EDITORIALS

Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League Disses Texting in Movie Theaters

by
July 17, 2012
Source: The Wrap

Texting in a Movie Theater

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?

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  • David Banner
    TL, DR. I hear Michael Moore is opening a movie theater. If they catch you txt'ing during a movie or answering/talking on the phone, ect; you are banned for life. That's one way of doing it I guess.
  • Xerxexx
    Seat tazers...someone gets caught texting a certified "Seat tazerer" zaps the bejesus outta 'em.
    • bozo connors
      This combined with some kind of proximity decibel detection system - actually feasible - could utilize same type of circuitry in noise cancellation devices, to distinguish movie sounds from other unwanted sounds - and a camera system that detects light sources in the seating area (from cell phones)... sign me right the hell up!! I'd pay a premium.
      • Akirakorn
        REALLY? I can't even get a real Imax screen! #(&#) we can't even keep the idiots from burning the popcorn nearly every time I'm there. Seriously, every time I come out of the theater after a movie it reeks of burnt popcorn and the air is hazy.
    • rocky728
      Best suggestion yet. Second offense the batons come out and beat you for 5 minutes like the LAPD I wish the AMC theaters would do the same. Not just with phones but folk that bring their young kids and babies to R rated material. I put up with kids if I'm watching something from Pixar for example but I don't want to put with brats when I go see Ted or Prometheus. Do parents not know what R rated means.
    • Akirakorn
      Huzzah! I love me some 'lectrocutions! But I disagree rocky728! Second offense is shoving that phone up their ass, and considering how these spoiled morons will buy every newer bigger model it'll be even more fun to watch.
  • John
    Tim League sounds like a very smart man who knows his industry. Some people are just so rude. They act like they are the only ones in the theater. And the notion that you can do whatever you want because you paid for a ticket is absurd - what about everyone else who paid for a ticket who actually want to watch the movie? I know AMC is planning to experiment with these "text-friendly" screenings. The sad thing is that many of the theaters where I live don't enforce the no-texting policy anyway, so they're basically "text-friendly" already. What many in the industry don't realize is that talking/texting during a film is a key reason that many people just stay home - myself included. Years ago I went to the movies once a week... now I go about once a month. As the home theater experience improves, blu-ray release windows shorten, and on-demand options increase, there is every reason NOT to go to the theater. Why bother if you are not going to have a pleasant experience?
  • El Hoopso
    Doesn't Drafthouse have special Text heckling screenings where the audiences texts are streamed directly on screen? While I completely agree with everything he is saying, this seems a litlle hypocritical.
  • DAVIDPD
    Although, the view must look good from Mr. League's High Horse, I would reckon the people involved with the film making do not really care either way. If you paid the ticket price, they got your money, and in the end this is business for-profit. And the few "auteurs" that do care, no one (meaning the masses who determine who determine the ultimate financial success of films) watches your films. // Does it annoy me to see those little white lights beaming away during a film? Hell yeah! But I have come to realize fighting against these people does jack shit to get them to actually stop. Some things are just meant to be suffered through.
  • Ninja pojo
    If someone infront of me is txting i kick their seat. I pay to see a movie not to see someone txting.
  • Rx37
    You know it's amazing that some people assume those younger than say 30. Can't make it threw a movie then he is out of touch. I'm 21 and I only love the Drafthouse. Because people like League stand up for these rights moviegoers should easly have is why I haven't lost faith in all theaters. So thank you sir. You will always have my respect, backing, and hard earned movie money.
    • rennmaxbeta
      through > threw
  • The Truth
    I hate these fuckers who who look at their phones to check the time or to see who's texting and text back during the middle of the movie. I want to throw popcorn on them so bad!
    • rennmaxbeta
      Only popcorn? Don't forget to dump Coke over those fuckers too.
  • germss
    First of all, text friendly theaters are just about the dumbest idea I've ever heard. People can't go 2.5 hours without sending off a text? Secondly, just like the early 3D theaters, this is basically a foot in the door. You have a couple text friendly showings, people start to get use to it, a year later texting is allowed in every theater. Third, as much as I dislike people messing around with their phone during a movie, it is the lesser of the problems I have with a theater experience. I've had people with babies that constantly cry, children running up and down the aisles, groups of teens yelling and screaming for no reason. Nothing will ruin a movie more than sitting in a crowded theater. Because even if most of those people are respectful, there will always be those few who don't give a shit about anyone besides themselves. Sorry about the rant, but those things just get on my nerves and nothing is ever done about it.
    • bozo connors
      Will say, the last few terrible theater experiences had involved kids & not phones. I'm talkin' 3-4 year olds in Prometheus. wtf is wrong with parents now.
      • Akirakorn
        Unfortunately there is only a written and practical test for drivers licenses in this country, and you see how stupid some of these drivers are. I'm not Pro Life or Pro Choice, I'm Pro Sterilization.
        • bozo connors
          Yip!! me n' you... we'd be good friends in real life. ;P
  • TigerClaw305
    I never text during a movie, Only before or when I'm on my way to the Theater to see the movie. Besides, As soon as I'm inside, I set the phone to silent mode and in my pocket.
  • http://twitter.com/FidelReyes_ Fidel Reyes
    Alamo Drafthouses are awesome, I hate there isn't one where I live because some people are so rude verbally(mostly make idiotic remarks about the movie out loud) and text, I just cant wait until I go to University so that I can go to a city where these kinds of theaters that enforce this policy and respect exist.
  • Agent13
    I want an Alamo Drafthouse...
  • The Douche
    People are so obsessed with themselves these days your not gonna get them to change. When I was watching Prometheus in an Imax theater, so I'm paying more than your usual ticket, a girl mid movie just decides to whip out her phone and take a picture of herself watching the movie, with the flash on. Seriously? Really? How fucking rude do you have to be to do that? That shit really pissed me off. And no one said shit.
