5 Reasons Why Texting In Movie Theaters Isn't A Terrible Idea
My fellow moviegoers, it's time we had a talk. In a series of events moving quicker than a Michael Bay flick (although much more coherently), the CEO of movie theater giant AMC Entertainment briefly flirted with the idea of allowing texting in movie theaters during certain screenings, only to be immediately and summarily shot down by... pretty much everyone, actually. Mere hours after discussing the vague possibility in an interview with Variety , the Internet exploded with outrage at the thought of violating the Sacred Movie Theater in such a way. Op-eds were written. Twitter users railed against the idea. "No. Bad AMC," tweeted a Joss Whedon fan blog. "This is a 'special hell' thing."
CEO Adam Aron initially told Variety that texting-friendly theaters would be designed to appeal to Millennials, which may have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way by implying that young adults are the only generation to depend on their smartphones. "When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone... they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow," he said, according to Variety. "You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life."
However, the pushback didn't focus on the tired "blame Millennials" rhetoric; instead, it zeroed in on the prospect of allowing texting, which would apparently turn innocent movie theaters into nightmarish hellscapes lit by tiny phone screens. In fact, the reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that AMC, happily, listened. "NO TEXTING AT AMC," the theater chain tweeted just two days after the interview was published. "Won't happen. You spoke. We listened. Quickly, that idea has been sent to the cutting room floor."
And so an international crisis was averted.
Or, well, maybe not so much. At the risk of embodying exactly the kind of millennial Aron described, what's so heinous about texting in a movie theater? Talking on the phone during a movie is one thing — that's legitimately distracting to other moviegoers, who undoubtedly would rather focus on watching focus on watching Batfleck than their neighbor's relationship problems. However, texting is far more innocuous; at worst, your neighbor catches sight of a dimly-lit phone screen out of the corner of their eye. In fact, I'd say that texting in movies can actually inform your movie experience, for the following reasons.
1. Movies Aren't Sacred Spaces
Before the popularization of technology allowing us to watch movies at home, movie theaters were a Big Deal. They were the only places to watch films; if you missed a movie in theaters or the drive-in, you'd have to wait until it (maybe) played on television to catch it. It's easy to see how movie theaters would emphasize darkness and quiet to allow audience members the chance to fully focus on the movie.
However, that's simply not true anymore. These days, you can watch movies wherever you want — at home, on your phone, on an airplane — and there's no need to to treat theaters like sacred spaces. You don't have to spend all your mental energy on trying to absorb the movie, because you can always catch a missed detail or two later, whether it's by watching a clip on YouTube or rewatching the whole movie on Netflix. Texting your sister an observation about Henry Cavill's jawline isn't going to ruin anyone's movie experience.
2. It Can Inform Your Understanding Of The Movie
Have you ever been totally unable to focus on a movie because you're busy trying to remember where you've seen the sidekick's actor? Allowing texting in movies would mean you can simply search Google, and voila! Thirty seconds later, you're a little more knowledgeable and can finally focus on the movie.
3. Live Tweeting Is A Beautiful Thing
Live-tweeting and other real-time reviews are an increasingly popular way of enjoying media, including movies; according to some figures, half of viewers use mobile devices when they're watching TV. In fact, sometimes this "second screen" is better than watching the movie itself. (If you're uninitiated, may I suggest starting with Rhetta's glorious Twitter account?)
4. Phones Allow Us To Connect With Others
Phones are useful for all kinds of things, but in the end, their primary purpose is to connect us with each other. There's no need to have a 20-minute conversation with someone over texting — you're probably going to miss important plot points, and an extended conversation would legimately distract other people — but there's nothing wrong with reaching out to friends in the moment.
5. People Do It Anyway
Obnoxious moviegoers are going to be obnoxious no matter how many rules are put in place, and in the meantime, movie theaters are seeming increasingly outdated in their approach to technology. As Amber Jameson wrote for the Guardian, "If I wanted to watch a movie in reverential silence and darkness, void of social interaction, I could’ve stayed home."
This isn't to say that everyone should be glued to their phones all the time, but there's no denying that phones are an integral part of modern life. By immediately shooting down the possibility of texting in theaters, we're simply keeping movie theaters stagnant — and it just makes me want to stay in.
Images: Gilles Lambert