Reporting Luis Prada
There you are, in a theater, emotionally and intellectually engaged in a movie, when some a*****e decides to whip out his cell phone, the screen’s light ramming through the darkness and into your eyes, and decides now is the best time to hold a conversation. You want to snatch the phone from his hands and jam it through his ear so his brain can soak in all of the phone’s information without disturbing your theater experience, but doing that would cause a bit of a ruckus and that’s the opposite of what you want.
Movie theaters are loaded with rude, selfish people. Luckily, there are some out there trying to make the theater a sacred place once again, for better or worse. It’s for the better because who wouldn’t want movie theaters to be a place of solace and silence, save for the sounds and sights of the film. It’s for the worse because all of the tactics being used to police movie theaters are pretty extreme in one way or another, or are condescending insults.
The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, is one of the most beloved movie theaters in the U.S., and it’s not just because they serve booze and real food. From the moment the Drafthouse opened its doors in 1997, they’ve had a strict theater conduct policy, which can be summed up with the words “Just don’t be an a*****e”. Tim League, one of the theater’s founders, has even been threatened with violence a time or two by theater disrupters he’s kicked out. This man will die before he lets you send out a scene-by-scene emoticon review of the movie to your Twitter followers.
In 2011, he twice warned a woman to stop texting during a film. She did it again and, as theater policy dictates, he kicked her out with no refund. And that’s when the fun started.
The former patron called the theater’s office and left an angry, slurry voicemail. Tim was so amused by the message that he turned it into a “Don’t Talk or Text” PSA, which ran before all showings of rated-R movies.
Watch for yourself.
It’s so harsh, but oh so satisfying. For Tim League, putting this PSA in front of movies must have been like being an army drill sergeant making an unruly recruit do pushups until he vomits in front of his fellow recruits. After it, he knew no one would step out of line, lest they’d get puke on their face.
League’s tactic is more of a preemptive strike against douchebags who view packed theater houses as an extension of their living rooms. But there’s still the matter of dealing with people who disturb the movie as it’s running, waving their disrespect in everyone’s face even after being warned. For these people, the only solution is to hire an elite band of stealthy silence warriors who become one with the darkness and strike down all those who wish to speak over key plot points. Thus, the movie theater ninja was born.
Gregor Lawson is one of the co-founders of a company whose sole product you saw being worn by at least a half-dozen unimaginative fools this past Halloween – Morphsuits, those spandex full-body suits that most Americans would recognize as Charlie’s “Green Man” costume from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. After finding the suggestion posted by a fan on Facebook, Lawson asked the Prince Charles Cinema in London fs they would want to take part in an experiment to silence theater texters and talkers using his Morphsuits. They gathered together a group of film fans and had them wear black Morphsuits and hide in theaters to catch talkers, texters, and people just generally acting like dicks, in exchange for free admission.
So there you’d be, enjoying a film while on your phone, trying to negotiate a fair price with the guy who does your shower grouting, when the inky blackness starts moving in your direction and tells you to shut the f**k up. It’s like a carnivorous nightmare monster who just wants you to be courteous to others.
Did it work? Yup. Slashfilm.com interviewed a guy who was told to put away his cellphone by movie theater shadow monsters. “It was actually pretty terrifying at first, but then I realised it was a bit of a laugh and a great way to make it clear what I was doing was having an impact on those around me. It certainly made me hang up and shut up for the rest of the film.”
So far we’ve seen two methods of silencing movie theater a-holes that are all about negative reinforcement and embarrassment. Cinemark, one of the largest movie theater chains in the world, is going the other way with a tactic that sounds nicer, but in the way that a polite murderer says sorry after slicing your throat. Instead of shaming you into politeness, they want to reward you for being courteous to moviegoers around you for the entire length of the movie.
They’re doing it through a smartphone app called CineMode. Just before a movie begins, a friendly reminder will pop up on the phones of theater goers who have the app, telling them to set their phones to vibrate. The app then automatically dims the screen. If they can keep their phones in CineMode for the whole movie, they’re rewarded with coupons for concessions and other rewards.
Basically, we’re all such an unruly pack of compulsive communicators that we need to either be yelled at or be swayed by the alluring promise of a treat in order to not be a******s to each other. You know, like dogs. It’s a sad reality of the modern age. But what about the future? You know, the one where we’re all enslaved by the government and/or evil corporations? How will the nightmareish future handle movie talkers and texters?
Why, by shutting down your cellphone from you the moment you walk into a movie theater.
This past August, Apple was rewarded a patent for a technology which can be added onto wireless devices which forcibly disables your future iPhone 6, 7, 8, or whatever, shutting down the screen and turning off the sound — and all because you walked into a place where that’s allowed to happen. Like a movie theater, for instance.
The technology won’t automatically shut down your phone. When you walk into a place, your phone will contact that place’s network and you can chose whether or not to abide by the rules of that network, which the owners of the venue have set up. They can be nice and only shutdown the sound, or they can go full-Big Brother and shut down everything that can cause a distraction.
The tech is still in the patent phase, so it might not be present in the next iPhone, which at this rate will probably be released in, like, 3 minutes. With the iPhone, Apple created something incredible. And now they’re trying to find ways to stop it from working. Wasn’t that the plot of Frankenstein?