Earlier this week, Deadline Wherever reported that during a panel at CinemaCon, exhibitors discussed the option of allowing patrons to text during films. It was pitched as an attempt to attract younger audiences to the theaters, even though it doesn’t actually address the reason (price of films, quality of the home video experience and rampant online piracy) why teens and college students don’t go to the movies as much as they did in the 70s and 80s.
At Film School Rejects, we support a staunch no-texting policy (and no tweeting, Facebooking, web surfing, Wikipediaing, playing of Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja) at all theaters.
However, instead of pointing out the fallacies of this idiotic suggestion, we’re taking a look into the future. Here is a possible timeline of what might happen were texting allowed in movie theaters. Gird your loins and enjoy this cautionary tale from Cole Abaius and Kevin Carr.
June 1, 2012 – Regal Theaters alongside Magnited Theaters and 5 regional chains announce that audience members will be allowed to use cell phones to text during movies directly marketed to teens and college students – beginning with Snow White and the Huntsman. The schedule also includes Rock of Ages and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
June 1, 2012 (slightly later) – The internet nearly explodes with editorials vilifying the decision.
June 2, 2012 – What spectators believe to be Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League lighting himself on fire in protest turns out to be an unfortunate accident involving 5 Lost Gold IPAs, a flamethrower and a stunt to promote The FP.
June 16, 2012 – A new PSA starring Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax debuts with the message: “No talking today, but texts are okay.”
June 18, 2012 – Select Broadway shows announce a partnership deal with Fox that will allow audience members to send texts during popular musicals, provided the songs have been covered by the cast of Glee.
July 3, 2012 – Regal head Amy Miles reports initially healthy numbers, including a 7% rise in the 13-25 market over the past year without significant drop-offs in other demographics. With the numbers as a springboard, she announces the expansion of the program which will begin that weekend with all screenings of Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D being shown in Text-Friendly™.
July 5, 2012 – Impressed by the numbers and internal projections, Cinemark Theaters, Carmike and AMC create flagship programs to allow texting in select screenings. AMC’s concept includes simultaneous texting and no-texting showings in an effort to test the market directly. Nineteen more regional chains adopt Regal’s program.
July 15, 2012 – Citing Regal’s recent successes in attendance, the New York Metropolitan Opera announces they’ll allow the use of cell phones during an extended engagement of “Le Corsair.”
July 18, 2012 – Funny or Die releases a controversial video mocking the Text-Friendly™ program’s “No Talking Today, But Texting’s Okay” tagline that involves Anna Faris utilizing different variations of the phrase during different parts of her life, including a shot of her on the toilet and an awkward sex scene with Jimmy Kimmel.
July 19, 2012 – The New York Metropolitan Opera abandons their planned performance after only selling 2 tickets.
July 20, 2012 – At a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, Jose Moreno is ejected from a Regal Theater in Grand Junction, Colorado after asking a texter to stop pulling out his phone. Cell phone footage of Moreno being physically tossed for “disturbing the screening by talking” is online before the movie ends and goes viral by noon.
July 23, 2012 – Over the weekend, a new round of editorials speaking out on texting in movies hits the web. Shepard Fairey makes a “Hope”-style poster of Moreno’s face.
August 3, 2012 – The Alamo Drafthouse announces the expansion of its unique no-texting theater chain to Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco. All locations are expected to go live by the end of 2013.
September 19, 2012 – Regal chief Amy Miles reports a plateauing of the initial rise in attendance to shareholders matched by a significant 19% drop in all demographics from 25 – 75. Jose Moreno’s lawyer uses the timing of the meeting to announce that he’ll be filing a symbolic lawsuit against the theater to recoup the cost of his ticket.
October 15, 2012 – With prices lowering and consumer trends shifting, sales of HD televisions and 3D Blu-ray players hit a record high.
November 1, 2012 – Real 3D unveils a new pair of 3D glasses that don’t blur cell phone screens. Spokesperson Daniel Thomas claims they’ll be on the market in time for Gravity 3D‘s opening later that month.
November 5, 2012 – Representatives of the major studios and major theater chains meet and agree to raise ticket prices by 20%.
November 22, 2012 – Magnited Theaters announces the installation of a greater wi-fi network in its cinemas to encourage web surfing during screenings – a practice that’s difficult to police and that’s been largely ignored since the lift on the texting ban.
December 1, 2012 – In an effort to win back non-texters, Regal starts offering “Half-Glasses” that darken the lower half of the field of vision. They can be rented for $5.99 at the box office.
December 20, 2012 – Quentin Tarantino, appearing in a Santa hat for a special advanced screening of Django Unchained at the newly opened New York location of the Alamo Drafthouse (opened ahead of schedule), claims on stage that he will “take an axe to the throat of anyone, anywhere in the world, who texts during his movie.”
January 4, 2013 – After two quarters of having to turn away crowds, the ArcLight Cinema in Los Angeles announces plans to open a new location in Culver City and to expand to 2 other major US cities by the end of 2014.
January 22, 2013 – The Speaker of the House is seen texting during the President’s national address.
January 27, 2013 – The New York Times runs a special report on the nation’s youth culture which features a photograph from Dominic Bracco that shows a full theater with 57 cell phone screens glowing brightly. It’s from a June, Regal screening of Prometheus.
February 14, 2013 – In a special Valentine’s Day promotion, Magnited Theater chains begin renting burner phones to audience members who do not have an active texting plan.
April 20, 2013 – Younger audience do seem to be going to movies in greater numbers, but not at the levels Regal and other cinemas had hoped for. Despite the flood of older movie fans away from the theater, Regal chief Amy Miles announcing publicly that their “strategy has worked in creating a new generation of movie-goers that have latched on to a revolutionary new way to enjoy film. This is a long-term solution. That’s important to remember.”
July 28, 2013 – The Alamo Drafthouse announces the expansion of its theaters into the cities of Miami, Milwaukee, Boston and Tucson.
August 14, 2013 – Jose Moreno settles with Regal out of court for an unknown sum. The story goes largely unnoticed except for some movie blogs that run it as a special interest piece.
September 5, 2013 – Summit Entertainment sends out a press release showing that their decision to release RED 2 On Demand the same weekend as it hit cinemas (against the wishes of the National Association of Theater Owners) was justified by sales that almost matched theater takes. As a result, several movies previously slated for theatrical runs are dropped from the schedule in favor of a booming direct-to-your-home market.
November 11, 2013 – NATO announces a 25% increase in ticket prices, making the average $11.90. In some cities, a matinee ticket can cost as much as $17.50.
January 18, 2014 – Google develops computer-lens glasses called LensConnect™ that project internet and social media directly in front of users’ eyes while emitting only a soft hum from the processor.
February 17, 2014 – The new thriller Liquid Lambada (starring Liam Neeson) becomes the first film to gross more from OnDemand sales than from its theatrical run. After a month, the film has managed $11m in theaters and $38m from in-home orders.
March 3, 2014 – Enjoying growth and the national spotlight as a rare success story, the Alamo Drafthouse announces expansion into Little Rock, Arkansas. Future franchises include Peoria, Illinois; Jupiter, Texas; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
March 10, 2014 – Amid plummeting ticket sales and on the verge of bankruptcy, Magnited Theaters is forced to ban texting and other cell phone usage in their theaters. “The youth experiment didn’t work for us,” said Magnited Chief Gina Burke. “Even allowing them to do something other than watch the movie couldn’t get them excited about watching movies.”
April 2, 2014 – Magnited Theaters files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announces the closing of 70 percent of their multiplexes nationwide.
July 4, 2014 – As the youth market adopts LensConnect™ glasses in greater numbers, theaters begin exhibiting PSAs politely asking patrons to not use computer-lens glasses while watching films as the hum they emit bothers most texters.
December 10, 2014 – Alamo chief Tim League and his bionic arm (which he got after another bizarre flamethrower accident promoting Despicable Me 2) appear on the cover of Time as their choice for Man of the Year. In the interview, he lays out plans to refurbish old Magnited Theater venues, making the Drafthouse brand the 4th largest in the country. ArcLight has followed suit with an aggressive expansion plan, hoping to be in 12 states by the end of 2015.
April 21, 2015 – At a forum during CinemaCon, the remaining theater chains discuss whether they should relax their “no computer-lens glasses” policy in an effort to attract younger audiences to the theaters.
May 1, 2015 - Due to lagging sales, ticket prices are increased by 40%.
What do you think the future will look like?