched Taxi Driver for the first time last night – what a film!) that I’m perfectly willing to watch *them* instead, just wait until the latest blockbuster is available over the internet.

    I can kind of see the reasoning behind allowing phones in cinemas – businesses seems to be trying to integrate social media into every little thing we do with our lives, so I don’t see why cinemas would be different.

  • Jonathan Palecek

    I’m fine with the idea of texting during the movie… I do it some times. When I do, my phone is silent. Not on vibrate; silent. Life doesn’t stop just for you because you’re in the theater. By the other comments, I guess that makes me a petulant child. Jeeze, sorry for ruining your life.

    Its unfortunate that it seems you can’t discuss the topic of being inclusive of younger people without it just turning into stereotypes and agism.

  • Sarah

    If I go to the movies and spend $20 for popcorn, a drink, and my ticket, I damn well want to be able to watch the movie without any cell phone disturbance. Why would you pay to see a movie and then NOT watch it?

    Even at my local historical theater (Bryd Theater in Richmond, VA GORGEOUS) that has $2 tickets, I STILL want to watch my movie in peace. It is about the experience of sitting with the sole purpose of getting lost in a movie :D

    I may be 22, but when it comes to cell phones in movies I turn into a cranky 8 yr old screaming “BACK IN MY DAY we went to the movies to WATCH our movie!”

  • Kayte Greenfelder

    I’m never going to the movies ever again. I’m only 26 and it bothers me to no end that people are on their phones and talk during a movie. It’s 2 hours where you are trying to escape reality not having it buzz in your ear the entire time. The past year I have had to walk out of 3 movies because people refuse to follow basic etiquette. 
    The last time I tried going to the movies was  a few weeks ago and my boyfriend and I walked out and I ended up cussing out a teenager outside for running around and stepping on my foot. When I went up to the desk to ask for a refund, the manager was kicking two girls out who he had said he had to just kicked out. I felt bad for him, but I told him that he was about to kick out 10 more teenagers. I don’t think anyone under the age of 17 should be allowed to go to movies unaccompanied. But I also think that they need to bring back ushers, so people who are disruptive can get kicked out before the movie ends.  

    I think the best movie experience I ever had was at Cinetopia in Vancouver, WA. They have a 21 and up theater. It was by far the quietest theater I had ever been in, people laughed at the right times and didn’t hold side conversations in the middle of the movie. 

  • Julia Cain

    I am thirty years old, and let me tell you, I love my cell phone, but that’s not what’s keeping me out of the theaters.

    I love movies, love love love them. But it costs $14 for the ticket, $4.50 for the subway fare to go, and GOD FORBID you want a snack, because even just a bottle of water is five bucks. That’s $25, just for ME!

    And then you go in, and it’s you, and like six other people. In a theater that can seat ninety.

    When I lived in Chicago, there was a movie theater that did $5 Tuesdays, small bag of popcorn included. My friends and I went every single week. Some weeks, we saw more than one film. Even if you assume that it costs them $3 a person to show, in labor and licensing costs (which it doesn’t), that theater made at least a hundred bucks off of me. Know how many films I’ve seen in the theaters so far in 2012? One. I saw The Hunger Games a couple of weeks after it came out. So that theater, assuming the same $3 cost, made $9. (Because I am no fool – I ate before I went)


    You were making more money off me when you were charging me less.

    Can we please go back to reasonable prices?

  • Travis Fischer

    The sound isn’t the whole issue. You’re lighting up your bright, glowing cell-phone screen in the middle of a dark room. Unless you’re texting with the screen buried in your shirt, you’re still distracting.

    And yeah, life doesn’t stop just because you’re in the theater, so if you need to address it, get out of the theater.

  • Jonathan Palecek

    20 years ago, the youth of that day were so bored that they’d throw rocks at each other for fun and go to the theater to watch holywood films.  And they LIKED it.  Wait, I grew up in the 90s, and didn’t go to the movies that often then either.

    I think the industry’s main problems are that 1) there are a lot of other more meaningful ways to spend one’s free time, and (as said above) 2) there are so many interesting movies out there that I can just rent and watch at home.

