Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rat Patrol: Coming To A Theatre Near You?

Rat Patrol: Coming To A Theatre Near You?

As you may recall, I've just about had it with rude behavior ruining my theatre experiences. And I know from your responses that I'm not alone.

While technology exists to block transmission of radio signals to cell phones, federal law currently prohibits the practice (Communications Act of 1934, section 333). But according to a report by WCBS-TV (New York), technology now exists to enable audience members to effectively rat out offensive fellow patrons.

The Regal Cinemas chain is rolling out its "Regal Guest Response System" in 114 movie theatres across America. The system is described as "a virtual remote control to mute that annoying patron who's ruining your silver screen sanity." According to the news report:

Theatre employees at Battery Park Stadium now handle that duty without patrons missing a second of film. A hand-held pager is given to a random member of the Regal Crown Club Loyalty Program who's attending each movie."If any situation does arise they can just press a button which goes directly to the pager which the manager will have and they'll signal it and they'll go right into the theater and handle the situation," theater manager Heather Dematteis said.

One would think that if the program works, it could very well mutate and spread to live theatrical venues as well faster than that uncontrollable TB strain. The best part is that "Regal Cinema says its never pinpoints the guest reporting the problems."

Is it overkill? Personally, I'm not opposed to the idea, and frankly, it's much easier for the theatre to deal with rude patrons than vigilant (or is that vigilante?) audience members. Sign me up for the device!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Theatre Etiquette, Part Two (May 1, 2007)
Theatre Etiquette, Part One (November 30, 2007

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At 31 May, 2007, Blogger Statler said...

This could definitely be a move in the right direction but I'm concerned as to how disruptive it would be to have a staff member involved.

I think once we have a disruptive or irritating audience member it's really to late to take action other than a pointed glare - unless they are causing serious and widespread annoyance. As you've discussed before the problem needs to be tackled by education as to the behaviour expected when attending the theatre.

However, I've recently recognised another area where theatres and audiences can share the responsibility. As most tickets these days are booked in advance and purchased with plastic, theatres are well able to trace back who sat in a particular seat. Audience members should be encouraged to report anti-social behaviour at the end of a performance by reference to seat numbers and the theatre should issue the offenders with stern letters warning that any future poor behaviour may result in them being banned from further performances. It may take some time to have an impact but I think it could be a better alternative to regular punch-ups as people are ejected from the centre of row F in the stalls.

View From The Stalls

At 31 May, 2007, Blogger Sarah B. Roberts said...

I can't understand how patrons, paying sometimes over $100 a ticket, can not only interrupt their own viewing pleasure but that of everybody in the theatre! How do people forget that they have a cell phone with them? Imagine what it was like when a cell phone went off for many long rings at The Year of Magical Thinking the other night. Miss Redgrave didn't visibly flinch but its unconsciounable for somebody to be so selfish not to silence their phone. At Deuce the other day, a very old lady was eating nuts from a cellophane wrapper for a very long time. I respect older people, but I was ready to turn around and slap her. It's bad enough in musicals that people make noise, but even worse in plays. When I saw Julius Caesar, a group of "ladies" (term loosely used) brought potato chips into the theatre - that they had bought at the concession stand! What?! Unbelievable. Not only did they crunch and make noise and smell, the "ladies" proceeded to hoot and holler every time Denzel Washington delivered even the shortest of lines. My God. Oh, I better stop now or we'll be ranting all day long.

Statler has some good suggestions.

At 31 May, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was so annoyed when I went to see Chita Rivera in The Dancer's Life and saw two people several rows in front of me taking video with their cell phones. I just thought it was the rudest behavior, not to me as an audience member, but to the performers on stage.

You couldn't make the argument that the people "forgot" to do something. It was a willful act. It was violating the rights of the performers to control their work and disrespectful of this legendary artist.

I probably should have said something, but it was in the middle of the performance. I didn't want to create a scene by getting up to find an usher. I didn't want to start a fight with these women. So maybe the "rat patrol" is a good idea.

At 31 May, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Statler, I also would have a concern for how disruptive it might be, although my pointed glares never seem to be enough. Your suggestion isn't a bad one; however, since tickets can freely flow between individuals, whether as gifts or even scalping, it may prove difficult to find the actual culprit by use of the plastic used to purchase the seats.

To Sarah's point -- and Sarah, your anecdotes just made my blood boil even more -- considering that many are spending $100 or £50 per ticket, just thinking of the thousands of dollars or quid that the one rude person (or in your case, several) is ruining by terrible behavior...not to mention the awful distraction to the actors on stage. I'm sure Mr. Washington did not appreciate the hoots given the serious nature of his recent Broadway appearance.

Esther, the behavior you identified is perhaps the most reprehensible. I'm wondering where the theatre's ushers were - they should certainly be on the lookout for cameras and cell phones in use.

At 31 May, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I just had a better view of what these people were doing, since I was a few rows in back of them and they kind of had the cell phones in their laps. They obviously knew they were doing something wrong, since they were trying to keep it hidden. Maybe it wasn't as apparent to an usher walking down the aisle. But you're right, they should be on the lookout for that kind of thing.

At 31 December, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found your blog today, having surfed the net just to answer a question I have been asking myself since last night- whether it's just me. Whether, when I go and see a performance, I just have a knack for sitting around obnoxious people. Apparently not. That's a relief... and it's also quite disturbing.
Last night, I saw the Little Mermaid... orchestra seats. It was amazing! But I can't help but feel it was kind of ruined by the family in back of me. They had three little kids who talked and tried to out-do the volume of the show the entire time and, I might add, the adults encouraged them because they were "cute". The one directly behind me kicked my chair and even managed to pull my hair. Given, it's Disney, there will be kids, but this was beyond excessive. I talked to an usher about this during intermission... but I shouldn't have had to. It helped, but very little ("this is ridiculous, I demand to know who complained"). The worst part is, and imagine my luck, that same family got on the same train in the same car as mine on the way home, and the mother made some comment to me, "You took this away from us". I assume she meant the experience of the show or something. Never mind that she took something away from half the orchestra section herself. I ignored her and made it a point to gripe about the lack of consideration to my companion... not mentioning those specific people of course... I'm sure they heard that much what with them sitting in the seat in front of me on the train.

At 31 December, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be noted that there were plenty of other little girls sitting in the audience, and none of them were being so obnoxious. This one was all on the parents.

At 31 December, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sam, So sorry to hear about your experience.

I too have had to endure plenty of parents who dote on their obnoxious kids. They don't understand that by being so self-absorbed and oblivious to others around them, they're setting a terrible example for those children that will undoubtedly make them obnoxious adults.

God help us all.


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