New Theater Policy: Please Do Not Silence Your Cell Phone
Second-screen usage while watching TV is a growing trend. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, more people than ever are chatting with friends, playing games and syncing up for points while they watch their favorite shows. It’s great publicity for the series and it’s an excellent way to get viewers to engage with advertising content. So why not extend this idea to the movie theater?
Movie theater execs discussed this very topic at their recent industry convention in Las Vegas. According to the LA Times, the Chief Exec for Regal Entertainment suggested that allowing people to text during some movies could be good for business.
An exec from a Texas based chain replied, “Over my dead body.”
Setting aside the cell phone backlight annoyance factor, many see the movie theater experience as sacred. You are there to pay attention to what’s being delivered on the screen and to divide your attention would be disrespectful to the fine folks who worked hard to create this cinematic treasure.
But when you think about it, going to the movies is one of those weird occasions where we gather a bunch of people together but then ask them NOT to interact. A few concert halls fit the bill as well, but others encourage dancing, singing and the communal waving of the lighter.
I get that you don’t want the people in front of you to discuss the film while you’re trying to watch, but if someone wants to text a funny line to his friend, where’s the harm?
From a marketing perspective, it’s a go. There’s no better time to spread of word of mouth than when the person is actively engaged. Once he walks out of the theater, the chances of him posting about what he saw fades with the passing minutes.
Then there’s the potential for interactivity between people in the theater. If I get an obscure reference, or recognize that actor from a TV show, why not share that with everyone else in the theater? I’d even go so far as to say, why not run a hashtag feed right at the bottom of the screen with all the trivia and snarky comments.
I wouldn’t want this on every film, but there are some where it would add to the experience. For example, I often go to special screenings of old movies that I already know quite well. Adding an interactive gaming layer to the film would be just right on these occasions.
Mobile is changing the way we do everything. It’s important that we not hang on to old conventions just because that’s the way it’s always been. I believe that the first theater to run an interactive, texting night with a cheesy horror movie is going to make a fortune. It could become an audience-based version of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Don’t think it would sell? Let me ask you this? Have you ever been to a Rocky Horror Picture Show performance? People dress up in costume, act out the scenes in front of the screen, shout out lines as they come up in the movie. I’ll bet everyone laughed at the theater manager who came up with that idea and then he laughed all the way to the bank.
What do you think? Can we bring the second-screen experience to the movie theaters? Or more importantly, should we?