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.
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:
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”: