Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Theater-Texters

Did you see the Alamo Drafthouse's recent anti-texting PSA? If not, here it is:

Before you watch this, I want to preface it by saying I absolutely, DO NOT enjoy "treating my customers like pieces of ****" like this lady accuses the Alamo Drafthouse of doing. Dan and I are pretty nice people and have only ever kicked anyone out of our theater in extreme circumstances (major drunkness, extreme belligerent behavior). Plus, our customers, for the most part, are pretty awesome and really do stop talking/texting once they are asked.



I can't tell you how amused I was by this PSA. I wanted so badly to be able to post this all over the world, and to get permission from the Alamo to adapt it to play it in my theaters before every show.  But as it is, the video only made it to my personal facebook page and that's it.

So here I will interject a funny story about my how naive I was buying a theater.  I had been working as a public school teacher, a long-term sub in another state, and working toward my masters in education.  I realized I didn't like the politics involved in public education. So, I took a job as a bank teller, which I loved. But when my bank was bought by another bank, I realized how insecure bank jobs can be and how much I loathe the corporate attitude of big employers. So I bought a movie theater. I was thinking to myself: the movie theater is the place where happy people go.  I can be a good boss and create jobs for good people and serve happy customers who are coming into my business to have a good time and be HAPPY.

Well I learned quickly how silly that notion is.  No matter where people go, they will run into circumstances that make them unhappy. The most common circumstance at the theater that makes people unhappy is....other people. Our number one complaint is people texting in the theater.  I think theater-texters assume they are being discreet because they aren't actually talking.  They seem to be unaware of how annoying the glaring light of their phone screen is to people sitting around them.  Actually, I think they are aware. I think everyone, every single movie-goer, is annoyed by other theater-texters, they just think it's okay when they do it. I suppose if you never stop to look at the world from the perspective of other people, you just wouldn't  be aware of how annoying your own behavior is.

From a management standpoint, theater-texters can be hard to catch.  Often times the annoyed customers in the theater won't come out and say anything.  When I walk into the theater to check, as we do throughout the show, they stop immediately before I see them.  If an annoyed customer does come out to tell me "some guy in front of me is texting" and I go into a full house, how do I know who s/he is talking about?  In theater one we have a good vantage point because we can watch people from the balcony. We catch a lot of texters from there.

So I guess I should tie this post together with a morsel of wisdom, or hope. Things are changing at the Eltrym.  Once we install our digital equipment, the way we operate day-to-day changes drastically.  Our "projectionist" won't be projecting anything, the computer will be doing that, so we will end up with extra staffing downstairs.  I can't cut staff because each person on duty plays an important role each day (beside projecting the film).  So my plan is to utilize the extra manpower a bit better.  I'm hoping to have a person that kind of "plays the field" in the theaters and hallways during seating and as the film starts up.  They will be able to monitor people better and help to resolve conflicts between guests, help with seating issues, and catch those darn theater-texters (and the boisterous "theater-talkers") by warning them during the credits and keeping an eye on them throughout the show.

Sound good?  I think so.

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