Not Surprisingly, Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League Also Against Separate Text-Friendly Screenings; Read His Open Letter
Posted on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 by Angie Han
As the debate about texting in theaters rages on, TheWrap‘s Chris Davison has proposed one possible compromise between the two sides: Designate screenings as either “texting” or “non-texting,” and deal with glowing screens accordingly. That way, movie theater purists can be assured an experience free of those disruptive lights, those who don’t mind them can Tweet / email / text to their hearts’ content, and industry folks can rake in the dollars from both types of viewers.
However, at least one guy in the business is adamantly against the suggestion, and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that it’s Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League. The Austin-based chain is renown among cinephiles for (among other things) its hard-line stance against talkers and texters, and League’s now put out a letter expressing how “horrified” he is by the idea of introducing text-friendly showings. Read about his stance after the jump.
Davison’s article, which you can read here, ends with the mild-sounding argument that “to simply designate screenings as texting or non-texting will cost little to no money — so why not do it?” League took it upon himself to answer Davison’s question on the Drafthouse.com blog. You should head there to read his post in full, but his counterpoint boils down to three main points:
1) Texting is rude to the film creators. It is a slap in the face to every single creative professional who poured their lives into creating the film.
2) The notion that all teenagers and twenty-somethings can’t sit two hours without texting is condescending. [...] Real movie fans can, and actively want to, shut off their devices for two hours to watch a movie regardless of how old they are. If we as an industry cater to the notion that texting and talking during a movie is condoned if not encouraged, then we disgust our true patrons, the real movie fans.
3) Texting is rude to everyone around you. Even if, as Chris Davison proposes, we designate theaters as “texting friendly,” there will be people in the movie who are real movie fans who want to just watch the show without distraction.
In conclusion, he writes, “The only answer to this debate is taking a hard line. [...] To me, the leniency towards talking and texting is a greater threat to our industry.”
Texting may be the single most annoying thing a patron can do in a theater. Talkers and seat-kickers at least limit their obnoxiousness to the people immediately surrounding them; a single glowing screen can disrupt an entire room. But is League’s exhortation for a “hard line” stance against texting really the best way to deal with the problem?
Theoretically, League is clearly in the right — but on a practical level, things get a little more murky. It would be wonderful if every cinema were as devoted as the Alamo Drafthouse to rooting out rude patrons, but it’s tough to imagine the folks at, say, AMC or Regal risking revenue by turning away texters and tweeters. Especially when the accepted thinking is that it’s the coveted younger demographic that’s doing those things. In that light, putting those people in a separate room maybe the lesser of two evils.
On the other other hand, introducing text-friendly showtimes normalizes this abominable behavior, which means it may not be long before texting becomes acceptable at all screenings. So while separating screening into”texting” and “non-texting” may help movie lovers like us in the short run, it could make the overall experience less pleasant in the long run. It’s a risk that makes me nervous, but one I suspect many theater owners will prove willing to take.
Discuss: Is Davison’s suggestion a reasonable compromise, or the beginning of the end?