Please Don’t Put Your Phone Away During The Movie

Movie theaters in China experiment with showing audience texts onscreen.

Movie theaters may be one of the last remaining public spaces where cell phone use is frowned upon … until now. Some cinemas in China have been equipping their theaters with "bullet screens" that display text messages, allowing audience members to comment on the film in real time.

Why would anyone find this tolerable, let alone enjoyable? In China, at least, a majority of citizens watch films on mobile media devices, complete with comments from other people, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Bringing this experience to the big screen seemed like a logical next step.

The technology is currently being tested with select films in a small number of major metropolitan theaters. It costs each user around 10 cents per text.

"Right now everyone thinks this is pretty novel and pretty cool," a theater manager named Zhang told the China Youth Daily. "But in the long run this might have an impact on people’s attention spans during movies."

In an era of second screens, where Twitter drives ratings and TV shows promote hashtags on air, it’s easy to imagine this technology could be coming soon to a theater in the U.S.

[Image: Flickr user Brian Ambrozy]

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4 Comments

  • This is already in the US known as MuVChat.

    I created MuVChat back in 2009 which does pretty much the same thing as this article. MuVChat is intended for older flicks and not first run shows. Also the comments are also shown below the movie so it doesn't obscure anything on screen. Rather, it augments the viewing into an interactive experience.

    MuVChat is also branded Hecklevision at a number of theaters here in the US and it gets a great reception everywhere it happens. Do a search for the #hecklevision on Twitter.

    On average a MuVChat / Hecklevision audience member texts 30 times per movie. It doesn't cost an end user anything more beyond their texting plan so they're free to text to their heart's content. MuVChat also has its own iOS texting app that's used exclusively for a MuVChat event.

    Just like watching The Room multiple times or attending RPHS is not for everybody, MuVChat isn't for everybody, but it's a lot of fun and already a success here in the states.

  • I'd only be interested in watching a movie this way if I had already seen it. Watching old favorites could be cool seeing what other people think. My worry would be that with popular comedies, the texts on screen would be a lot of people just quoting the movie 45 seconds in advance.

  • Tiffany James

    I would use the technology to anonymously ask the loud talkers 2 rows back to shut up or shame the people with an infant screaming it's way through an R rated movie. I doubt I'm the only one!