In a recent interview with Variety, AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron said that the movie theater chain was making a move to appeal to millennials. Part of that would be allowing people to text during movies in the theater.
“When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow,” Aron said to Variety. “You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s now how they live their life.”
This doesn’t just apply to millennials, but other generations as well. Almost 200 million people in the U.S. own a smartphone. That’s a market penetration of over 79%. Every company should do whatever they can to accommodate their audience. In this case, AMC thought that an effective outreach method would be to let people freely use their phones. Unfortunately, it alienates just about everyone else.
This isn’t the first time a theater chain has flirted with the idea of being lax with the rules when it comes to cell phone use. In 2012, Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles stated that while their chain discouraged the use of cell phones in theaters, they would consider it if certain movies appealed to a younger demographic. While this would seem like a good idea, it’s likely to alienate just about everybody else.
While text messaging is the most prominent thing people use their phones for, it’s a slippery slope. Much like if you give a mouse a cookie, it will quite likely ask for a glass of milk. If theaters allow their patrons to text, they’ll likely want to use other apps. While those cats in Neko Atsume may be adorable, I don’t want to see them shining in my face when I try to see Captain America: Civil War in a darkened theater.
It seems a lot of people feel this way as well. When the news broke, people strongly opposed the idea on social media. In response, AMC made a statement on Friday pledging that AMC theaters won’t permit texting — “Not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future.”
IVR Tech Group does have a program called nResponse that can help theaters appeal to their patrons in a way that won’t disturb others. Texting in movie theaters can be OK, but there is a time and place for it.
The time would, of course, be not during the movie.
Theaters could provide patrons a short code before they enter, perhaps written on their ticket or display outside an individual theater within the venue. This message could be programmed to be sent at the conclusion of the movie’s running time. The message itself could help theater goes learn about special offers, upcoming events, or even allow people to pay for a movie in advance. A similar text marketing campaign worked in the UK and had a 680% ROI.
We understand the need to stay connected, and how impactful a text message could potentially be. However, this shouldn’t be at the expense of other people’s enjoyment or things in life that you can miss out on. When it comes to certain situations it’s best to put down the smartphone, or something like that.