Have you ever been totally engrossed in a movie on the big screen when all of sudden the guy sitting right next to you starts glowing? He decided to write an opus in text messages on his hand-held small screen. Well, you might need to get used to it.
A debate has begun to brew among theater owners and CEOs at the annual industry convention in Las Vegas about whether to allow texting during movies, according to the Company Town blog.
At a recent panel at CinemaCon, Regal Entertainment Chief Executive Amy Miles suggested that exhibitors consider allowing younger customers to use their cellphones during certain types of movies such as "21 Jump Street," the blog reported.
"Over my dead body will I introduce texting into the movie theater," said Tim League, CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an Austin, Texas, chain that offers occasional in-seat food and drink service. "That's a scourge of the industry," he said. "It's our job to understand that this is a sacred place."
Sacred place, indeed. Readers at Opinion L.A. weighed in and overwhelmingly agreed with League about TWW -- texting while watching.
Many of us have grown accustomed to splitting our attention while watching TV. In fact, 86% of smartphone owners in the U.S. use their device while watching TV at least once a month, according to Nielsen.
But it's one thing to watch TV -- whether a live broadcast, variety show contests like "The Voice," sporting events or even a movie -- at home with the remote in one hand and your phone in the other to Tweet or post to your ever-available social network.
In a movie theater, though, texting in movies is akin to talking loudly. It's visual noise. And movie-watching at the theater is, by its nature, a community experience. Texting, really, is rather antisocial, ironically, even as you are communicating with others.
I suppose allowing texting at movies could work as a draw to some moviegoers. Maybe if theaters pitched it as a different kind of "interactive" experience -- ITXT, if you will -- so that everyone in the theater gets what they paid for.
Maybe it could be one showing a day across theater chains with a special hashtag to link everyone at the showing. They could react and interact -- and fill each other in on what they're missing in the movie.
I recall going to see the re-release of "War Games" with a dear friend who spent the whole movie tapping on his cellphone. By the end of the movie, much as I adore him, I could have unleashed my version of thermonuclear war on him. Sure, we both could probably quote the lines of the movie word for word, but I was exhausted from focusing on blocking out the intrusive light popping up every two minutes or so.
For those who feel compelled to keep their smartphone keyboards active texting at the movies, I'd like to offer four guidelines:
1. Don't do it. Aren't movies and snacks expensive enough these days that if you're going to pay, you want to actually see the movie? Wait until the credits roll to start tapping incessently again.
2. Make sure the brightness is down to a non-nuclear glow. Most phones let you tweak the setting. It should be bright enough for you to see a message from, say, the babysitter or your parents but not so bright as to give your face that bluish cellphone halo.
3. Keep it short. Seriously, you've just spent a good chunk of money -- even for a matinee -- to sit in the dark and watch the big screen and so have people around you. So keep your tapping chatter to a minimum. If it's more than one reply, step outside or at least where no one else can see your phone.
4. Text me your number. I'll text you back: SHHHHHHH!