“Turn water off.”

4DX falls squarely within — and furthers — this tradition. It jostles your seat, which is larger and more like something you might buy at Brookstone than your typical movie theater seat, and sends you bumping along as Vin Diesel and his Furious co-stars race through the streets of various global metropolises. When the camera tilts, the seats often tilt with it, and an early set of shots of the blue ocean waves is accompanied by a gentle rocking motion that made me a little sleepy.

Every so often, little puffs of air burst by your face to accentuate, say, gunfire or a big explosion. On your 4DX armrest, there’s an option to “turn water off,” but Fate of the Furiousis not an especially wet movie, so I did not get sprayed once. But other effects are also possible: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn has promised “snow and bubbles” for his film when screened in 4DX.

–Todd VanDerWerff, How can movie theaters compete with your living room? By building a better living room.

This sounds horrible. Why in the name of everything holy would I want to go to a cinema, of all places, and have to figure out how to “turn water off?” A bidet belongs in a bathroom, not movie theater. No doubt the “turn water off” option will be available exclusively on a smartphone app. I’d have to ask someone from the “smartphone section” to hack my seat for me. Ugh.

VanDerWerff gets it right at the end of his article: “There’s still something potent about sitting down, in the dark, with your loved ones, and forgetting everything but what’s onscreen. You don’t need your seat to move around for that.” When I go to Six Flags, I want a Six Flags experience. When I go to the cinema, I want a cinematic experience. Instead of asking themselves how to make going to the movies more than a moviegoing experience, theater owners should be asking themselves how to make it more of an moviegoing experience. 

Hand the kid a hacksaw

When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.

At the same time, though, we’re going to have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t disturb today’s audiences. There’s a reason there are ads up there saying turn off your phone, because today’s moviegoer doesn’t want somebody sitting next to them texting or having their phone on.

–Adam Aron, interviewed by Brent Lang

I will never—ever—go to a cinema if I think there’s even a remote chance of sharing a theater with the “cell phone section.” Why? Read the above quote with a minor modification:

When you tell a 22-year-old to put out their cigarette, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to put out their cigarette. That’s not how they live their life.

At the same time, though, we’re going to have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t disturb today’s audiences. There’s a reason there are ads up there saying put our your cigarette, because today’s moviegoer doesn’t want somebody sitting next to them coughing or blowing smoke in their face.

How in the world to your reconcile these mutually exclusive audiences? The point is not that it’s patently ridiculous that 22-year-olds live their lives permanently attached to smartphones. (Although it is patently ridiculous. If some 22-year-old thinks giving up his phone is like being asked to cut off his arm above the elbow, I say hand the kid a hacksaw.) The point is that I, as a consumer, as a citizen, value what Matthew Crawford calls the “attentional commons,” largely for the same reason that most Americans who enjoy breathing unpolluted air value the Clean Air Act.

I can’t even imagine what novel forms of attentional pollution cinema chains and telecom advertisers will devise when they know that they have a captive audience in an environment already primed for product placement and surrounded by personalized digital devices. Nor can I imagine the novel forms of rudeness to which my fellow creatures will descend once that barn door is cracked open. If the traditional film continues to exist–one that does not incorporate interactive, smartphone-dependent elements–and it continues to be exhibited in cinema chains, those chains are going to drive away any- and everyone who still goes to the movies for the movie-going experience.

I totally understand that entertainment media evolve all the time, and at some point there will be a sea change in the moviegoing experience. Until that time, though, people like Aron should understand that people like me go to the movies to watch movies, not to dink around on our phones and be distracted by the cancerous pests who do so. Have I made my position perfectly clear?

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