Clash Of The Screens: Should Movie Theaters Allow Texting? AMC Says Maybe

Apr 14, 2016
Originally published on April 15, 2016 5:00 pm

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday with a response from AMC.

Texting at the movies is usually annoying and usually banned. But the CEO of the giant movie theater chain AMC says maybe it's time to rethink that.

AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron floated a trial balloon in an interview with Variety at CinemaCon, a film industry trade convention, saying the chain has considered adding showings where using your cellphone will be allowed.

The reason?

"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," Aron told Variety. "You can't tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That's not how they live their life."

Predictably, this caused quite a bit of outrage on social media, including on AMC's Facebook page. A few hours after Variety posted that interview online, Aron had evidently received enough blowback that he took to Twitter to assure everyone that the company knew the idea wouldn't appeal to most moviegoers:

On Friday, AMC moved to completely quash the outcry, saying that texting won't be the new thing at its movie theaters any time soon: "This is an idea that we have relegated to the cutting room floor."

Should texting somehow be allowed at some movie screenings? Can it be relegated to the back rows? Do 22-year-olds really want to keep texting at the movies?

NPR's pop culture blogger Linda Holmes and movie critic Bob Mondello weighed in. Bob adopted the curmudgeon role; Linda talked him down from the ledge. Give them a listen and tell us what you think in the comments below or on Twitter.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Texting at the movies - usually annoying and usually prohibited. Now the CEO of the giant movie theater chain AMC says maybe it's time to rethink that ban. Adam Aron tells Variety that the chain has considered making some showings texting friendly. The reason, quote, "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.

Predictably, there is some outrage about this and NPR's pop-culture blogger Linda Holmes and movie critic Bob Mondello have been going back and forth about it. Let's listen in.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: OK. I think I'm supposed to be the grump here and be upset about all of this. And I guess I'm feeling that. I don't really like the idea of people glowing in the darkened movie theater. It annoys me, the notion that you're afraid of what is a digital darkness for two hours, and you can't deal with that.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Right. Bob, I think you and I both agree on a couple things. One of which is we live in a society, and texting in movie theaters is bad, right? I don't think that's necessarily the disagreement. And I also would say the effort to blame this on 22 year olds that's in this quote is absolutely ridiculous.

MONDELLO: Yeah.

HOLMES: I have been to the movies, and I will tell you right now - and maybe you will agree with me - the rudest movie screenings I have ever been in have been with other movie critics...

MONDELLO: (Laughter) That's true.

HOLMES: ...Who are not typically 22-years-old. There are epidemics of all sorts of things at movies. There is shuffling. There is untoward mouth breathing. There is inappropriate chewing. Blaming this on 22-year-old millennials who can't put their phones down is ridiculous. But the argument I can see for it is if people are going to do it anyway, I would rather there be like rude person movie screenings for people who don't mind being distracted. Go be distracted...

MONDELLO: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...There together.

MONDELLO: And that is what Adam Aron is suggesting. He's the CEO of AMC. They might consider doing this in special screenings or conceivably in special rows within screenings maybe at the back where it wouldn't bother people. He's made it clear - and in the last 12 hours he's had to make it clear after saying this - they have no intention of disrupting the experience for other people.

The thing that I can't figure out is who is this really going to attract? Do people actually make a decision to go to something on the basis that they could text at it?

HOLMES: Oh, I think some people would. I think some people enjoy being able to have their phone on just the way that they enjoy having it on when they're watching TV at home - again, not you or I or many other people. But, to me, if you give those people a place to do that then maybe they won't do it in front of me. If I believe that they could really do this and be strict about it, I'd be in favor of it. That's what they do at the Alamo Drafthouse, which is a smaller chain. They enforce a strict policy against texting and talking, and it's wonderful.

MONDELLO: And people applaud...

HOLMES: Exactly. But AMC and other chains that are bigger, that have bigger volume business may not be able to do that. And it may not work as well for them.

MONDELLO: In fairness, they have a problem to deal with which is that people under 25 are apparently going less frequently to movies these days. And they have to combat that. Now, I'm not convinced that that's because they're not being allowed to text at movies.

HOLMES: Right.

MONDELLO: I think it's more likely to be something like they can see the movie on streaming elsewhere.

HOLMES: Right. And part of the way to combat that may be make the experience more pleasurable for them, which may involve getting people who are texting and being rude out of their way as well.

MONDELLO: I like that.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR movie critic Bob Mondello and pop-culture blogger Linda Holmes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.