Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League Disses Texting in Movie Theaters
The Alamo Drafthouse is one of the world's coolest movie theaters, a place where the cinematic experience comes first and a love of film seems to spill through the entire establishment. They also famously have a strict no talking/texting policy that they actually enforce, unlike most movie theaters which are either too scared or too lazy to do anything about disruptive audience members. The Drafthouse's tactics sometimes lead to hilarious results, but founder Tim League isn't laughing today. He's just posted a blog entry laying out his thoughts against "texting friendly" theater screenings, and he makes some great points. Read on!
The Wrap's Chris Davison wrote an article proposing the idea of introducing "texting friendly" showings of certain films in movie theaters across the country, and NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) passed the article around to their members presumably in an effort to convince some of them to give it a whirl. League is one of the smartest guys in the industry and he's adamantly against this concept, and he lays out some great reasons why texting in a theater would be ultimately detrimental not only to the audience, but to the theater chains as well. Here's the first of League's points from his post:
"Texting is rude to the film creators. It is a slap in the face to every single creative professional who poured their lives into creating the film…Imagine leveraging every penny you own or worse, going into incredible debt in order to share your creative vision with the public, only to have an audience half-watching while conceiving pithy tweets. Texting is not a passive activity. You have to focus on your phone to text and therefore lose focus on the screen. It is not a question of "might." You WILL at the very least miss nuance and texture of a film by breaking attention to text. More than likely you will miss more than just nuance, but important plot points. Pay respect to the on-screen and behind-the-scenes artists who create movies. Turn off your phone and lose yourself in the movie."
Yes, the movie industry just that—an industry—but movies themselves are art, and League's points about losing yourself in the film are more important now than ever. We definitely have more technological distractions as a society now than our parents did, and you wouldn't wander into an art museum and only half-glance at a painting or sculpture every few minutes while burying your face in your phone, would you? If so, why are you even there in the first place? Even if you hate the movie you're watching, League's point is that it's all about respect. Have enough respect for the people around you, who also paid their own hard-earned ten dollars to get in, to not ruin their experience by shining your cell phone lights around or, if you're especially rude, having a full volume phone conversation with someone. Next up, he states:
"The notion that all teenagers and twenty-somethings can't sit two hours without texting is condescending… Real movie fans today are the same now as they were in the '20s, the '70s and any generation… They want great theatrical presentation, and they want to lose themselves in the movie. This is the very crux of our industry. Real movie fans can, and actively want to, shut off their devices for two hours to watch a movie regardless of how old they are. If we as an industry cater to the notion that texting and talking during a movie is condoned if not encouraged, then we disgust our true patrons, the real movie fans. We will take short term gains by thinking ourselves cool and progressive by allowing texting, but in the end will erode our loyal customer base."
Everyone knows that the home theater experience is improving more and more by the day, so this point is potentially the most important one for theater owners who are actually considering these screenings. They should be more aware than any of us that with ticket prices and the cost of concessions, it's an effort to get the average American family out to see a movie in a theater. It's probably not a good idea to give people another reason to stay home by encouraging others to distract them from the moviegoing experience.
As for the claims against the younger generation, there are certainly bad apples in every bushel (we still use bushels, right?), but it's astoundingly unfair to categorize everyone born after a certain year as being physically unable to watch a film in the same way as an older audience. Here's a thought: by giving us a great moviewatching experience, it will actually cultivate a greater love of films from younger audiences and subtly encourage them to delve deeper into cinema and lose themselves in the film all on their own. The Drafthouse already aims to do just that, and other theaters should take notice. Finally, he states:
"Texting is rude to everyone around you. Even if, as Chris Davison proposes, we designate theaters as "texting friendly," there will be people in the movie who are real movie fans who want to just watch the show without distraction. If the non-texting shows are sold out, someone may opt for the texting show. People buy tickets for a group and in that group there may happen to be real movie fans. Folks may inadvertently buy tickets on Fandango or other online sources where the "texting friendly" nature of the show is missing or not prominent. By introducing screenings where people are free to text during the movie, you will be creating unhappy customers at every single session. It really boils down to the undeniable fact that texting in a movie theater is rude, selfish, and adversely affects everyone within view of your glowing device."
Again, it's all about respect. Look, I understand that people have a right to do what they want for the most part, and that they're paying money in exchange for a service when they sit down in a theater. But watching a movie theatrically is not a singular experience. That's the best part of going to the movies: the sense of community, of shared laughter, gasps, and shocking moments that just isn't the same when you're watching a film at home by yourself. Even in a room full of strangers, theaters are a magical place. I wish all theaters would take a hard stance like League's Drafthouse does and boot texters and talkers when they're disturbing others. Let's hope League's points hit home with enough theater owners that even if they don't improve their customer service, maybe they'll bury this idea before it starts to take hold across the country. Thoughts?