Americans have been drifting away from the multiplex for about a decade, a trend that Hollywood executives blame in part on the quality of the experience inside the theater. Sure, cinemas with giant screens offer an unsurpassed level of immersion. But when you're watching a movie at home, you don't have to worry about pivotal scenes being ruined by chattering and clattering by rude strangers. Just rude family members.
Evidently, some industry insiders think the solution to the problem of dwindling ticket sales is to let moviegoers be more distracted -- and distracting. Specifically, they have mulled allowing some cellphone use -- presumably texting, not talking -- to provide a more appealing environment for teens and young adults.
According to a report from the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas by Deadline New York, Regal Entertainment Chief Executive Amy Miles said at a panel discussion that her theater chain had considered allowing some cellphone use during showings of "21 Jump Street." At the same panel, Deadline reported, Greg Foster, chairman and president of filmed entertainment for IMAX, endorsed the idea at the same panel, saying teens may "feel a little handcuffed" by the ban on phone use.
I'd be amazed if the Hollywood studios went along with it, given their concern about cellphones' video capabilities. I also think that adding the tap-tap-tapping of fingers on phone keyboards to a movie soundtrack is nutty at a time when movie fans are increasingly doing their watching at home.
But maybe there's some kind of logical jiu jitsu at work. Maybe a more freewheeling, interactive atmosphere would be a boon to certain releases -- not "The Vow" but "The Three Stooges" or "Think Like a Man."
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