    Maybe 30-40 years ago people went to the movies?

  • Jonathan Palecek

     I do try to keep it discrete, with the brightness all the way down, and the thing angle away from other people.

    And honestly, the only time I’ve actually pulled out my phone during a movie, I was sitting in an isle seat, and friends were occupying the seats next to me. 

    Not sitting next to _you_, and not holding the damn thing up to your eyes.

    Again, jeeze, sorry for ruining your fucking life.

  • Eva Marie Heater

    I hate to sound old, but I am, so tough. I couldn’t imagine seeing for the first time films like ET, Close Encounters, and Star Wars 4-6 on a tv or computer screen instead of in a theater. There is no substitute for that experience. Getting lost in a movie, looking up at a large screen, the sound…wow.

  • Danielle Stanard

     Thank you Jonathan, you’re not the only person reading these comments that way!  I can’t think anyone honestly thinks that allowing people to talk on their cell phone during a movie is a good idea, but I’ve never been bothered by texting in a theater.

  • JoAnna Luffman

    I’m going to deviate from the crowd here (but, don’t I always?) and say I have no problem with phones as long as they are quiet. Text, tweet, whatever, but no actual calls.

    When I went to see a movie, I had my phone on, but that’s because I needed to be able to hear from the babysitter (I didn’t go nearly as much when I was a teen! I think I went 3 times as a kid…). Now, I don’t ever go, because I can’t afford to buy 5 tickets. Although I am a bastard, and always bring a 20 oz drink with me.

  • Anonymous

    Well I go the cinema twice a month maybe but that’s because I take my sister who has a card that gets me in free as her carer, We go on the ‘super saver tuesdays’, use the premiere club card for another 25% off and sacrifice a kitten to the Great Lord Korrok so that a ticket is like £2.50 each.

    But as far as I’m concerned if you use a phone in the cinema then, as a wise man once said: “you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater”

  • Jenn W

    I love going to the movies. I used to try and average 1 movie a month when I was in college. But as the prices went up and the quality of the films went down, I’m more likely to see 2 or 3 movies a year these days.
    I’ve never experienced somebody talking on their cell during the movie, but I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve had people texting during the movie. That bright light is so distracting when you are in a darkened theatre, I could just scream!!!  I have my cellphone on me every time I go to the cinema and I turn if off every time. If I can’t turn it off because I am on-call for work, then I don’t go to the movies until my on-call shift is over.
    It’s basic courtesy and common sense.

  • Scarlet

    If cell phone usage is allowed in theaters it will have the opposite effect from what these executives expect. Theater attendance will plummet faster than it already is.

  • Anonymous

    One day, not too long from now, those few cursed souls who remain to this world will spend their ever fewer moments of sanity looking back, wondering… where did it finally come apart?  What was it that finally sent us over the edge into oblivion? They will look back, but only those among them who already knew will realize that this was that moment, the moment when all was finally and irrevocably lost.  The moment when all propriety and decency went from this world.  The moment when we turned away from the future for all time and descended into barbarism and horror.  Those few will look back and weep, but their cries will be drowned out by an endless sea of noise and light.

  • Sheila

    Seriously. If a person can’t sit through a movie for 2 hours without using their phone, they should find a therapist. That is not healthy.

  • Sheila

    You are basically saying that your convenience and comfort are more important than everyone else’s. Nice.

  • Francesca M

    I love my cellphone. I am always looking things up, and texting it. However.. when I’m at any theatre. I turn it off. Not silent. OFF. And yeah I understand texting is quiet but the glare does bother people, its not that you are directly next to us, but you could be three rows in front of us and the glow illuminates everything.

    Just a thought, remember when the laser pointers got really cheap like 10 years ago, and you couldn’t go to a movie without some jackass wiggling the damn laser pointer during the movie. >_< I really hated those people. OMG.

  • Charlotte Van Zee

    What is so important about your life that you have to text about it RIGHT THEN?  Did the hospital find you a new kidney and need you to rush to the hospital to prep for a transplant?  Is your babysitter calling to say that your little terrors have lit the house on fire? Did you have a Eureka! moment and discover the cure for AIDS, not have a pen and paper handy, so you needed to put it on your facebook wall so you wouldn’t forget it? No?  Then the phone needs to be put away, because it wasn’t that important.

    The screen isn’t bothering the people beside you, it’s bothering every person BEHIND you, who is getting a flashed in the eyes because you’ve introduced an alternative source of light in a dark room.   The difference in output intensity between the tiny LED screen (even on the low setting) and the diffused light of a movie screen is huge.  Unless you’re sitting in the very back row, you’re going to piss people off.  

    Why are you even going to pay the high cost of movie admission if you’re not going to fully pay attention to it?  I know multitasking is the rage right now, but seriously, there’s a difference in the experience you have in a movie that you’re watching/texting during and one that you are entirely focused on the film.

    I also paid an unreasonably large sum of money to come to this theatre to watch a film, I have the right to enjoy my film without distractions.  Which is why I will go and find a manager and report people who do this crap in a theatre that has an anti-cellphone policy.  In theatres without cell phone policies, please enjoy my nice  gift of a full bag of popcorn — aimed at the back of your head.

  • Mike Perry

    This is just a *facepalm*-ingly bad idea. While its possible you’ll gain some of the teenage crowd, I’d guarantee you’ll lose three times as many people from the over-25 crowd. You know? The ones with jobs that fund you bastards. I feel lucky that the ticket prices locally are $9.50 (yes, under $10). For that reason, it’s still worth occasionally going to the movies for me. But between the higher prices elsewhere and this, it’s really getting to become a total waste of time.

  • Sean Samonas

    Allowing cell phone usage in theaters to try to encourage people to view movies is the definition of missing the forest for the trees.  Seriously, I’m with Julia Cain.  I don’t go to a movie theater because of cost issues, not the fact that I can’t do something inside the theater.  Hell, why stop at allowing cell phone usage?  Let’s allow smoking and sex in the theaters too.  Cause that may be stopping some people from going, you know.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s just ridiculous to allow them to use their phones during a film when other people, who are happy to remain silent, have already paid this insane ticket price to get in! Why do we want to let them use their phones just to make a cinema outing worse? 

    Also I don’t know what it’s like in North America or Canada, but in the UK we have a chain of Cinemas which allow you to pay a flat rate of £15 a month, which allows you to see unlimited films per month. The only time you pay extra is for 3D glasses or for IMAX (which is actually fake IMAX anywhere but London and Glasgow).

  • Jonathan Palecek

    Clearly I have bestowed a great injustice upon you, and for that I am truly sorry.

  • Charlotte Van Zee

    No, whomever raised you to think that you were the center of the universe and do not have to think about how your actions affect others, even in small things like using a cellphone in a theatre, has done me a very large irritation.  As a kind, considerate person I am going to have to disabuse you and others like you of this notion for the good of society as a whole. 

  • Jonathan Palecek

    My parents have done you a non-existent irritation.  I’m 100% sure we’ve never been in a theater together.  For one, I go to the movies at a frequency of less than four times a year.  Two, I think I’ve only pulled out my phone once in a theater *ever*.

    I can definitely attest that I do not randomly step on people’s feet in the theater, talk to my friends, spill soda all over, leave trash, etc etc etc etc etc.  I think you’ve glossed completely over the only interesting thing that I’ve had to contribute and gone straight to the table thumping and thumb screws:

    “Its unfortunate that it seems [we] can’t discuss the topic of being inclusive of younger people without it just turning into stereotypes and agism.”

    Now, because you’re quick to the trigger, I’m going to explain that sentence to you.  The article above is about a bunch of theater executives who have realized that young people generally have more interesting things to do than go to the theaters.  The fact that there is discussion of allowing cell phone use as a means of being more inclusive is indeed absurd, but for multiple reasons.  The first is well represented in this comment thread;  I think the second is, lack of pro-abrasive behavior policies is probably NOT the reason why young people don’t go to the theater as much as they did fifty years ago.

    Unfortunately, there is little interest towards approaching this disconnect constructively.  It the dialog is always either “allow abrasive behavior” or “death penalty”.  Thank you for your contributions to this discourse.

