Every year at CinemaCon, it seems like someone floats the idea that maybe they should start allowing texting in their theaters because otherwise they’ll lose millennials. This year, it was AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron, who told Variety a couple days ago:
Would appealing to millennials involve allowing texting or cellphone use?
Yes. When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.
At the same time, though, we’re going to have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t disturb today’s audiences. There’s a reason there are ads up there saying turn off your phone, because today’s moviegoer doesn’t want somebody sitting next to them texting or having their phone on.
Would you have a certain section for texting?
That’s one possibility. What may be more likely is we take specific auditoriums and make them more texting friendly.
Setting aside the incredible level of condescension towards a market he wants to invite into his theaters (Mr. Aron, it’s 2016—we’re all addicted to our cell phones, regardless of age), the outcry was swift against the proposal of texting-friendly auditoriums.
While I was frustrated with Aron’s comments, I couldn’t help but wonder if quarantining all the texters into one theater might be the best option. Then again, once you start normalizing that texting is okay in theaters, it might not take long for it to become commonplace in non-texting auditoriums.
The problem comes down to enforcement. It’s not enough to run a cutesy little promo before a movie and then not do anything when the movie actually playing. When there are no ushers, the burden falls on the consumer to break up the moviegoing experience to notify management of the problem rather than management being proactive. It’s a problem that affects almost all major chains.
Sadly, texting during movies is becoming more and more common as people come to see movie theaters as just another extension of their living rooms and become more selfish in the process. I know our readers are fans of films and don’t behave this way, but unless you’re at a cinema that takes a hardline towards texting like the Alamo Drafthouse, the experience of going to see a movie will be fraught with the possibility of some douchebag whipping out his or her phone and texting away like he or she is the only person who matters.
At AMC, we are committed to innovation and to being imaginative in our efforts to deliver you the best. We strive every single day to make your movie going experience at AMC Theatres simply amazing. You love the magic of movies, and we love doing all we can to make them all the more magical for you.
During the past few days, you may have heard media reports about another idea AMC Theatres was considering, testing whether some movie goers might want texting allowed in a small selection of our theatres. Unlike the many AMC advancements that you have applauded, we have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want. In this age of social media, we get feedback from you almost instantaneously and as such, we are constantly listening. Accordingly, just as instantaneously, this is an idea that we have relegated to the cutting room floor.
With your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC Theatres. Not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future.
Instead, we’ll focus on our other ideas to delight and entertain you. In the next few years, we intend to invest more than $1 billion to continuously enhance our theatres and systems. At AMC, you’ll feel our commitment to providing you with the absolute best in sight and sound technology, a significant increase to the number of our large screens including the incomparable experiences created by IMAX and Dolby Cinema, much more comfortable seating including our hugely popular recliners, new sumptuous food and beverage offerings, a more engaging AMC Stubs program, as well as dramatically richer content in an enhanced web site and more functional smartphone app. These are all in our immediate future- and yours — across the country at AMC.
We’ll continue to be as creative as we can to elevate the AMC experience, doing so in partnership with you, our guests, and never in a way that will compromise your love of coming out to the movies.
So, as always, we invite you to join us in sharing the excitement of seeing stories told well. However, when the lights dim, we’ll remember your advice that your fellow moviegoers should turn off their phones.