The Guthrie Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, has a special hook for its new show The Servant of Two Masters:
“… beginning December 27, the theater will offer its first-ever ‘Tweet Seats’ during four consecutive Thursday performances of The Servant of Two Masters, allowing social media users an opportunity to interact during the show. A limited number of seats located in a balcony level of the McGuire Proscenium in a section that will not be disruptive to other patrons will be designated as Tweet Seats.”
Like the Guthrie Theater, the entertainment industry as a whole is feeling the demand of people young and old to integrate cell phone use seamlessly into the public viewing experience. As a staple of everyday communication, smart phones, tablets, and other mobile electronic devices have evolved into another facet of “watching” — not only do you soak in the TV show or the play or the movie or the concert, but you instantly share reactions with friends. The culture of instant broadcasting has turned “live-tweet” into an social event (people from around the globe can gather to watch and chat about Lord of the Rings all from the comfort of their homes). Even movie studios have catered to the concept, creating “Second Screen” applications that provide pop-up informational windows as you watch.
At this year’s CinemaCon, a conference for movie theater owners and exhibitionists, voices from both the studios and the theaters rallied behind the idea of bringing “cell phone safe” theater sections to multiplexes. For some, it sounded like a brilliant way to keep hold of the younger crowds who only know life with the iPhone. Others were none too pleased.
Tim League, owner of the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain, wrote this on the site’s blog following a rowdy CinemaCon panel on cell phone use:
“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. When I am carrying on a mere casual conversation and someone whips out a phone to text while I am talking to them, I am offended. Imagine amplifying that to texting during a film, which can take teams of thousands of people years to make.
“The notion that all teenagers and twenty-somethings can’t sit two hours without texting is condescending. In reading the feedback after my debate regarding in-theater texting at CinemaCon, my favorite comments were those from the alleged ‘texting generation’ who were offended by the idea that they were being lumped in with the masses.”
Despite League’s insistence that tweeting, texting, and cell phone use on a whole during a movie would kill the experience, there’s an obvious opposition — as The Guthrie Theater proves — to the feeling.
What do you think? Can those who need to jump on their cell phones during a show be catered to without distraction? Or is the theatrical experience putting another nail in its coffin with this endeavor? Take our poll and leave more thoughts in the comments.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches