Movies and texting. No. Just No.

A week ago I went to see Cabin in the Woods. Great film. Funny as hell. If not scary, then definitely suspenseful at just the right moments.

Unfortunately, quite a few people in the theater didn’t listen to the Lorax who in a pre-show message, told us not to use our cell phones (or talk or loudly eat ham hocks) so that everyone there can enjoy the show. Every couple of minutes, out of the corner of my eye I would see a light go off. Someone was receiving or sending a text, or tweeting, or checking their email.  It was not just annoying, it was incredibly distracting and beyond infuriating.

This has been happening more and more at every movie I go to that isn’t at 10 am. I’ve even been known to politely suggest to the offender that they stop what they’re doing before I go medieval on their ass, so to speak.

But apparently, not everyone sees eye to eye with me and I don’t understand the debate.

Deadline is reporting that at CinemaCon, some movie theater owners discussed the possibility of allowing people use their cell phones to text during the movies.

What no one can, apparently, live without

Apparently, they think that movies without texting is only for the baby boomer generation and that to appeal to the youth demographic, they need to bend the rules,

IMAX’s Greg Foster seemed to like the idea of relaxing the absolute ban on phone use in theaters. 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.”

Because god forbid they feel “handcuffed” because they can’t text their friends about the minutiae in their lives for 80-120 minutes once every few weeks…if that. Isn’t part of the problem that no one has an attention span anymore? We demand to be entertained constantly, but cannot sit still long enough to enjoy that entertainment. Even reading books, the one thing where you had to pay attention, no longer requires that, thanks to the iPad and e-readers that allow you to play solitare, check your email, and stalk exes on Facebook.

I cannot believe that the younger generations are so absolutely reliant on tweeting and texting that they wouldn’t pay money to see the movies they want to see, unless allowed to actively use their cell phones. And looking at the box office grosses for movies like The Hunger Games, every Harry Potter movie, and even the Twilight saga “films”, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, “if you make it good, they will come.”

Performing arts theaters around the country are facing the same dilemma – decreasing receipts – and have created the concept of “tweet seats.” These are seats in the back sections of the theaters which are saved for those who want, nay NEED, to be on their cell phones during a live performance. I cannot even beging to understand why someone would think this is a good idea during a LIVE performance.  In a dark theater, you can’t tell me the cast won’t be seeing the flashing lights every time someone decides to text their friend “lol” or comment on someone’s latest instagram photo of their lunch.

Personally I don’t get this concept — If you paid $75 to listen to some people sing and dance their hearts out, wouldn’t it make sense to pay attention to what’s in front of you?

Live theater aside, if theater owners are worried about people not showing up to movies, I say look beyond the lack of cell phone usage. We are not living in the golden age of cinema. There are more movies that come and go and don’t make a ripple in the public consciousness than ever before.  Even movies with rainmakers like Tom Hanks aren’t hitting home. But why did not one see Larry Crowne? Because it sucked. It wasn’t because someone couldn’t text; it was because the movie was boring and unbelievable and downright bad.  Without something appealing to see, no matter of lax rules about cell phones will fill the rows.

I don’t recall hearing that getting everything you wanted was good for you. In fact, as Bill Waterson so eloquently had Calvin put it:

He's mocking, but he has a point

Being unhappy and not always immediately gratified does in fact build character. It teaches you patience and self control. And, in the case of making kids wait to use their cell phones, sometimes keeps you from becoming a public nuisance.

So, where’s the debate? Increased attention span, character-building delayed gratification, getting what you paid for, not being a jerk to others in public…
Seems like no texting in the movie theater is a win win.

Last word on the subject should go to the Alamo Drafthouse who made the news last summer when they posted the following video message, clearly taking pride in their desire to stick with the “old way”:

About ilmozart

Pop culture addict. Reading enthusiast. Music lover. Occasional believer in the city of Atlantis.
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4 Responses to Movies and texting. No. Just No.

  1. I have to admit that I tweeted during Paranormal Activity. Granted, I was hiding completely underneath my jacket and thus obscured from theatergoers’ vision, but you are right. I think they should reinstate the whole concert “leave your camera at the door” policy if this keeps happening.

    • ilmozart says:

      We’ve all erred from time to time, but institutionalizing it as OK is such a slippery slope. And I agree, if people can’t behave like adults on their own, then they can’t have nice things (in the theaters…)

  2. maudlin says:

    This has been happening more and more at every movie I go to that isn’t at 10 am. Good point. This is why I love to go to the movie theater during the day – fewer people, fewer distractions.

    I must say I do sometimes use my phone, but always from underneath my jacket and to take notes for my reviews. But I think it’s unbelievable that movie theater owners are considering allowing cell phone use. Isn’t that just thé example of everything that is wrong with our current generation? We’re egocentric (because we know cell phone lights bother the people sitting behind us but don’t feel the need to adapt our behavior to their feelings), feel like we need to be in constant contact with everyone else, we don’t have any semblance of an attention span.
    And I notice that in myself, too – I notice that my attention span is not as good as it used to be when I was a tiny little kid and would finish a Harry Potter book in one sitting. Now part of that is aging, of course, (okay, way to make myself sound middle-aged) but part of it is also that I’m just not used to not multi-tasking anymore these days. I get bored in uni lectures and sometimes I even get bored reading a book – something I love.

    Even so, I do not want my theater to indulge in my attention span’s laziness. My movie theater time serves as a little refuge from the world. Why would I take out my cell phone to get back into the real world when one of the reasons why I’m at the movie theater is to experience a different world? Aside of that, I get really frustrated and distracted when I see cell phone lights dancing in the rows in front of me. No Sir, no cell phones in movie theaters for me.

    • ilmozart says:

      I really hope more people out there feel the way we do, rather than rejoicing at the possibility of using their cell phones no matter where they are, or who they annoy.
      I think you touched on a key word “indulge” – with technology giving us the world at our fingertips, we are constantly indulging ourselves. It’s not always bad. I love being able to pull up IMDb at a moment’s notice and prove myself right (or, occasionally wrong, heh). But there is a time and a place for everything and that is what we’re losing – that sense of perspective of timing. Indulgence doesn’t work when it’s ALL the time.
      And I’m not sure what’s worse — that people (cuz it’s not just kids) can’t figure out how to survive without their cells for a couple of hours or that theater owners are so desperate that they’ll appeal to the lower common denominator and grovel by letting people use their phones. They’ll be chasing away those of us who truly love going to the movies, who go because it means something to us and not just because our friends are going.

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