Tuesday, March 26, 2013

No Cell Phones in Theaters

Brad Miska (a.k.a. Mr. Disgusting), editor of the horror site Bloody-Disgusting.com posted an impassioned editorial about standing up as a whole against theaters who allow disruptive patrons who use their cell phones during a movie. Scary movies are particularly vulnerable to distractions which take the viewer out of the moment since so many scary movies already struggle to be particularly interesting.

I agree that as ticket buyers, we are paying for a service and the provider must make every effort to deliver good service. Yet theater chains don't have or won't enforce a zero tolerance policy against disruptive patrons. So far I've seen some soft incentives (turn off your phone and get a free popcorn refill), but how could a theater possibly police an audience? Regardless of the situation, removing patrons will be disruptive. And what do they do with repeat offenders? How do you track those jerks? Tag their ears?

The current strategy for the serious movie buff is to go during off times (middle of work day, Thursday nights, first showing on Sunday) or wait until 2 or 3 weeks into the run. If you live in Austin (or one of the other 13 lucky cities), you could attend a showing at the Alamo Drafthouse. They are notorious for policing the audience and has no qualms with kicking out bad patrons. (YEAH!) Obviously these kinds of policies can work as Alamo Drafthouse continues to expanded across the country.

The alternative solution will bankrupt the theater chains: if new releases were available at home via Video On Demand (VOD), many would never step foot in a theater again. I would miss the moviegoing experience, just as much as I miss perusing the aisles of Tower Records, browsing books at Borders, or going to drive-ins. But things change and we adapt. Movie theaters seem like relics from a by-gone era, where considerate people were excited to attend an event. Now, going to movies is more of a social event where some moving pictures play in the background. The experience is ultimately defined by the theater, and when they crumble, they'll have no one to blame but themselves.




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