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Alamo Drafthouse's CEO responds to AMC's texting in theaters proposal

04.14.2016

Alamo Drafthouse AMC texting in theater

If you can't go two hours without checking your phone while sitting in a theater to watch a movie that you paid to watch, you might have a problem. Earlier today new AMC CEO Adam Aron said that instead of enforcing the no-texting policy more strongly, that they're considering allowing audiences to use their phones in certain theaters. Needless to say, the reaction wasn't overly positive from the JoBlo community and one person who shares your viewpoint is Alamo Drafthouse founder/CEO Tim League, who released a statement cautioning that this action could hurt the theater industry.

First off, I'd like to say that I am very excited for Adam Aron to be taking the helm at AMC.  I am a fan of the Starwood Hotel and Resort brand and the customer experience that his former company consistently delivers.  Bringing that leadership focus to our industry will undoubtedly yield positive results and drive healthy, innovative competition.

That said, I disagree with his statements on texting in a movie theater. Innovation in this direction could seriously hurt our industry.

My first objection stems from cinema's relationship with directors and producers, the content creators.  Auteurs focus for years to complete their films.  We as exhibitors rely completely on these creators for our content and have an unwritten obligation to present their films in the best possible way: on a big screen with big sound and a bright picture in a silent, dark room.   You can only be immersed in a story if you are focused on it.  If while watching a film you are intermittently checking your email, posting on social media, chatting with friends, etc., there is no way you are fully engaged in the story on screen.  I find that to be disrespectful to the creators, those who make the very existence of cinema possible.

My second objection stems from the generalization of millennial behavior. 

"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."   - Adam Aron, quoted in Variety

22-year-olds aren't alone; heavy cell phone use is far more widespread.  Today, 68% of U.S. adults have a smartphone, a staggering increase from 35% just five years ago. I spend a great deal of my life on my phone, too. I check news, social media and email obsessively. If there is the slightest of lulls in my day, a 20 second pause in an elevator, for example, I impulsively break out my phone and check something. I always carry an external battery because I can't make it through the day on the standard power.  I am not alone. According to some reports, the average American checks their phone over 100 times a day. This isn't just a millennial behavior, it is a global attention span epidemic.  

Regardless of your age, turning off your phone and focusing on a good movie is much-needed therapy.  This time of focus in a darkened room is core to the experience of cinema.  Only with this focus can you lose yourself completely in the story and really fall into the magic spell of the movies. 

Plenty has already been written about glowing screens and unchecked chatter driving people from the cinema experience, so I won't belabor that point further.  And I'm fine with "second screen" experimentation with regards to alternative content, gaming, interactive screenings, etc. But when it comes to our core business, creating a special environment for our customers to experience new stories for the first time, there is absolutely no place for the distraction of a lit phone screen.  

At the Alamo Drafthouse we are actively engaged in trying to make sure cinema remains a compelling destination for young people, and I agree this should be a focus for the whole industry.  I just don't believe that this line of experimentation is the right tactic. A firm policy against talking and texting in the cinema is about respect: for the filmmakers and fellow cinephiles of all ages.  Outside of this issue, however, I look forward to being challenged and inspired by what innovations and enhancements Adam Aron brings to the cinema experience.

Going to the theater can be a wonderful experience if the stars align and you're blessed with a great considerate audience combined with exceptional picture and sound; there's nothing else quite like it, but unfortunately there are so many factors which can adversely affect that experience, including people using their phones throughout the movie. Typically a polite request will shut that behavior down, but every so often you encounter some jerk who seems to think that it's their right to disturb a theater full of paying customers. While I'm sure that Adam Aron has the best of intentions by suggesting this proposal, I worry that it would only increase the amount of people who feel entitled to use their phones in theaters because "it's allowed."

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12:12PM on 04/16/2016
Why don't the theaters just get cell phone jammers?
Why don't the theaters just get cell phone jammers?
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11:41AM on 04/15/2016
Isn't it annoying when people that sat next to you keep texting and shit for almost the whole movie, and when they get to the 40 minute mark they just turn to their friend and chattily ask, "Sooooooo like, what's this film about?"
Isn't it annoying when people that sat next to you keep texting and shit for almost the whole movie, and when they get to the 40 minute mark they just turn to their friend and chattily ask, "Sooooooo like, what's this film about?"
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+0
10:53AM on 04/15/2016

If a kid can't turn off their phone for 90 minutes, they have a problem

Why aren't we looking at the real problem here? Phones should be ignored during movies. People pay a lot of money these days to see stuff in theaters. The reason you go to a theater is the large screen, the dark room and the ability to get lost in the movie. This gets nullified real quick when you see a bunch of retarded kids on their phones texting the whole movie. It is annoying. But why are they so glued to their screens? Schools allow this shit and they shouldn't. It should be taught as
Why aren't we looking at the real problem here? Phones should be ignored during movies. People pay a lot of money these days to see stuff in theaters. The reason you go to a theater is the large screen, the dark room and the ability to get lost in the movie. This gets nullified real quick when you see a bunch of retarded kids on their phones texting the whole movie. It is annoying. But why are they so glued to their screens? Schools allow this shit and they shouldn't. It should be taught as proper manners but manners aren't taught anymore I guess. Every kid is just raised to be an asshole.
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8:46AM on 04/15/2016
Remember all those reviews and blogs where they complained they could not follow the plot?
I think we've found your problem.
Remember all those reviews and blogs where they complained they could not follow the plot?
I think we've found your problem.
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7:36AM on 04/15/2016

Thank you Alamo!

Once again, for coming down on the side of reasonableness.
By the way, I would GLADLY pay an extra $1 for a movie if that meant hiring more ushers whose only job was to stand in the theater and escort EVERY offender out at the first sign they have their phones out.
Once again, for coming down on the side of reasonableness.
By the way, I would GLADLY pay an extra $1 for a movie if that meant hiring more ushers whose only job was to stand in the theater and escort EVERY offender out at the first sign they have their phones out.
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7:35AM on 04/15/2016
Great response. And that's how all theatre owners should respond to every single person who asks if their theatre can be more 'texting-friendly'.
Great response. And that's how all theatre owners should respond to every single person who asks if their theatre can be more 'texting-friendly'.
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2:20AM on 04/15/2016
I consider myself an avid cinema goer. I visit my local multiplex once a week or more. When I watch a film I like to be fully immersed in the experience. Seeing flashed of cell phones every few minutes temporarily takes me out of that experience. It's not just 22 year olds that do it, its 13 - 50, and even some older. Luckily I'm self employed and can choose when to visit the cinema so I chose mid day showings where numbers a very few. Evenings and weekends have most offenders in my opinion.
I consider myself an avid cinema goer. I visit my local multiplex once a week or more. When I watch a film I like to be fully immersed in the experience. Seeing flashed of cell phones every few minutes temporarily takes me out of that experience. It's not just 22 year olds that do it, its 13 - 50, and even some older. Luckily I'm self employed and can choose when to visit the cinema so I chose mid day showings where numbers a very few. Evenings and weekends have most offenders in my opinion. Personally I'd love cinemas to block signals to phones like some hospitals do in certain areas, but I'm positive there would be legal ramifications.
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12:38AM on 04/15/2016
The the only time it is cool to text in the theater is to tell the person that texts you ten times as soon as the movie starts, that you're at the movies.
The the only time it is cool to text in the theater is to tell the person that texts you ten times as soon as the movie starts, that you're at the movies.
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7:33AM on 04/15/2016
Or you could just turn your f***ing phone off before you go in.
Or you could just turn your f***ing phone off before you go in.
10:12PM on 04/14/2016
I hate this idea from the start. I hardly go to the cinema anymore because of these new generations who keep texting and using their phones in the cinema all the time.
I hate this idea from the start. I hardly go to the cinema anymore because of these new generations who keep texting and using their phones in the cinema all the time.
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10:00PM on 04/14/2016
Totally agree. Someone will need to explain to these 22 year olds that during the dark ages of 10-20 years ago, everyone was somehow able to go to movies without a phone (or at least not check it during the film), and somehow still survive. I know, I know, it seems like just a myth, but it's true.
Totally agree. Someone will need to explain to these 22 year olds that during the dark ages of 10-20 years ago, everyone was somehow able to go to movies without a phone (or at least not check it during the film), and somehow still survive. I know, I know, it seems like just a myth, but it's true.
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10:13PM on 04/14/2016
Exactly! Now these 22 years old won't survive a night without Wifi or cellphone coverage.
Exactly! Now these 22 years old won't survive a night without Wifi or cellphone coverage.
9:25PM on 04/14/2016
The very thought of allowing cell phone use is terrible, doesn't matter if its one theater or even a few. When the hell did we start giving in and letting less disciplined others walk over us. One of the more disturbing news stories lately and I'm kind of glad I don't work for that company anymore.
The very thought of allowing cell phone use is terrible, doesn't matter if its one theater or even a few. When the hell did we start giving in and letting less disciplined others walk over us. One of the more disturbing news stories lately and I'm kind of glad I don't work for that company anymore.
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8:39PM on 04/14/2016
That's PSA was brilliant, and basically sums up everyone's sentiments on this
That's PSA was brilliant, and basically sums up everyone's sentiments on this
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+1
8:19PM on 04/14/2016
Well said sir.
Well said sir.
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7:59PM on 04/14/2016
Listen; if you can't shut off your phone for a few hours, then do us all a favor and just stay home.
Listen; if you can't shut off your phone for a few hours, then do us all a favor and just stay home.
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