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If you aren’t sick of Twitter and the nation’s incessant obsession with text messaging yet, then prepare to be. It’s about to ruin movies. It’s bad enough when the asshole next to you whips open his phone and starts texting during the movie, but at least you could in theory get him thrown out. Except for in one movie theater, where they’re encouraging it. Not just encouraging it, but making it part of what’s happening on screen.
The Chicago Tribune reports that a movie theater in St. Charles is using something called MuVChat, a feature which allows audience members to text in their comments during the movie, and then have them appear on screen while it plays.
They excuse this horrible idea by calling it Mystery Science Theater 3000 meets Twitter. Everybody likes MST3K right? So that should make this ok… right? No. MST3K is great because it’s heckled by professionals, not pre-pubescent 15-year-olds who have only recently learned to type “pwnd”. More importantly, the MST3K guys are actually watching the movie while they’re heckling, they’re not staring down at their cell phones and typing frantically, shining light in the eyes of their neighbor and distracting them even further from what’s going on in the film, assuming they’ve been able to pay attention up till then, what with “Pwn! Pwn! Pwn!” scrolling across the screen over and over and over again.
This is hardly innovative. It’s been done. For instance the G4 channel tried a feature in which they ran old Star Trek episodes with a live chat room on screen underneath them, where viewers could make comments while the episode ran. It was the worst thing to happen to Star Trek since Worf’s wart became a running gag in Star Trek: Insurrection. No one watched and the only people interested in the comments were the ones typing them.
“If everybody is doing it, it's fun!” says theater manager Randy Pollock. I think that’s the same defense used by Kate Winslet in The Reader, when asked why she killed all those Jews. Pollock doesn’t see a problem, insisting they only use the feature on older movies like Army of Darkness and Office Space. “You can't do 'em any harm,” he says. Sam Raimi and Mike Judge, might disagree.
It’s hard enough as it is to get people to behave in a crowded theater without assholes like Randy Pollock going out of their way to tell them it’s ok to be narcissistic jerkwads. These people aren’t there to watch the movie. They’re there to make themselves the center of attention. Admits one patron who attended a showing of Zoolander, “Mostly, we're watching for the comments. You can't talk out loud, but it's cool if you're able to use your phone.” It’s that exact mentality which makes going to the movies on a Friday night such a living hell, and now we’re feeding it. I’d rather you talked out loud, honestly. At least then your words aren’t floating on Maury Ballstein’s head. Jerry Stiller doesn’t deserve that.
Lest you think this is just an isolated incident, a limited-use gimmick which will only ever be tacked on to special showings of old movies, enjoy this parting quote from Pollock: “If it makes money, I'm sure Hollywood would do it with their new releases.”