“We need to reshape our product in some concrete ways so that millennials go to movie theaters with the same degree of intensity as baby boomers went to movie theaters throughout their lives,” Aron told Variety, because “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.” Heyyyyy, how’s that for a little condescension, millennials? You kids, with your ADHD and your hippity-hop music — all of you — just can’t function for two hours without your phones. Are you checking your email about one of those jobs we promised you if you went to college?
But Aron also knows the olds (who, as we all know, aren’t at all attached to their smartph – excuse me, gotta check my Twitter mentions real quick) might not like this either: “At the same time, though, we’re going to have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t disturb today’s audiences. There’s a reason there are ads up there saying turn off your phone, because today’s moviegoer doesn’t want somebody sitting next to them texting or having their phone on.” This is actually true, even if the phrasing here makes it sound like “today’s audiences” is code for “yesterday’s news.”
Aron hasn’t made any promises yet, or laid out any concrete solutions (though he’s hinted at such previously discussed options as texting sections or designated texting screenings, which would absolutely not be a clusterfuck, no way). But with the less-than-shocking exception of Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League, none of the other theater-chain muckety-mucks have stepped forward to object to this notion, because, again, they’re already informally practicing it.
But what’s most puzzling is how the chains seem to see no correlation between these two (reheated) controversies — how they seem incapable of grasping that lax attitudes about the moviegoing experience are why so many are eager to relocate that experience to an environment they control themselves. Those of us who like to focus our attention on something other than our depressing newsfeed and our relatives’ ignorant Facebook rants and our increasingly unstable “online personas” stopped going to the movies (the aforementioned, real-person version of going to the movies) years ago; this fight is long lost. Were I not lucky enough to write about movies (and thus afforded the luxury of media screenings), I sure as hell wouldn’t go to the multiplex – I’d wait out the three months until Blu-ray, and rent new indies on demand. What the filmmakers and theatrical exhibitors who are kicking and screaming about Screening Room (and credit where due, Aron is not one of them) don’t understand is, the moviegoers who’ll use that service haven’t been in their theaters for a long time. All they’re seeing in those auditoriums are our ghosts. It’s easy to understand; all those tiny lights in darkened rooms can cause your eyes to play tricks on you.