It’s shocking that this is even being batted around as an actual possibility, but the heads of major movie studios and theaters are discussing the prospect of allowing texting in movie theaters—or at least, easing up on formerly strict rules against having your phone out during a film. At CinemaCon in Las Vegas this past weekend, the assorted executives discussed how it might be beneficial to allow texting during the film because it would get more people in the seats who might have previously felt alienated. Especially young people who are so used to being plugged in and always accessible and who might feel actual anxiety at not being allowed to look at their phones for two hours.
The proposed ideas were about compartmentalizing—picking and choosing which movies to allow texting in based on rating and audience. An example they cited was 21 Jump Street because it reels in the kids, but honestly, if you were texting during that movie you’d miss so much of the great visual humor!
I think it’s clear that I think this is absolutely ridiculous. Now, I’ve never been one for turning off your phone entirely, because unfortunately emergencies often happen when we’re least accessible. But there’s a difference between subtly scanning your phone and brazenly taking it out so the glow of your (ever increasing in size) screen disrupts everyone else’s experience. Can people really not cope without Facebook, Twitter, and texts for just a few hours? It’s appalling that this is becoming the norm.
This all came about because the Sony CEO kicked said that twenty years ago, “kids would come every week,” but now “I’m concerned that the moviegoing experience isn’t just for baby boomers.” Seriously? An institution over 100 years old would bow to the latest generation simply because the latter has been given enough leniency to think they can get away with being rude? The act itself is self-involved: You’re completely disregarding the comfort of your fellow moviegoers who paid just as much as you to see this movie, in favor of something that is most likely a trivial and not pressing matter.
Also, the movie theater is a sacred space. Thankfully, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League was at CinemaCon as well and offered up his anti-texting perspective:
“Over my dead body will I be introducing texting into movie theaters… That’s a scourge of the industry. It’s our job to understand that this is a sacred place.”
If you’re at home watching Game of Thrones on your TV or computer, by all means, text away! Our generation are furious multitaskers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But when you’re out in public, there’s a certain amount of respect you have to afford your fellow moviegoers. (I wonder if, because we’re so used to people being assholes on the internet, we automatically assume that real-life strangers are equally undeserving of our respect. But that’s a thought for another post.)
ScreenRant hits upon what we be our greatest loss: The communal experience of watching a movie. When we enter a movie theater, we know that part of the fun is having other strangers to bond with over sappy rom-com speeches, or shout at the stupid horror-movie heroine. ScreenRant writes,
We laugh more during a comedy film, surrounded by other people who are similarly entertained, than we would alone in our apartment. We knowingly enter into this social contract when attending public screenings – expecting that sharing in the experience with other people is worth any inconvenience we might face as a result of ignoring our phones for two hours.
What we need is an extension of the whole media literary debate: Kids should be raised with enough wherewithal and social intelligence to know when it is and isn’t appropriate to check their phones in theaters. But that’s enough from me. Joking title aside, I’m genuinely interested to hear what Crushable readers think. I kept the answers very “yes” and “no” because I wanted to see those numbers, but please feel free to elucidate on your choice in the comments!
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