Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Push of a Button

They're trying something new at my little neighborhood movie theater. I think of it as my little neighborhood movie theater because it's in my neighborhood, but it's neither little nor mine -- it's a thirteen-screen member of the vast entertainment empire known as the Regal Entertainment Group.

Before it became a member of Regal Entertainment Group, they did something that I always found annoying. During the movie, one of the employees would walk down the aisle with what is basically a flashlight with a red filter on it, obviously looking for something but I was never sure what. It was distracting and pointless, but I learned to get used to it.

They've continued that practice in the years since it was acquired by Regal, but just recently they announced a new program, which is available to Regal Crown Club members. And in case you're interested, to become a Regal Crown Club member, all you need to do is fill out an application. As a card-carrying Regal Crown Club member, each time you visit a Regal theater, you will earn points which can be redeemed for things such as free movie tickets.

Anyway, the new program is called the Regal Guest Response System, and rather than describe it to you, I'll just quote from the little flier I got: Members carry a paging device into their auditorium and if there is a disturbance or reason to alert management, help is only a push of the button away.

Okay, I hate disturbances in the auditorium as much as anyone else -- possibly even more so -- and I have to admit that quietly pushing a button to summon a theater employee is a lot less confrontational than dealing with rude audience members yourself, but I'm still not entirely comfortable with this idea. Maybe it's because it seems like the kind of thing that could only be thought up by someone with a totalitarian police-state mentality: Observe your neighbors and report any suspicious activities to the authorities.

But that's not why I'm not signing up. I'm not signing up because I'm afraid I'll abuse the system. I prefer absolute total silence from my fellow movie-goers, so I'd probably end up using it all the time. As a matter of fact, if instead of a paging device they provided me with a taser, a stun gun, or any other means of delivering electric shocks, I'd probably use that as well. I might use it even if it only looked like you were going to start talking.

Well, that's probably an exaggeration, but I really don't like it when people talk in movie theaters. If I don't hear a line of dialogue, that's about the same thing to me as not reading every sentence of a novel. The way I figure it, someone went to the trouble of writing it, so we should make the effort to read it. Or listen to it.

But people who talk in theaters aren't the only problem. People who make too much noise when they eat are just as bad. By the way, here's an idea: If you want to stuff your mouth full of crap, why don't you do it before the movie begins? That way you can silently watch the movie while your digestive system does its best to extract something nutritive from that huge tub of popcorn you just shoveled down your throat.

And when I say "you," I don't mean you, of course -- I mean the unsophisticated and ill-bred masses who don't read this blog.

So I'm not going to take part in the Regal Guest Response System, but I'm sure a lot of people will. And it will be interesting to see what sorts of things cause them to push the button. Of course, every time someone pushes the button, a theater employee will enter the auditorium, probably armed with one of those flashlights with a red filter. And that will be just as annoying as whatever the original disturbance was.