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CinemaCon panel lights up texting debate

Alamo DrafthouseIt was the closest thing yet to a skirmish at CinemaCon.

The venue: the Palace Ballroom at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

The subject: whether to allow texting in movie theaters.

Regal Entertainment Chief Executive Amy Miles, one of several panelists debating the ways theaters can lure "today's savvy moviegoer," suggested that exhibitors consider allowing younger patrons to use their cellphones with certain types of movies such as "21 Jump Street." 

That triggered a furious response from Tim League, chief executive of Alamo Drafthouse, the maverick Austin, Texas-based chain that is known as much for serving food and drinks in its theaters as it is for strictly enforcing a ban on talking and using cellphones in its auditoriums.

"Over my dead body will I be introducing texting into movie theaters.... That's a scourge of the industry,'' League said. "It's our job to understand that this is a sacred place."

Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, came to Miles' defense. "You don't mind giving them a beer for Christ's sake,'' he said.

Whether texting is allowed in theaters, mobile devices already are rapidly changing the exhibition industry, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported. There are dozens of phone apps that help consumers get to the movie theater, share their movie plans with friends and family on Facebook and receive special offers on concessions.

RELATED:

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MPAA's Dodd urges industry to reach out to 'connected consumers'

Box office going mobile

--Richard Verrier 

Photo: Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse founder and chief executive, outside of an Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. Credit: Annie Ray

 
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