It’s become something of a mantra in the cinema and theater alike: Please turn off your cellphones before the performance begins. Depending on where you are, some of these warnings are a bit more lighthearted while others are a little more matter-of-fact, but either way it’s practically inevitable that whatever movie, musical, or play you are seeing, you’ll be asked to turn off your cellphone beforehand.
Practically. A fad that bucks this trend is becoming more widely adopted. Commonly referred to as “tweet seats,” a phenomenon encouraging the use of cellphones during a performance is spreading, to mixed reviews.
The concept is simple. Much like restaurants with their increasingly rare smoking sections, some theaters are setting aside a section of seats where users can use their cellphones, ostensibly for tweeting, during a performance without disturbing less “connected patrons.” The idea has been around for a while. In 2009, the Lyric Opera in Kansas set aside 100 tweet seats during the final performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, and recently, tweet seats made the move to Broadway after being incorporated in the revival of the musical Godspell. The hope, it seems, is to try and get the younger generation more interested in the ancient art form that is live theater by allowing them to bring their vices with them. As a bonus, the performance the tweeters are watching is almost certain to get some free publicity.
In a way, it’s not entirely surprising. In addition to the “separate sections” bit, the smoking section analogy carries a few more parallels. Obviously, the light from cellphone usage can bother other non-using patrons a bit like smoke, but also, Twitter is decidedly one of the more addictive social networks out there, to the extent that urges to tweet may be harder to resist than urges to smoke. If people are going to be doing it anyway, you might as well just stick them in a corner and let them go at it, right? And from a publicity standpoint, the benefits of having your show tweeted about aren’t trivial, that is at least if your show is good. In fact, the largest number of tweets-per-second ever can be attributed to the televised screening of a film, during which viewers were all free to tweet about it, and tweet they did, at a rate of 25,088 tweets per second.
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