Ever Wished You Could Push A Button To Remove A Disruptive Movie Watcher?

from the now-you-can dept

We've had numerous stories in the past about how the real threat to movie theaters isn't that people might download movies online, but that the theater-going experience sucks. It's just not that enjoyable, and one of the biggest culprits are people who leave their mobile phones on and take calls in the theater. You would think that people would know better by now, but they don't. That's caused movie theaters to look into setting up mobile phone jammers in theaters, a move that many moviegoers approve of. Of course, the problem with that plan is that it's illegal, and probably a bit of overkill. Numerous people have pointed out that if theaters just did a better job kicking out the troublemakers, things wouldn't be so bad. However, unlike many years ago, most theaters don't have ushers stationed nearby any more. However, Regal Entertainment Group, owners of the largest US movie chain is calling technology to the rescue. They'll be giving out little devices to "mature" audience members, along with a free bucket of popcorn. If there's a problem in the theater, whoever has the device can click a button and immediately alert theater employees to come and help deal with the situation. The pager device apparently has 4 separate buttons. The first is for disruptions in the audience, including mobile phone-related issues. The others are for a faulty projector, temperature problems or the generic "other" button. It's a fascinating experiment, and one that makes a lot of sense. If it's become too expensive to employ full-time people to usher each theater, why not let members of the audience be the eyes and ears for you in exchange for a free bucket of popcorn? Right now, the company is testing these devices in 25 theaters, but hopes to expand it nationwide soon. Update: Carlo points out in the comments that the version he saw in a television broadcast had that last button labeled "piracy" rather than "other." Wonder if they've changed it, or just decided not to let this reporter know about it.


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  1.  
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    Carlo, Nov 29th, 2006 @ 11:38pm

    help the MPAA

    I saw a story on the TV news about that last week... only the bottom button wasn't labeled "other", it was labeled "piracy".

     

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    SearcH EngineS Web, Nov 29th, 2006 @ 11:51pm

    Better than nothing at all

    ////"We had gotten to the point ... where we have had people getting into physical battles in theaters. One customer will say to another 'Shut off your cellphone' or 'Shut up' ... We've had people assaulted with bats, knives, guns."

    A second button gives notice of faulty movie projection, a third button can be pressed if the room temperature is off and a fourth button, marked "Other" covers any other problem.


    This of course, is better than nothing. However, two potential concerns exist. What makes anyone think that the ushers would get anymore respect than any audience member? It may actually get to the point or calling in the police during a heated confrontation. Maybe, instead of Ushers, 'Bouncers' would be more appropriate.

    Secondly, the ushers are just as capable of sensing room temperature extremes as any audience member. The perception of heat or cold also depends on individual body weight, amount of attire and seating area-location in the theatre.

    Does 'MATURE' mean middle aged or elderly?

     

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    SimplyGimp, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 12:18am

    The Whole Reason...

    The whole reason I stopped watching movies in theaters was because of the audience and their tendency to spaz out whenever something they think is cool happens. It's beyond annoying when I can't sit to watch a movie and just the movie, not be disrupted by the kids who can't stop making remarks about every scene, or the group of "thugs" who are obviously more stoned than they can handle, being just as disruptive.

    Certainly, if this was instituted, I don't feel a lot of people would be removed from theaters, I think people would actually learn out of fear of being lead out of the theater in front of everyone who knows what they did wrong. It's a shame that we have to babysit the public to make sure people are 'doing right', but I guess that's what our society comes to when everyone wants a chance to say something.

     

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    Tashi, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 12:55am

    my idea

    There should be a U.S. Marshall in the threatre at all times.


    Seriously though.....

    Sometimes though on a rare occasion a rowdy crowd is fun. I saw Borat at a late showing and it was full of teenagers whose reponses made the experience kind of fun. The really funny thing was the satire went totally over their heads and they laughed only at the raunchy or gutter humor elements.

    I avoid this problem (though not totally) by attending the earliest matinees possible. There are less people, there's less problems. Typically the only people at matinees these days are older people. And sometimes I wait a week to thin out those opening crowds. Unfortunately this leaves out the prime time for viewing which does kind of suck, if you want to do the dinner and a movie thing, or just attend a late show.

    I think a private movie theatre company would work. Charge for a yearly membership. Get an ID card. Make the ID card mandatory for entry. With enough marketing dollars thrown at it I think it would work. I'd glady pay an annual fee (with perks thrown in... like discount tickets, etc) to access to a threatre where my movie going experience is guaranteed a pleasant one with others who feel like I do. Or... hold private viewings away from the non-membership public. Again I'd pay for that exclusivity.

     

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    John Doe Smith, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 2:29am

    moive thugs

    Well if you all weren't a bunch of pu**ies y'all stick together and kick those losers out your selves. Didn't your daddy teach you all to fight ? stick up for your self ? defend a ladies "honor" ?

    I mean really. You think pushing a button to have snot nose teeener come to your rescue is really going to work ? Pathetic ! you deserve to suffer.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 3:53am

    How about the people who text message during a movie? I don't know if they realize, but in a dark theater, that little phone has the whole place lit up behind them - I frequently use my Blackberry as a flashlight. I just love the people who want to sit in front of me and text the whole movie.

    Or the people behind me kicking me.

    Or the people who have to comment at every scene, or talk about something else, or laugh at every stuipid thing. I recently asked some people in front of me to "please stop talking" and THEY were actually offended! They got up and moved and talked loudly about how rude I was!!!

    I love going to movies. I hate everyone else at the movie theater. The best, is when the place is empty.

    Every time I take my wife to a movie, dropping about $30, it's an encouragement to get a home theater. We could just stop watching movies for about 3 months and then buy the movie when it comes out on DVD and watch it in comfort, peace and quiet, and without paying $10 for some sugar water and a handful of corn.

    Death to Movie Theaters! Long Live Home Theaters!

     

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    dude, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 4:45am

    Blocking

     

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    rstr5105, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 4:49am

    Alright, my mother works for a private cinema, so I can speak from experience that this article is right on.

    It's true that a lot of times cinemas do not have ushers nearby but this is due to two things. 1) Cinemas have grown from being two screens to mega multiplexes. & 2) Cinemas just don't have enough staffing to place ushers nearby.

    These two problems are slightly interconnected, e.g. solve one, and the other ceases to be a problem. However they are mostly independant.

    Now before you rant at me that "Oh they should just hire more ushers" at the cinema my mother works for not only do the box sales go to pay for the film being in theaters (Which is supposed to be the ONLY thing that does) but part of their concession goes to it to.

    Cinema companies across the country (sorry I don't have a reference, this is just me talking to my mother's bosses.) are finding that it's becoming increasingly expensive to have the right to publicly show these films. It's not just inflation, this is the MPAA telling them, "You will pay us THIS much $$$/ticket to show this film"

    The prices at this cinema are as it stands, Matinee $5.00, Elderly $4.00, and normal prices are $7.00/adult $5.00/child. (speaking of increasing costs, these prices all were $0.25 cheaper last week.)

    For concesssion, (yep, just checked these prices are newly raised too) a small drink is $2.00 medium $2.50 and large $3.00. Popcorn small $2.50 medium $3.00 large $3.50.

    as you can see as far as cinemas go this is by far not the most expensive concession stand. (not sure about ticket prices though, i haven't been to another cinema in ages) now factor in that at any given weeknight they have 2 managers on duty, 4 "kids" in concession 1 "kid" in box office, and 1 usher. All of the kids are making $7.00/hr (give or take $.25) and the manager is making close to $12.00/hr (again +/- $.25) and the average shift runs for about 6 hours.

    Although all that's off topic, I just wanted to explain why cinemas charge what they do. It's not really in their choice, they have bills to pay, to the biggest greed hound of them all. MPAA.

    back on topic ,the cinema is actually run pretty decently though, and if a viewer is causing a problem you only need leave your seat for about 30 seconds to find somebody to help you. Granted you'll lose a little chunk of the film you're watching, BUT you'd lose that same chunk going out and getting your soda refilled. My theory has always been, If there is a problem in the theater, address it with the trouble maker, if that doesn't work, wait till i go get my soda refilled and have the manager come in and kick them out.

    That's my $0.02

     

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    Dosquatch, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 5:06am

    Take that phone and jam it

    Mike wrote: That's caused movie theaters to look into setting up mobile phone jammers in theaters [...] the problem with that plan is that it's illegal

    Sort of. It is illegal to intentionally create electronic or radio interference in another device (insert standard boilerplate exceptions here). On the other hand, I know of no restrictions on passive jamming. Say, for instance, your building just happens to make for an effective Farraday cage, and everybody's happy. The nits don't have to turn off their phones, but it really doesn't matter because they can't get a signal to ring anyway.

     

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    Dosquatch, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 5:11am

    Re: Blocking

    Um, dude... may I call you dude? Dude, the link you provide is for a company/product that enhances, not blocks, cell phone signals. You might want to elaborate on your thought there a little if you want everyone on board.

     

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    Wolfger, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 5:12am

    Re: moive thugs

    Well, you know, not everybody has a type-A(sshole) personality, John. I mean, did your great-grandaddy teach your grandma to fight? I think not. But grandmothers do go to movies, and have a right to complain to the theater when some idiot with a cell phone is ruining the expensive experience. The 4-button remote is just making it easier for customers to lodge complaints. Nothing wrong with that.

     

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    Rob Hyndman, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 5:17am

    My first reaction, frankly, was that this was a way to get people to spy on each other as an anti-piracy protection tool. Ie. buy a spy for the price of popcorn. Well, for the cost of popcorn :)

     

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    Insensible Bob, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 5:21am

    No more movie theaters for Bob

    Let's see... People kicking my chair, incessant coughing, too much talking, sticky floors, overpriced snacks, too many preview/ads, and the sound is cranked up to rock-concert levels... (Rock concerts should be loud. Movies don't need to be.) I haven't been to a movie theater in years, and don't miss them at all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 5:44am

    Re: No more movie theaters for Bob

    Here, Here ...

    The last time I went to my friendly neighborhood Octagoogleplex, not only did I watch the movie I paid for but during the quieter scenes I could hear the action sequences of the movies next door ...

    All the hyped, mass market, multi-million dollar flicks I'll wait to see on video or better yet TV - if at all. If I want a theater experience you'll find me at my local Indy Theater ... with better movies, better food, more interesting culture and a crowd that can appreciate it.

     

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    Paul, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 5:54am

    the best movie-going experience i had was in london. i went to a theatre in leister (spelled wrong, i know) square. the tickets you purchased were for an actual specific seat. there were 3 tiers of seating (and pricing). everything was carpeted and exceptionally clean. the screen even had a curtain that got drawn back at the start. you go to buy popcorn they ask if you want salted, sweet, or regular. you ask for soda, they ask how much ice you'd like. no stupid commercial about how piracy is a crime. though they had a commercial about piracy. instead of making it out as some horrible horrible thing, they actually go about it by saying the picture sucks, the sound sucks, everything sucks about a pirated movie and why would you want that?

    it was an amazing experience. unfortunately, it didn't help make the movie king kong any shorter.

     

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    dude, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 6:11am

    Re: Re: Blocking

    Think out side the box man, like if a company can sell equipment that specifically states, "The ability to intercept signals, meter and bill for use, and restrict usage ...", then maybe something like that could be done legally in theaters.
    cool?

     

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    dazcon5, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 6:15am

    Re: moive thugs

    Riiiight....So I go over there and ask them to be quiet.
    He stands up and starts swinging, so I beat him senseless.
    Then as the cops arrest me for assault....
    After that the asshole sues me....
    Riiight....

    The last time I asked someone to stop kicking my seat
    I got the "Go f- yourself" and he thew a handful of popcorn at me. This resulted in me drilling my fist into his face repeatedly. His skank GF then had the manager kick ME out!

    I think the bouncer idea is the way to go.

     

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  18.  
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    dazcon5, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 6:15am

    Re: moive thugs

    Riiiight....So I go over there and ask them to be quiet.
    He stands up and starts swinging, so I beat him senseless.
    Then as the cops arrest me for assault....
    After that the asshole sues me....
    Riiight....

    The last time I asked someone to stop kicking my seat
    I got the "Go f- yourself" and he thew a handful of popcorn at me. This resulted in me drilling my fist into his face repeatedly. His skank GF then had the manager kick ME out!

    I think the bouncer idea is the way to go.

     

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    Haywood, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 6:24am

    Re: London

    "the tickets you purchased were for an actual specific seat. there were 3 tiers of seating (and pricing). everything was carpeted and exceptionally clean."

    That is what is missing, I think; that sense of order the Brits seem to have down. I would be willing to shell out a few bucks not to have to share the experience with riff-raf.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 6:36am

    Re: Re: moive thugs

    I think my solution is to take you with me instead.

    Who can beat half a movie for free? What do you say?

     

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    AC, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 6:42am

    And could you define the term riff-raf "Haywood"
    Because the last time I was in a movie theater the 2 phones that rang belonged to a doctor and a lawyer?

    If that is the type of "riff-raf" you are referring too than I'm ok with that. Just wanted some clarification.

     

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    Jon R, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 6:45am

    cool

    that is a very good idea. hopefuly this will become something we see in all movie theatres soon

     

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    Jon, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 6:49am

    Re: rif-raf

    I see where you are coming from. I believe "haywood" is referring to those people solely in movie theatres that are disruptive, not in the general public type of rif-raf.

     

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    Yepper, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 7:44am

    Cell in movies

    There are devices that don't block the cell phone but can be connect to a PA system that will keep repeating "Cell phone has been detected! Please turn off your cell phone!"
    Then the movie doesn't start until the phones are off.

    If people would just learn to more considerate. LOL Right! or put their cell phone on silent and leave the theater if they have to take the call. Again RIGHT!

    People are just inconsiderate.

     

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    Howard Lee Harkness, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 7:54am

    Hmmm...

    You mean to tell me that public movie theaters are still around? It's been so long that I don't remember clearly what it's like to go to one, except that the experience definitely wasn't worth paying money for.

    About once a month (except during tax season -- my wife is a CPA), my wife and I get a movie on DVD or VHS (sometimes we rent, sometimes we check one out from the public library, and sometimes we borrow one out of my stepson's extensive collection -- rarely, we buy one) and watch it in the comfort of my own home at a time of my choosing. If we need to go to the bathroom, or run to the kitchen for a snack refill, we simply pause the movie. If it's too loud, we turn the volume down. If it's not loud enough, we turn the volume up. If I want to watch something my wife isn't interested in, I put on my wireless headphones, and I can watch while she reads, and I rub her feet.

    Somebody please tell me -- what advantage is there to going to a public movie theater on somebody else's arbitrary and inconvenient schedule, to get my ears pounded, my feet stuck to the floor, pay ridiculous prices for 'refreshments' (with essentially no nutrient value), and factor myself in with a bunch of epsilon-minuses who don't know how to behave in public?
    --
    Violins and Accessories

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 7:57am

    Re: Cell in movies

    The problem is that some individuals (i.e. doctors, EMT, parents, etc.) may have a legitimate reason to keep cell phones ON but turn their ringers off.

    This way they can receive potential emergency calls and then leave the theater to talk or call back ...

    But again, that's putting a lot of faith in the general public.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 8:01am

    I'm against blocking cell phone calls because some people might legitimately need to get one (basically, on-call Doctors). Those people still need to set their phone to vibrate and leave when the call comes in, though, not have a conference right there.

     

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    Robo, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 8:09am

    Focus & Thumps

    Yes, talking is annoying as it the increasing number of adults who take infants and toddlers to adult movies.

    But my biggest peeve is that the movie is always out of focus. A projectionist used to tweak the focus at the beginning of each showing. Now there is one projectionist for each theater and they run back and forth between screens, and only when complaints are heard.

    I agree about the noise from next door. I saw Borat the other day and much conversation was drowned out by the big budget flick next door.

     

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    Petréa Mitchell, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 8:33am

    Sign me up for this!!

    Is a list of the theaters involved available anywhere? If there's one near me, I would like to go and encourage this experiment. I'll report back on what that fourth button is actually labeled...

     

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    EH, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 8:41am

    Fighting?

    I can fight just fine. However, when I go to a theater, I'm there to watch movies, not fight. If I waste my time educating someone on manners, and the appropriate time to use one's inside voice, I might miss the good part.

     

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  31.  
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    REG Theatre manager, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 8:49am

    Re: moive thugs

    I am a manager at a Regal Entertainment Group site, and although this article is the first I am hearing about these devices, I am certain that one of the managers would be required to carry the transmitter, not one of the "snot nosed teenagers" (or, rather, teeeners).

    At most sites, we do not allow the employees to handle any type of "extra special" guest service situations.

    Also, in any type of fight situation where an audience member attempts to "teach someone else a lesson", both parties are asked to leave. It is not our job as managers to decide who was right and who was wrong. It is our job to remove the problem(s) from the theatre. If you contribute to the disturbance, that means you.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 8:56am

    I love confrontations!

    At the movie theater! it is a great thrill to hassle jerks!

     

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  33.  
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    G-Man, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 9:08am

    Re: movie thugs

    REG Theatre Manager - Thanks for stepping in and making your statements. I used to GM at AMC. These megaplexes all have security on staff. We exclusively hired members of the local police force to respond to any lethal situations - bouncers would not really be necessary - we do not need to take on problems by force - just by order and justice.

    I like the idea of a membership that allows you to hold one of these devices. It would be a give and take type of membership. Discount on movies or refreshments for an honest patron to report any troubles. You would have an ongoing record of how reliable your reporting is. If you make a whiny call about the temperature being 1/2 degree too cold every time you attend, then you lose your privilege.

    One last thing - public movie theatres are not leaving us anytime soon. It does not matter what any of you hermits think - the public experience is here to stay. Generally speaking, I agree that there seems to always be an a-hole in every movie with a phone or kid or something. The big screen - the roaring sound - the escape from everyday life back at home - its worth the price of admission to a movie once a week or so.

    I have a nice home theatre too. I may just be a movie-buff and the hermits above who claim they have not been to a movie "in ages" have no interest. I can understand and respect that. Just know that this form of entertainment is not going away anytime soon.

     

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    Jim, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 9:33am

    Download

    Home Theater is the wave of the future...when you can download a movie to your laptop....plug in a projector and run the sound through your stereo I have a hard time dealing with the theater....

    once you start uploading movies from iTunes you won't stop....and it is a great deal compared to the cost of going to a theater. The last time I took my 4 year old to a movie, tickets and a bucket of popcorn cost me over 20 bucks....faaaaaaa-get-it....

    Jim

     

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    mixlplix, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 10:31am

    I have the Samsung 61" 1080p and 1000w SS.
    Enough said.

     

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    DRM, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 10:32am

    dont use iTunes.

     

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    anonymous, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 10:43am

    Re: Cell in movies

    I don't see why a phone has to be turned *off* necessarily. My phone has a "silent" mode in which it is just that.. completely silent. It neither rings nor vibrates. And it doesn't make that obnoxious shutting down sound (sure, ideally you'd turn it off before you stepped into the theatre, but a lot of people don't).

     

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    G-Man, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    OK - so you spent a good lot of money on technology that will be considered disposable in 3-5 years.

    Like I said - you may prefer to stay home. I also have spent money on technology that will be useless in 3-5 years as I have a comparable home theatre. I just prefer to watch the movies I most anticipate on the REAL big screen (which would swallow your 61 inch and my 51 inch televisions up together). I respect your preference - just realize there are more people out there than you realize who will not stop going to the theatre - no matter how nice home theatres can get or how attainable movies get.

     

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    mixlplix, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 11:31am

    Well, whatever i spend on a home system... its mine forever. vs. walking out of a theater with 0.. The statement "considered disposable in 3-5 years." isnt realy accurate. HD wont even be standard in that time. Called future proofing. Try it. Id pay any premium to get away from idiots.

     

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    anna, Nov 30th, 2006 @ 3:46pm

    Bad behavior in movies isn't anything new

    I never go to movies anymore, for all of the reasons mentioned here, but if you think this obnoxious behavior is new, it isn't. A friend of mine had her jaw broken in the 70's and her husband was punched by a thug after he told someone to be quiet during a movie. A huge fight broke out, and they ended up not being the only people hurt that day. This was in West Los Angeles,which is a rat hole now but was very upscale in those days.

     

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    prof, Dec 1st, 2006 @ 2:57pm

    If you see something, say something...

     

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    Eric B. Tulloch, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 7:10am

    Movies

    I would love to see some of the idiots that talk out loud or use their cell phones thrown out of the theatres. These people should just stay home and rent movies. Despite on screen messages to be courteous to other patrons.........some people just don't get it. My wife and I go to the movies alot, spending an average of $20.00-$25.00 per visit. Rude people make that spent money wasted.

     

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    joey schmoe, Apr 27th, 2007 @ 9:13pm

    dissatisfied patron

    after catching my breath shelling out $18.75 for 1 dad and a daughter under 10 to see what i would judge a 3rd rate movie at best filled with too many raunchy double meanings; AND rated p.g.,sticker shock set in again at the "snack" counter where a rude and sarcastic employee took another $9.00 for a small coke and a handful of popcorn and a trick or treat size bag of skittles .Profit is foremost in business but this is ridiculous!!! Maybe next time i`ll buy 2 movies on d.v.d`s for $20.00 and pop up some ORVILLES movie theater butter and a 2 liter of coke. A much wiser investment you think?

     

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    frank cheese, May 11th, 2007 @ 10:29pm

    movie theaters are thieves.

     

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    J Templeton, Jun 14th, 2007 @ 9:22am

    Where did drive-ins go? I stopped going to movie theaters 15-20 years ago, for all the reasons already mentioned. But drive-ins were great. You watch the film in your own car, and if you want to eat or drink, bring your own. Good take out and one's choice of beverage and smokes makes drive-ins the clear winner for those who dislike idiots and their ruining of the moviegoing experience.Still no match for a DVD at home though

     

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