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(Update: No they won't) Cinemas may soon welcome smartphones in the audience

AMC's new CEO has backtracked on a plan to relax the cinema chain's attitude towards smartphone use in movie theaters.

Published onApril 15, 2016

Well that didn't take long. It only took two days of rabid social media attention regarding AMC's contentious plan to allow texting in movie theaters for the company's CEO to backtrack on the proposal. As laid out on AMC's Facebook page: "with your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC Theaters. Not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future." Score one for the suspension of disbelief.

When it comes to movie-going, there are really only two camps: those that want to be able to use their smartphones in the theater and those that would like to kill those that do so. Regardless of which side you fall on, the entertainment industry is well aware that its stance on banning smartphones in cinemas may be costing it money.

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This is why freshly-minted AMC CEO Adam Aron is contemplating relaxing the cinema chain’s attitude towards smartphone use in its theaters. As Aron recently told Variety, “you can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.”

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With a new plan underway to merge AMC with Carmike, the cinema chain will become the largest movie theater operator in the world. But more physical locations aren’t the only type of growth Aron is interested in, stating AMC needs 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.”

AMC is consdering providing specific auditoriums that allow smartphone usage while the movie is playing.

The phone-junkie enticement he’s considering? Providing specific auditoriums that allow smartphone usage while the movie is playing. Whether this is limited to texting and social media or phone calls as well, we’ll have to wait and see. Suggestions in a similar vein from other cinema chains a few years ago were vigorously decried so the move is far from certain, but if it does go ahead it’s sure to spark a conflagration.


By segregating millennials tweeting their reactions to critical scenes in a movie, Aron is clearly trying to have his cake and eat it too. The existing cinema demographic largely likes their theaters dark, quiet and respectful. But there’s no denying that times are changing and traditional businesses like cinemas need to change with the times or face a similar fate as drive-ins.

It’s ultimately all about how you approach the suspension of disbelief. Do you go to the movies to be swept away and caught up in alternate reality? Or is going to the theater a mild distraction equivalent to any other distraction, like your smartphone?

Do you use your phone in the theater? Do you care if others do?