Tech entrepreneurs Hunter Walk and Anil Dash recently wrote essays about potential new models for moviegoing experiences. In short, they've argued that theaters should embrace second-screen experiences: Offering wifi so that you can update your Facebook status, choose the perfect Instagram filter, favorite a forgettable tweet, and interact with the movie itself like a digital age midnight showing.
This all caused quite a lot of outrage from purists, those who still enjoy being engaged with one story for two hours, even if it's simply about robots beating up monsters from the deep or the latest Marvel movie.
Walk has been quite open to debate the benefits and hindrances of the idea, while Dash stereotypes people who just really, really want to watch movies as Helvetica-loving, Moleskin-carrying conservatives. Even though it's all just an idea, they seem to forget that Hollywood has put big bucks revitalizing movie theaters across the country to support stereoscopic 3D, which isn't particularly conducive to second-screen experiences to begin with... I have enough trouble having a first-hand snack experience during 3D movies as it is. Granted, I'm really uncoordinated. Whatever.
But here's the truth: The Golden Age of TV is to blame for their viewpoints. And that's where you should go if you want this experience.
Implementing interactive digital experiences with second-screens has been talked about to death. Quite frankly, it isn't even a new thing. I used to do my homework (something I'd argue is second-screen) while "watching" wonderful garbage like Ricki Lake, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Jerry Springer back-to-back. The only difference is that now instead of homework, reading a newspaper, or flipping through a magazine with background noise, we now pay more attention to our flashlight-style phones than the movie theater-style entertainment space in our living rooms.
Still, TV is one of America's favorite pastimes. According to Nielsen, we watch a little over an average of 4 hours of TV per day. While watching, many of us are engaged with other devices. Take a look:
Considering the fact that a whopping 85% of people admit to using a second-screen device, the way networks and advertisers measure success is completely changing. From a simple hashtag on Twitter to a full-fledged apps that allow you to check in and chat with other fans, the ultimate goal is to create a new digital sense of community, which is also one of the Walk and Dash's main arguments for having connected movie theaters.
Say, for example, AMC released a location-based app that allowed users to log in and have access to interactive features about their movie, along with chats. Technically, you could create cooperative and public conversation - kind of like reciting lines at a midnight screening of Showgirls or Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The only problem is that no matter how hard networks, advertisers, Hunter Walk, and Anil Dash try - that's not how we watch TV and that's not how we'd participate at the movies. Sure, you might check an actors IMDB page while you're watching The Walking Dead, but for the most part we're involved in something completely unrelated to what we're watching, unless it's a spoiler-filled status update about how crazy Game of Thrones' "Red Wedding" was.
Quite frankly, I don't know anyone who actually participates in the plethora of TV-based apps that allow you to check in and chat during your favorite show. And I don't think that a communal experience could work like this in the theater. More than anything, this conversation is about the fusion of movie theaters and our homes, and many people feeling like they should have the right to bring their home to the movies.
But still, even in the Golden Age of TV where we use our phones on a regular basis and binge-watch shows to our heart's content, old, traditional movie etiquette still holds true: If something is beloved or anticipated like the latest episode of Breaking Bad, you don't destroy someone else's experience by disrupting it. Even if it's communal, you won't be invited back to the viewing party next week. The theater shouldn't be any different.