Pop Cultured: AmStar is serious about new cell phone policy
by Bobby Bozeman
rbozeman@annistonstar.com
Sep 02, 2011 | 7612 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you are a big moviegoer or YouTube crawler, chances are you are one of just under 2.5 million people who have seen The Alamo Drafthouse cinema’s viral video of the voicemail they received from a customer complaining about getting kicked out of the theater for using their phone.

Warning: The caller isn’t very happy and uses a lot of foul language, but if you haven’t seen it, go to YouTube now, watch it (you can find a link at www.BamaEscapes.com) and come back.

Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to call texting an epidemic or anything; that certainly isn’t the case. However, like talking, it only takes one person to distract a large portion of a movie audience. Talking, though, has always been an issue for movie theaters as long as they have been around; texting is a relatively new problem spurred on by the rise in use of smartphones in the last few years. With a smartphone especially, the screens are very bright and can be a huge distraction.

You may have noticed that even our local AmStar 12 in Oxford has recently adopted a zero-tolerance policy with cell phones, having stewards come in and give an announcement to the crowd about the policy, going beyond the typical onscreen announcement.

“As a consumer, it makes my blood boil,” said Eric Kullander, the regional director who oversees the AmStar 12 in Oxford. “’Cause everyone’s attention goes right to the light. It’s a complete distraction to everyone and we said, ‘you know, we’ve got to take control of this.’”

As this is such a new problem, theaters really have to go on the offense to set the standard for proper manners when dealing with this issue. Idly checking Facebook, Twitter or just the time is rude. In fact, it’s very rude. I have more understanding toward parents who have left their children with sitters or doctors and such, but if you think you might be getting a call, you can always put it on vibrate and step outside or sit in the back so people behind you don’t have a smartphone screen flashing a few feet in front of them.

Kullander said the managers aren’t out to get customers; they’re just trying to create a good atmosphere for everyone.

“We’re just trying to inform all our guests that we recognize that PDAs are here and they are a part of people’s life,” he said. “We want them to recognize that people are here to see a movie and [the phones] are a distraction.”

And atmosphere is a huge deal, because at the end of the day, that’s what movie theaters sell. They sell the experience of watching a movie with the comfortable seats and the cool air and the huge screen. Other theaters even sell more specialty items, such as meals and alcoholic drinks, like The Alamo Drafthouse, the Capri in Montgomery or the Bama Theater in Tuscaloosa, which has a weekly art house showing.

And they also sell the darkness and the silence that comes with the theaters.

Parents should understand the need to get away to a place that quiet, dark and cool after being with their kids all the time.

Kullander says the zero-tolerance policy has accomplished its purpose so far.

“I’d grade it as a huge success,” said Kullander. “You can be sure that we are enforcing it to everyone. We’ve seen a number in the reduction of people asked to leave. This is one of our top priorities, taking back the auditoriums.”

Bobby Bozeman is The Star’s entertainment columnist. Contact him at rbozeman@annistonstar.com or follow him on Twitter @Bozeman_Star.
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Pop Cultured: AmStar is serious about new cell phone policy by Bobby Bozeman
rbozeman@annistonstar.com

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