The Feature Movie Is About To Begin; Keep Your Cell Phone On


How users consume and discover movies is changing. More and more, users are turning to social networks like Twitter and Facebook to determine what movie they want to see, share their opinions and connect with like-minded movie fans. The impact of social media on the movie going experience should not be understated.

When considering going to the movies, I turn to my social networks. Why wouldn’t I?

For me, they certainly play a role in knowing what movies are released, see how a film is trending and what friends and others are saying about the movie I am considering. And, it influences the decision I will make on which films to watch on the big screen.

Social media is changing how we discover, select, consume and experience movies, with 1 in 3 moviegoers deciding to see a film as a result of what they read on their social networks. Its impacts are also seen in how, when and where we share reviews and opinions about the movies we have seen. And, with recommendations and opinions shared with one’s social networks increasingly influencing movie decisions and ticket purchases, now more than ever, movie exhibitors need to pay attention.

Moviegoers want to provide their social networks with updates during the film and share a review immediately thereafter, and so why not allow them to?

According to a poll conducted by CrowdTap, 46% of moviegoers already post updates during the movie — instead of going out of one’s way to change this behavior, embrace it.

In addition to the growth of social network consumption, smartphone usage also continues to climb –- almost exceeding that of desktop — specifically with people using their smartphones for social networking and entertainment purposes. That said it becomes difficult to expect one to just simply turn off their devices and keep them hidden away for the duration of the film.

The movie going experience is a social experience. It would be a shame and seemingly contradictory to ask your patrons to put their mobile phones away while watching a film. Movie theatres should embrace social media and instead explore ways to create an environment that enriches their patrons’ movie going experience and encourages them to share what they are watching in real-time with their social networks.  Sharing this movie-going experience immediately is becoming more and more prevalent amongst (young) moviegoers.

For many, their moviegoing experience via mobile doesn’t stop once they arrive at the theatre. They check-in; announce what they are about to watch; and then, while watching, like to share memorable quotes (not everyone can recall them immediately after the film) and real-time bite-size reviews, all while checking what others are saying and who else is watching the film at hand.

Respecting the wishes of patrons who would consider tweeting while watching unacceptable movie etiquette and for the obsessive tweeters who ‘need’ to engage as part of their movie going experience -– here are a few options for movie exhibitors to consider.

  1. Separate sections, a la tweet seats.
    While these already exist, those that want to tweet have no choice on where to sit. Personally, if I am going to pay full price, I don’t want to be confined to some enclosed area near the back corner. I want a choice of where to sit.
  2. Instead of another VIP or IMAX theatre, why not have a Tweet / Social theatre.
    This would enrich the experience of moviegoers who want to engage with friends on social networks while watching a film.
  3. Encourage patrons to turn their devices on mute and dim the light.
    Rather than telling patrons to turn off their mobile device this encourages consideration for the other patrons in the same auditorium.
  4. Change on-screen ads to reflect the changing times.
    Ads like “put your mobile on vibrate if you choose to” will give patrons the choice to not unplug while watching a film.

And, don’t wait for your guests to arrive, become a part of their moviegoing experience as they are deciding what to watch.

  1. Allow to reserve / purchase tickets via Twitter.
    This is similar concept as the Amex. You can use a #hashtag (ideally the movie title) and then have the user expect a response from the exhibitor.
  2. Offer relevant tips, trivia for patrons who check in.
  3. Encourage users to talk about the movie and join existing conversation using a related #hashtag.
  4. Encourage talent, filmmakers to participate in the conversation on opening night on Twitter.

  5. They can respond to moviegoers who are watching or said they will watch …

For many -– and not just millennials –- watching movies is not necessarily a passive thing to do, it’s experiential. And, being able to access their social networks while watching a film can actually enhance their movie going experience. Why then would you (movie exhibitors) want to try to change this? Yes, it may not what was the accepted movie attendance etiquette, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace the changes that are happening, whether or not they are wanted. Accept it!

As well, the number of people who would post during a film could grow once the stigma of accessing your phone during the film no longer exists. Sure, you can still ask them to turn off the ringer, have the screen lighting dimmed and remind them of other considerations. Who knows, you might actually have your patrons enjoy a less disruptive experience with more people tweeting and less people leaning to the persons next to them and talking while the movie is still going on.

An auditorium where audience members are encouraged to use their smartphones to share and discuss the movie they are watching with social networks… I like the sounds of that! #mymoviegoingexperiencejustgotbetter

Di Gallo is the Director, Social Media Partnerships and Properties at Rogers and a contributor to the Social Media Week Global Editorial Team based in Canada. The opinions expressed here are her own. Follow her on twitter @digallo. Find out where else she exists on the world wide web at

Image by © Corbis

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