AMC put the kibosh overall concept of texting-friendly concert halls in a statement posted on the AMC Theatres Facebook page.
AMC Entertainment Adam Aron wrote within an open letter, "Unlike many AMC advancements which you have applauded, we’ve heard you loud and clear that is an idea our audience will not want. In this age of social media, we get feedback easily and therefore, we are constantly listening. Accordingly, just as instantaneously that is an idea we’ve relegated to the cutting room floor."
Original story, published April 14, 2016, follows.
Texting in concert halls: major nuisance or the continuing future of the film-going experience?
AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron recently floated a concept to Variety to bring more folks, especially those ever elusive millennials, into his theaters: allowing the utilization of smartphones during movies.
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"When you tell a 22 year old to carefully turn off the telephone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please take off your left arm above the elbow," Aron said. "You can’t tell a 22-year-old to carefully turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life."
He noted that move would need to be achieved without irritating other audience members, possibly taking some auditoriums and turning them into more "texting friendly" spaces. It appears like the digital exact carbon copy of a smoking section.
Tim League, the founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema disagrees with Aron’s sentiments. "We as exhibitors rely completely on these creators for our content and also have an unwritten obligation to provide their films in the perfect way: on a silver screen with big sound and a bright picture in a silent, dark room. You can only just be immersed in a tale if you are centered on it," said League in a statement. "If while you’re watching a film you are intermittently checking your email, posting on social media, communicating with friends, etc., there is absolutely no way you are fully engaged in the story on screen. I find that to be disrespectful to the creators, those that make the existence of cinema possible."
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And you do need to wonder if the 20-somethings Aron is looking to bring in to the fold will appreciate being painted with such a monolithic brush. Not to mention, teenagers aren’t the only ones who experience just a little separation anxiety when their phones are powered down.
But while this move may appeal to a particular group, it has the opportunity to alienate everybody else. There’s certainly too much to be gained in polarizing your intended audience, but is Aron’s approach the proper way to do this?
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Aron says that AMC’s goal is to "reshape our product in a few concrete ways in order that millennials go to concert halls with the same amount of intensity as seniors went to concert halls throughout their lives." But imagine if that isn’t the knowledge they need?
That is the question that’s cropped up around Screening Room, Napster founder Sean Parker’s idea for a streaming service that could allow users to get a set-top box for $150 and pay $50 to view first-run theatrical releases your day they get to theaters, with movie distributors getting $20 of this payment. Aron declined to touch upon it, but big name directors such as for example J.J. Abrams and Peter Jackson have voiced their support for the idea.
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Last month, AMC made a $1.1 billion deal to get Carmike Cinemas. If the merger undergoes as planned, it’ll make AMC’s parent company, Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd., the operator of the biggest movie theater chain in the usa. You can only just be the number-one theater chain in the united states if people arrive.
You want to hear from you: would a texting-friendly cinema appeal for you, or could it be a bad idea? Could it be a savvy business move? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter.