Apple’s big announcement yesterday about their new iPhone, the 4S, was about as eagerly anticipated — and scrutinized — as any blockbuster movie. And that’s fitting, really, considering how intertwined the smartphone and movie-going experience has become. How we buy tickets for films (future generations may ponder what that mysterious “waiting in line” business was all about) and talk about them (texting and tweeting might silence movie theater chatter, but is it any less annoying?) has changed rapidly in the past few years, further proving our dependence on — and addiction to — today’s newest technology.
This morning, Variety reported their findings from Tuesday’s Stradella’s Film Marketing Summit, and one staggering statistic jumped out: According to Fandango, ticket sales on mobile devices, including smartphones, have grown from 1 percent to 20 percent in the past few years. And the company is encouraging the usage of such devices. Fandango is currently testing the use of a 2D mobile bar code for when users purchase their tickets on their cell phones and also provide moviegoers with a speedy movie theater option: Ticket buyers can have a text sent to their phone, which will allow them to access to bar code to use the mobile ticket at the theater. (Reading Cinemas and Hollywood Theaters are currently trying out the service with Fandango, while a third chain will be joining soon.)
And it looks as though their efforts have paid off. Fandango’s Harry Medved tells EW that the site has seen “mobile traffic really take off” over the past year. In fact, 40 percent of Fandango visitors are logging on via their mobile and smartphones, as well as tablets. Of course, Fandango’s success in the mobile department is not altogether shocking, considering how smartphone purchases and use are only growing. A recent Nielsen report found that 40 percent of mobile consumers over the age of 18 in the U.S. are using smartphones (and 40 percent of those are using Androids). And back in February, tech blog ReadWriteWeb noted smartphone sales hit an all-time high during the fourth quarter of 2010 (the IDC calculated that “smartphone manufacturers shipped 100.9 million devices”), outselling PCs (92.1 million units) for the first time ever.
But we all know what that means: The more smartphones are used by moviegoers, the more smartphones are used in the movies. In 2010, the New York Times reported that 33 percent of smartphone users accessed the device for entertainment, while 50 percent used their phones for social networking. There has always been a desire to have a conversation about a movie — now consumers have an opportunity to read reviews from Metacritic or post their own while sitting in plush theater seats. Medved, for one, tells EW that Fandango’s mobile visitors are posting an increasing number of user reviews.
Naturally, this causes something of an issue for all moviegoers, whether or not they own a smartphone. Who enjoys seeing the glare of a cell phone — or worse, hearing the ring of a device — from the seat next to them? And then, of course, there are those people who pick up their phones in the middle of a movie. How can theaters enforce rules against bad tech behavior in films when more and more moviegoers come armed with several devices in their bags?
If anyone has found the perfect solution to that issue it’s EW’s favorite movie theater, the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. The theater has a policy that ejects any moviegoer who texts or talks during a screening. (No, some phone-happy people aren’t happy about that, but we sure are.) Landmark Theaters CEO Ted Mundorff, who attended the summit, told Variety, “When someone’s not happy (about the no cell phone policy), I say, tell your friends.” Please, just do it when the movie is over.
But how do you feel, PopWatchers? How has your smartphone changed the way you go to — and experience — the movies? Vote in our polls below!