Washington Theatre Will Encourage Patrons to Not Pay Attention to the Thing They Paid to Watch

     December 6, 2011

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The theater experience is already going to hell in a hand-basket.  It doesn’t need any encouragement from the actual theater, but that’s what the Tateuchi Center in Bellevue, Washington will offer.  According to the New York Times [via Cinemablend], the theatre (set to open in 2014) is trying to woo “younger audiences” by removing cell phone restrictions and allowing patrons to talk and text their hearts away.

Hit the jump for an explanation of this madness and to watch me go mental over the decline over the theater going experience (again).

tateuchi-center-rendering-imageHere’s the explanation from the theatre’s executive director, John Haynes:

“This is the wave of the future for the people we worry about attracting.  Simply forbidding it and embarrassing people is not the way to go.  So we are wiring the building in anticipation of finding way to make it work over time.”

Granted, the theatre is being built for concerts, not cinema.  The Tateuchi Center (which has not broken ground, but has complete designs and raised $62 million of the $160 million it needs; the image to the right is a rendering) is a 2,000-seat concert hall and a 250-seat cabaret, and plans to present theater, classical music, jazz, and pop.  The standing policy will be to allow “nondisruptive cell use during performances”.  And hey!  They might even “distribute small screens to patrons to place on their phones and dim the light.”  Good.  I’m sure people who are too inconsiderate to pay attention to the performer, will certainly waste time putting a small screen on their phone.  Also, people who are rude enough to text, probably won’t have the gall to start talking on their phone during a performance.  That would be beyond the pale.

Of course, the booked artists can request no phone use, which means this conversation is going to happen:

Douchebag Patron: But they let me use my phone when I was here last time!

Employee: Yes, but this artist is requesting there be no cell phone use.

Douchebag Patron: Then they should have told me that when I bought the ticket!  I want a full refund for something that was only going to receive a fraction of my short attention span.

movie-theatre-texting-image-01But Mr. Haynes isn’t worried, and he’s probably right: this is the way of the future.  However, that future is fucking horrible.

At my screening of Hugo, parents brought their kids and—unsurprisingly—the kids were bored.  So the best idea these lazy parents had was to let their worthless spawn run in and out of the theater.  But the kicker was that the kids were wearing light-up shoes.  Yeah, somehow those came back (if they ever left).  So whenever they ran out of the theater, we got a little sparkle magic.  It was a bitter irony that Scorsese was trying to introduce a young audience to the magic of the theater, but they were too busy ruining that magic to pay attention.

And then I had a deeply depressing realization: in twenty years (at most), people won’t think this is wrong.  They won’t see any problem breaking out their cell phones and texting away like the theater is their goddamn living room.  Theaters are understaffed so no one is there to make them stop.  Furthermore, since patrons are getting these movies in their living rooms, why should they sacrifice anything when they go out in public?

This is what kids are learning and this is “the wave of the future”:  A generation of people who are too stupid to realize they’re wasting money to half-watch something they paid full-price to see, and too selfish to realize that when the lights go out and people are quiet, it’s not some antiquated piece of etiquette.  It’s so we can be transported to a different world and not so you can talk and text about your boring life.

Thanks for the theater, Mr. Haynes.  I hope it burns to the ground (not with anyone inside, but just as a “Fuck you,” from the universe).

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