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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

April 26, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Theater execs debate cell-phone use during movies

OK, are we just all going to have to pack up and move to those few lucky cities that host an Alamo Drafthouse? Or see all of our movies at Cinebarre? This week at CinemaCon, the annual industry convention in Las Vegas, theater owners and CEOs discussed the possibility of lifting the ban on cellphone use . . . and it wasn’t pretty. (Hold on a moment: were you aware that multiplexes banned cellphones? I wasn’t; some of them, I thought, practically seem to require cellphone use, if you look at the audience. Running an announcement before the movie, which everyone ignores, isn’t “banning”; it’s only banning if you actually enforce it.) Anyway, a Regal CEO said that she is considering being more flexible about cellphone use in movies aimed at younger viewers, and an IMAX CEO expressed enthusiasm for the idea, thusly:

His 17-year-old son “constantly has his phone with him,” he says. “We want them to pay $12 to $14 to come into an auditorium and watch a movie. But they’ve become accustomed to controlling their own existence.” Banning cell phone use may make them “feel a little handcuffed.”

Wow. I thought part of growing up, and raising kids, was learning and teaching that you can’t always have everything you want when you want it, and that you need to be considerate of others. Trust Alamo CEO Tim League (whose theaters famously toss out texting patrons) to be the voice of reason:

“Over my dead body will I introduce texting into the movie theater,” he says. “I love the idea of playing around with a new concept. But that is the scourge of our industry. … It’s our job to understand that this is a sacred space and we have to teach manners.” He says it should be “magical” to come to the cinema.

Mr. League, will you please open a theater in the Seattle area? Sigh. The other night I was several seats over from a frequent texter, who was trying to be discreet (keeping the phone halfway in his pocket) but who nonetheless was the cause of numerous distracting blue flashes. Really, can’t it wait? Have we all forgotten so quickly that it wasn’t that long ago that we all went the movies and were unreachable for two hours, and didn’t mind a whit? Anyway; just keeping an eye on this issue, which isn’t going away.

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