I H8 UR TXTNG @ MUVESWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are a lot of reasons to avoid going to see a film. It can be a pricey and dicey proposition, laying down $10 or more for a film that may not provide a quality experience. There are usually people in the theater who think they are in their living room, feeling free to talk and behave as if they are the only people affected by their poor manners. With large screens, high-definition pictures and surround sound, many films can be enjoyed at home to their full impact.
So, yes, there are plenty of deterrents to going to the movies. I go anyway. A dark theater is a doorway to creativity that opens up amazing opportunities for the imagination. The 24 frames spooling by each second offer alternative realities and artistic possibilities that television rarely matches. Books and music offer specific platforms for unique artistry, but the movies take elements from both of those expressions and transform them into psyche-shaking experiences.
MJR, the only first-run theater in our part of Lenawee County, and Rave Motion Pictures, which operates the Toledo-area theaters, are both to be commended for staying ahead of the technology curve and for offering family incentives and special showings (Rave is showing The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” on the big screen this weekend). Rave has also brought a level of community cooperation and willingness to try new ideas that had been missing from the local cinema scene.
The obnoxious chatterboxes can be shushed or tuned out; even at kids’ movies, which make up the majority of our choices, the right movie can transport viewers far away from the “peas-and-carrots-peas-and-carrots-peas-and-carrots” white noise.
It pleases me a great deal that our sons Evan (almost 6) and Sean (almost 4) have learned how to behave at the movies. There may be an occasional potty break, but they know to respect the silence and they are the perfect audience to suspend disbelief and become lost in the story. It is true, there are more underachievers like “Yogi Bear” and “G-Force” than winners like “Toy Story 3,” but I love the idea that the boys are growing to love movies as much as their parents. Because their television time is limited, movies are even more special to them.
But a dark cloud is gathering that may upset even my love for the movies (and I once sat through a full screening of “Casablanca” in a Washington, D.C., theater while some jerk sat smoking a few rows up. Theater management did not seem willing to take any action, so those in the rows behind him were forced to incorporate the smoke as a sensory addition to the scenes in Rick’s Café).
During a recent CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, the possibility of allowing cellphone and texting were discussed. As reported on Nikki Finke’s Deadline.com, “Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles says that her chain currently discourages cell phone use ‘but if we had a movie that appealed to a younger demographic, we could test some of these concepts.’ For example, she says the chain talked about being more flexible about cell phone use at some screens that showed ‘21 Jump Street.’ ‘You’re trying to figure out if there’s something you can offer in the theater that I would not find appealing but my 18-year-old son’ might.
“IMAX’s Greg Foster seemed to like the idea of relaxing the absolute ban on phone use in theaters. His 17-year-old son ‘constantly has his phone with him,’ he says. ‘We want them to pay $12 to $14 to come into an auditorium and watch a movie. But they’ve become accustomed to controlling their own existence. Banning cell phone use may make them feel a little handcuffed.’”
There are already people who set off little squares and rectangles of glowing lights by checking their phones during the movie. That’s tolerable in small amounts but a nuisance as a repeat offense. I am guilty of being over-attached to my phone, but since the president has never called me to ask for anything, I am confident he won’t call during the two hours it takes to see a movie. I can shut the phone off or leave it in the car for two hours without getting the shakes.
Deadline.com reported that at least one theater owner agrees with me. “Tim League is CEO of Alamo Drafthouse — a small chain that makes a point of throwing out customers who talk or text during a film. ‘Over my dead body will I introduce texting into the movie theater,’ he says. ‘I love the idea of playing around with a new concept. But that is the scourge of our industry. It’s our job to understand that this is a sacred space and we have to teach manners.’ He says it should be ‘magical’ to come to the cinema. But Miles shot back that ‘one person’s opinion of magical isn’t the other’s.’”
Perhaps Miles should find a field of work in which she can exercise her derision of other people’s opinion of magic, such as divorce lawyer or puppy kicker.
Rudeness is a big enough obstacle to keep some people away from the movies.
Encouraging rudeness by opening the floodgates for texting and using the phone is a quick way to sour an art form that should be about communal experience, not individual boorishness.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at mmiller@toledofree press.com.