Thousands of kids will be filling theaters this weekend to see the big budget, CGI-filled "The Jungle Book," and for many of them, turning off their phones will be next to impossible.
That's why the AMC movie chain announced this week that they're hoisting the white flag on cell phone use in theaters and looking at ways to allow patrons' iPhones and Galaxy S7s to stay on during their favorite flicks.
The backlash from their proposal was instant and extreme.
This AMC theaters allowing texting is just one reason why I would *happily* pay $50 to watch new movies at home.
— Susan Arendt (@SusanArendt) April 14, 2016
The Fact That AMC Even Considered Allowing Texting During Movies Makes Me Mad.
— DeSosa (@killdeshaan) April 15, 2016
The outrage has caused AMC to back off, but not give up, on the idea.
"We know vast majority of audience wants no texting,” AMC said in a statement. “If ever, we only would pursue this in a way that we can be totally confident ALL our guests will fully enjoy the movie-going experience at AMC."
Despite AMC's assurance that allowing texting will not hinder the audience member's experience, with the competition theaters are facing from smart phones and streaming services, sanctioned texting at movies may be inevitable.
"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," new chief executive and president of AMC Theaters Adam M. Aron told Variety. "You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life."
Aron and AMC have reason to be concerned about the young moviegoers opting to watch movies at home, where they can stay on their phones.
In 2015, Americans aged 18-24 made up 10 percent of the population and purchased 14 percent of all movie tickets sold -- down 16 percent from 2014, according to Piper Jaffray & Co. analyst Stan Meyers.
The number of smartphone owners who use their phones to watch movies or TV through paid subscription services has doubled in recent years from 15 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2015, according to a Pew Research Foundation study. Younger adults are more likely to use their mobile devices to stream movies and TV; 52 percent of people who own smartphones aged 18-29 have used their phone to watch entertainment through subscription services.
And allowing cell phones in theater isn’t the only way AMC is responding to the changing habits of moviegoers. AMC is trying to compete directly with online paid subscription services like Netflix and Hulu Plus.
Variety reports a Chinese subsidiary of AMC is about to close a deal with a startup called the Screening Room which will offer newly released movies in people's homes for $50 per view.
That means kids can text all they want while they watch them, unless mom and dad say no way.