The question of how to address texting in movie theaters is an unavoidable one. No amount of gravel-voiced rants about “common courtesy” will convince our nation’s tech-obsessed to put the things away when the curtain rises, not in a society that’s essentially made smartphones an integral part of our day-to-day. AMC Entertainment head Adam Aron said as much last summer: “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. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.” That led Aron to consider “text-friendly” theaters, though he back-pedaled on the idea shortly after.
Well, because smartphones are our new Alpha and Omega, Apple is rumored to be including a “Theatre Mode” in their next iOS update. A popcorn-shaped icon, the feature is said to block all incoming calls and notifications, as well as dim the screen to such a degree that it, presumably, won’t bother those around you. This way, you can discreetly text out Manchester By the Sea spoilers.
Apple has apparently had a patent on this feature since 2012. “While the user is in the movie theater, the mobile device deactivates its cellular communications interface and/or automatically sets the device to a silent mode,” Apple says. “When the user leaves the movie theater, the portable device enables phone communications and/or restores the ringer setting to the setting utilized prior to the device’s deactivation.”
The truth is this: unless the screen is completely black, it’s still going to stand out in a dark theater. So will the person pecking away at their screen. Also, as The Playlist points out, not everyone will have “Theatre Mode,” and the sight of others texting will no doubt cause them to think it’s also fine for them to text on their bright, beaming displays.
But this is a burgeoning problem in our digital age, and it’s a good thing that Apple is at least attempting to address it. Unfortunately, the only solution, it seems, is to separate the texters from the watchers, whether that be by section or by theater.