Is It The End of Moviegoing As We Know It?
I was horrified when I stumbled across a new survey by The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. Among other stats, the publication found that a majority of 18-34-year-olds believe using social media while watching a movie in a theatre would add to their experience.
I read this figure and started to wonder: is this the state of our moviegoing habits? Are we so over-stimulated by technology that we can no longer sit in silence and appreciate a movie? And what will this mean for theatre owners? How long until theatre chains are encouraging their patrons to whip out their phones to text, check Facebook and tweet during a show? Quite simply, what is wrong with us?!
It all boils down three key problems. First is our apparent unquenchable need to be in 24/7 contact with social networks. The topic has been a hotbed of discussion by researchers and pundits for the past five years or more. As it relates to going to the movies, though, I’m still confused about why moviegoers can’t fix their attention on a multi-storey screen for a complete feature film without glancing down at their phone. Is it not enough to have a giant screen to entertain them?
Perhaps the reason behind this lies in another bit of data retrieved by THR in their social media poll. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents said they count social media as a form of entertainment. They might not equate it with a movie, but it’s obviously persuading them to ignore the potential work of art on the big screen in favour of the tweets and updates posted on their feeds.
The second problem that THR’s data highlights is the desperate situation of movie theatres. Exhibitors are running scared from downloadable content, tablets and other technologies that compete for moviegoers’ attention. Sooner or later, some market research firm will tell AMC, Cineplex, Cinemark and other theatre chains that it’s a good idea to let their guests check their phones during the movie. The idea will be to make the theatres seem hip and progressive – but it will ruin the moviegoing experience.
I have visions of special hashtags that exhibitors will encourage their guests to use while they tweet from their seats. Or Facebook groups where moviegoers can discuss the movie as it plays above their heads. And don’t think such “amenities” are far away: Cineplex Entertainment already runs an event during its pre-shows to let guests play multiplayer games on the big screen using their smartphones.
The third problem is what the behaviour of moviegoers and theatre exhibitors has to say about the way we watch movies. To me, it’s disrespectful to the thousands of artists who work on a movie when people are busily typing and scrolling during a screening. Filmmakers have spent their blood, sweat, tears and a considerable amount of money to entertain you, and then you pay the admission price to sit amongst a couple of hundred others and squint at a tiny glowing screen.
I don’t care if a movie is boring or poorly made. The least you can do is sit through its runtime and tell your friends and followers about it afterwards. Trust me – they can wait for you to finish watching. If you can keep my peripheral vision from being filled with dozens of bright lights while I watch a movie, you’re far more likely to avoid the experience of watching me crushing your phone under my boot.
I might sound curmudgeonly or out of touch. Don’t get me wrong – I love social media as much as the next tech-obsessed Millennial. I also love sharing what I think about movies (why do you think I started this site?). But there’s no place for social media in the movie theatre.
As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to check your social networks during a movie, you can go sit in the back row with the guys doing unmentionable things in their raincoats. You might find you have something in common: a complete disregard for the magical, communal experience of going to the movies.
What do you think about the findings in THR’s social media poll? Is it simply the progression of modern society? Or should we start shunning the idiots who check their phones in the theatre? Post your thoughts in the comments section! If you liked this post, share it around, or follow me on Twitter for updates about new posts and other lovely things. You can also browse through some of my recent movie reviews here:
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