If you've ever sat in a theatre and been bothered by excessively noisy or badly-behaved patron(s), and that's almost all of us, wouldn't it be great to be able to send an SMS message direct to the cinema manager?
That inspired initiative was launched last week by Pathé Cinemas in the Netherlands, initially at two cinemas. There, patrons are encouraged to complain via SMS, identifying the cinema number and the row where the troublemakers are sitting.
Pathé's website rather mangles the wording in its English translation but the intention is clear: “We come directly to you to help you or people who disturb the lot from the floor to remove. This allows you and other visitors undisturbed enjoyment of the film.”
I'd love to see the major Australian chains offer such a service. So would Mike Selwyn, managing director of Paramount Pictures Australia/New Zealand, who told me, “This seems like a good system. It would allow people to complain without having to confront the other party, which can be a bit daunting.”
Mike Baard, M.D. of Universal Pictures International Australasia, disagrees, arguing, “The use of mobile phones can be extremely disruptive to the experience of the audience with handsets lighting up in a dark space. Issues of unruly patrons should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”
I'd like to be able to report the scheme has sparked the interest of the Oz chains, but their initial responses aren't encouraging. Hoyts' Anthony Thiessen says the company isn't planning to introduce the service in the immediate future, noting, “We have regular ushers' visits throughout each session to monitor unruly patrons. We try to ensure consumers are not using their mobile phones throughout the movie, so this may encourage them to do so.”
Greater Union hasn't discussed the idea, and GU's Peter Cody says: “I'm not sure about that one. Our focus on mobile technology is selling tickets through as many avenues as possible, and that will be a big focus for us.”
We're more likely to see our digital cinemas being used in other interactive ways, such as hosting a live Q&A session between a film's cast in one location and audiences in other theatres. That initiative is being pioneered in the US on June 19, when people who attend the first screening of independent film The Narrows in 17 cities will be able to quiz cast members Kevin Zegers, Vincent D'Onofrio and Sophia Bush, who'll be in a New York studio. The plot revolves around a young guy from Brooklyn (Zegers) who takes a job with the local Mob boss to pay for college, and is forced to choose between his old neighbourhood and the new life he wants to lead.
GU used digital technology to beam the red carpet premiere of Mamma Mia! from Hoyts Melbourne Central to its cinemas in George Street, Sydney, the Brisbane Regent, Perth's Innaloo, and Adelaide's Marion "live" on the same night.
Hoyts recently hosted the Australian Youth Forum, a government initiative by the Minister of Youth, in which 10 cinemas around Australia conducted a forum live via satellite. And on Mothers Day, Hoyts staged a “live from the red carpet” event at Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, where André Rieu introduced his Australian concert DVD live into cinemas, and consumers texted questions to him from the cinemas.