  • Angelica Brenner

    My solution? Texting section, waaay in the back. That way the weirdos who can’t keep their screens off for more than ten seconds are happy, while the rest of us don’t have to see little glowing boxes in the bottom half of our vision.

  • John Wao
  • Charlotte Van Zee

    People responded this way because you spent four lines patronizingly apologizing for ‘ruining our fucking lives’ with texting.  When you were informed of what the true complaints with texting in a theatre were — that it’s the light not noise and it’s the strangers behind you, not the friends beside you who are disturbed, you got more patronizing.  Now you want to turn it around and make like I’m the one who’s abusing poor /rational/ you by not choosing to respond to the one, admittedly valid, point you tagged on at the end of one post.  Sorry, not buying it. 

  • Carmen Sandiego

     Yeah, I’m sorry but texting or talking during a movie is VERY distracting (human eyes are naturally drawn to light) and it’s a very jackhole thing to do.  Please, I beg of thee, do NOT continue to do this.  You may think you’re being subtle.  You’re not.  You’re ruining the movie for everybody around you and even people rows and rows back.

  • Carmen Sandiego

     I have been bothered by texting.  It’s completely distracting, especially for those with good vision, or those with other sensitivities and strengths.  It’s also enough to get you kicked out of MANY theaters by their own policies, just to give you a heads up.

  • Katie

    I remember my parents being very serious with my sister and I before we went to see a movie. They always explained that there were a lot of other people there to see the movie, and it wasn’t very nice to talk or make loud noises while they were trying to watch. And if we were too loud we had to leave the theater and miss the movie. That’s just how it was.

    I cannot imagine anyone not being able to go a few hours without their phone. I mean, you go to see a movie because YOU WANT TO SEE THE MOVIE, not because you need a comfy chair to text and chat in. Plus I think that the average person needs to be a bit more “disconnected”.

    I could understand needing to have your phone under certain circumstances. My friends have dragged me to the movie a few times when I needed a distraction from less than pleasant things, but I still needed to have my phone on just in case. But when someone called or texted me it was on vibrate and I would leave the theater to carry on a conversation.

    C’mon, don’t sacrifice reason and politeness.

  • Anonymous

    Phone light/sounds & conversations are annoying in a film, but it’s the back-of-seat-kickers that drive me nuts. Nearly EVERY film I go to & that has put me off. I am overly sensitive to this sort of thing & it puts me into Hulk Smash mood which ruins the whole darn thing.

  • super

     some of my local theaters run specials on Tuesdays for 6 bucks any film including 3d.  Other theaters like regal  have points cards and specials for food on certain days of the week or certain weekends. 
    What i do to keep costs lower is either eat before going into the theater or sneak some snacks and a drink in with me.

    I remember when i was a kid there were these “last chance theaters”  A film after being out for a few months would go to these theaters right before it would be on pay per view.  The theater just had one film showing for the week and at a dirt cheap price.
    It would always be packed.

  • Anonymous

     I’ve heard some people are thinking of doing exactly like that, having “texting sections” like they used to have smoking sections. Which still seems kind of dumb to me, but it’s a reasonable compromise.

  • Anonymous

    THE VOICE OF REASON. I too hate when people talk on their phones but texting?! Seriously?! Some people do need to be on call for emergencies (doctors, response teams, parents with children, people with loved ones with health problems, etc.) I honestly do not understand the rage others have towards a brief tinny bit of light for all of a minute during a 2 hour long large screen display of fireworks.

    In my own circumstance I am neurologically unable to get through a movie(and everything else) without doing something.  In my own home I can only watch things for about 15 minutes before the need to divert my attention becomes so oppressive that I have to pause the movie and take a break.  So in a theater me texting once is seriously the least of the audience’s problems.

    Now if someone is having a full on conversation or a toddler starts crying during an R rated film I’m usually the first person to recommend they take it somewhere else.  

  • Anonymous

    Not everyone can be as normal or neurotypical as others.

  • Rachel Smith

    HOnestly, if they wanted more people to go to movies, they’d lower the price. 

  • Kenneth Farmer

    You’re also part of the problem if you think that your phone must be on. Don’t go to the theatre unless you can turn that blasted thing off.