Alamo Drafthouse, a local chain of dine-and-screen movie theaters in Austin, Texas, has long waged a war against impolite moviegoers. And the latest customer to object to their firm rules against talking and texting during an evening out has become the unwitting star of a PSA released by the company on Monday.
According to Tim League, the Drafthouse's founder, the woman in question was warned twice about texting during a screening, and then, in accordance with company policy, was escorted out without a refund. "I don't think people realize that it is distracting," League told The Lookout. "It seems like nothing, but if you spend as much time as I do at the movies, you realize the entire theater sees it and it pulls you out of the movie experience. It's every bit as intrusvie as talking."
However, the determined texter was not about to let the matter rest. She called up the Alamo Drafthouse and left a profanity-laced (and perhaps slightly inebriated) message decrying the theater's policies. "Yeah, I was wondering if you guys actually enjoy treating your customers like a pieces of sh*t," she opened, "Because that's how I felt when I went to the Alamo Drafthouse!"
"So excuse me for using my phone, in USA magnited States of America" she raged, "where yer-you are free to text in a the-a-ter!"
But the theater (and its future patrons) are getting the last laugh. The Drafthouse took audio of the woman's voicemail, transcribed it, and turned it into an in-house preview that warns theatergoers against cell phone use during movies. Given the former patron's colorful language, they'll only be screening it before R-rated films. We've embedded a clean version of the PSA below, with objectionable language beeped out:
The Alamo has a rich history of tongue-in-cheek PSAs supporting civility in their theaters--they've produced around 30. League purchased the very first edition of the video editing software Final Cut Pro back in 1998 with the intention of producing ads in-house. The first piece he cut was a PSA. "The early ones were us cutting famous scenes from movies of people talking and then getting killed," League told The Lookout. "Then later we started asking celebrities who came to screenings. We've had George Romero, Clint Howard, and Michael Cera."
"Part of what we're trying to do is have a comedic message about what to us is a very serious issue," said League. He declined to give any more details about the woman at the center of the recent PSA--it's not about shaming her, he said, but about making people think about how rude they are being when they use their phones.
One PSA from 2005 stars the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who is called in (via the red phone no less) to deal with a rowdy patron. She tosses him out of the theater to the applause of those waiting in line to purchase tickets. "Don't talk during the movie," the ad concludes "or Ann Richards will take your ass out." League says that Richards approached the theater about doing the spot. "She lived in Austin at the time, and was a total movie junkie, she'd let us know she was coming, would call the manager, and would slip into shows at the last minute. She came to us, 'I'm really offended that you haven't asked me to do one of your PSAs!'"
Richards' late-arriving ways meant that patrons would sometimes see her PSA on screen, and then be surprised by the former governor slipping into the seat next to them.
You can watch the clip of Richards, with one instance of graphic language, below.
League and his wife Karrie opened the first Alamo Drafthouse in 1997--there are now 10, mostly in Texas, with one in Virginia. "One of the things we hated [as film lovers] the most was talking," said League "Since we owned the theater, we could take a really heavy stance and make [talkers] feel unwelcome." He says that anecdotally, that's why some older patrons dislike going to films, "they, and a lot of us, are frustrated with the movie theater experience."
Back in 2009, League had a patron shushed at a screening of "Where the Wild Things Are," and the man was so angry he punched League's windshield on the way out of the film.
Perhaps the latest PSA will pre-empt such unfortunate film-related incidents. "We didn't expect it to blow up like it did," said League, of the spot that as of this writing had just shy of 400,000 views on YouTube. "It's cool, it's drawing national attention to an issue and letting people realize that their behavior is selfish. Maybe in some small way it will make it better to see a film all over the place."
"Ma'am, you may be free to text in all the other theaters in the Magnited States of America, but here at our 'little crappy ass theater,' you are not," he wrote on the Alamo Drafthouse's blog. "Why you may ask? Well, we actually do give a f*$k."
- the movie experience
- movie theaters
- Texas Gov. Ann Richards
- the woman in question
- the last laugh
- Final Cut Pro