As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. So while some movie exhibitors have responded to annoying cell phone use in theaters by deploying theater ninjas or simply kicking out rude patrons altogether, Cinemark is taking a different tack with a bit of positive reinforcement.

The national theater chain has just unveiled a new iPhone and Android app called CineMode, which tracks whether a cell phone is used during a film. Smartphone owners who refrain from playing with their glowy screens are then rewarded with digital coupons. More details after the jump.

Deadline reports that CineMode launched today. Cinemark customers who’ve installed the app will get a flashing message shortly before their film starts, urging them to launch CineMode on their smartphones. Once started, the program reminds users to set their phones on vibrate and automatically dims the screen. After that, moviegoers just need to keep their devices in CineMode for the duration of the movie.

If they make it through the entire movie without fiddling on their phones, they’ll instantly get “rewards” in the form of digital coupons. It’s unclear exactly what types of goodies will be available, but a sample page on the Cinemark website suggests that they’ll include concession stand discounts or upgrades. Customers can earn rewards each time they watch a movie at Cinemark.

It’s certainly a novel approach to a ubiquitous issue. The question now is whether it’ll actually work, but it’s too early to tell at this point. Surely it can’t hurt, right? It may force moviegoers to think twice before turning on their devices, and well-behaved patrons can feel appreciated for their courteousness. As an added bonus for the theater, offering free or discounted concesssions could also help boost food and drink sales.

On the other hand, I’m not sure this’ll be enough to stop the truly compulsive texters. For those people, I say call in the ninjas. Preferably armed with real katanas.

Discuss: What do you think of Cinemark’s positive reinforcement method?

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