    • bozo connors
      Yip. As stated in comment above - had a 3/4 year old in my IMAX Prometheus showing that was immensely distracting. I mean... come on... a 3/4 year old? Fuck off - that movie would give ME nightmares. (late 30's) Parents/people these days.
  • guy
    This is pathetic. The real losers are the people that feign distraction my a silent text. Get over it and watch the movie. If you're distracted by a text yours or others, then the theater or the movie sucks. This is just an example of an overly crabby person's opinion on a matter.
    • Bitter_Dregs
      Let me guess, you're one of the dickbags that texts during a movie, right? How does an extremely bright phone screen not distract you in a dark theater room? It doesn't matter that it may have been a "silent" text because that bright-ass screen is way more distracting than a simple notification sound would've been. Have some fucking common courtesy and keep your precious little douche phone in your pocket you dick douche.
    • bozo connors
      That's a pretty narrow minded and idiotic opinion. That's like saying a baby crying in a symphony isin't distracting - it has zero to do with whether the orchestra/movie is bad. Oh wait... you're one of those "trolls" that posts completely ridiculous dissenting opinions just to get attention aren't you? Well played troll. Have some attention.
  • http://www.OTTERapp.com/ ErikWood
    Texting is an efficient communications medium, a powerful fund raising tool and even a crime reporting method - to name a few upsides. But I also think technology should be able to help us facilitate unplugging - especially in public situations like a movie theater. After my three year old daughter was nearly run down by a texting driver in 2009, I invented an app to manage texting whether the user is at home, in the office or on the road. Its simple and easy to schedule "texting blackout periods" with all notifications silenced so you can focus on the task at hand without feeling disconnected from your social network. Teens can study, sleep or watch a movie and adults...well maybe we can remind ourselves that technology should be complimenting our lives and not the other way around. Erik Wood, owner OTTER app do one thing well... be great.
  • NDinNJ
    The idea that people should not text out respect for the films creative team is ridiculous. The 10+ dollars for admission entitles the audience member to appreciate(or not) the film to whatever they are inclined, including ignoring it. How ever, once they becomed bored to the point where they need text, read and send emails or engage in extended conversation, they need to step out into the lobby. Your ticket does not entitle you to detract from the experience for everyone else in the audience.
    • Greedo
      I agree with this. Respecting the filmmakers isn't the issue. You should be respectful of the other paying members of the audience.
  • Andrew
    Somebody texting during a movie is annoying, but nothing like actually talking on the phone. I give people a pass for texting during previews though, 30 minutes is a long time to wait for the movie to actually start. Side note, $10 a ticket is an understatement, my local theater is up to $14.50 for a single adult ticket to a "primetime" showing. I'd much rather pay $25 or more in order to watch a new release on my flat screen at home.
  • Lagoya
    If someone wants to text half way through a film what the hell does it have to do with you?? you're not forced to look at them, Its like saying the glowing EXIT sign is distracting you, don't look! chill out and watch the damn movie! People love to complain about any and everything nowadays.
    • geoffcbassett
      The exit sign is constantly on so you can zone it out, and it's actually less bright than a cell phone. Cell phones instantly draw my eye, and consequently my mind out of the film. You can stop texting for two hours, or get the f*** out of the theater. Or at the least sit in the very back row you inconsiderate jackass.
  • guy
    sprint never gets service in the theater for me anyway
  • Big Larry Kitchen Knife
    It is rude, parents don't teach kids manners anymore. But it could be worse, they could be one of those loud disrespectful people who have to talk on their cell phones while in public and do it loud enough so everyone can hear them cause they think they are cool when in fact everyone thinks they are total fags. Kind of like Harley riders. But the best part is if you say something then you're the prick and you're being hostile and those pussies will call police and make up a story about how you threatened them. Idiots.
  • happy camper
    If you have to text/talk during a film you are an inconsiderate person. the end.
  • bala
    Alamo would hate me. The texters make me want to throw their phone through the screen. Unfortunately though, I'm one of those talkers. When my friends and I go to a movie, we get so sucked into it we are all in the very back freaking out about whatever is going on whispering to each other what we think will happen while we laugh, scream, and cry. I feel terrible about it sometimes, but it always seems to make even the worst movie on par with the best.
    • Akirakorn
      I whisper too, but not as much as I used to. However, heckling is not just allowable, but encouraged during sh---y movies. Spiderman 3 was so much fun after we that horribly hokey shot of Spidey in front of the American flag.
  • http://www.fuckingcatalinawinemixer.com Will
    If you can't be disconnected from the world for two hours it doesn't mean you're important. It means you're an asshole.
  • Tcuguy1
    If I'm going to pay somewhere in the balllpark of 10 dollars to see a movie, I'll check my phone when I damn well please. I'm not an idiot who has it right in my face, but by my thigh. Also, talking about the movie makes it more enjoyable, so get your head out of your asses.
    • Rob
      You're not an idiot who has it on your face, just an idiot who wants to use his phone whenever he "damn well pleases". If I'm ever next to you in a theater, you'll be punched.
  • phantomrockcity
    Every god damn time I give theaters another chance and another $10, I'm reminded why it takes hell to freeze over to get me in there. And I love to see the things on the big screen, but half of the time it's actually the adults I see texting and causing the distractions. Must be nice to to throw $10 away by not really watching the film. I am very selective of films I want to see. I can only imagine what the theaters will be like with the new Batman. I won't go see the damn thing for a month after it's out.
  • rennmaxbeta
    If you txt or check facebook during my movie, I'm gonna shove that smartphone right up your ass!

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