Alamo Drafthouse CEO Explains Why Letting People Text During Movies Is Terrible

Image courtesy of (Jason Cook)

Alamo Drafthouse, a Texas-based movie theater mini-chain where can watch movies and drink beer, takes its policy against phone use during movies seriously. It’s not to be mean, or as one notorious customer alleged, so they can sell people tickets and then throw them out. That’s why the theater’s founder and CEO, Tim League, felt that he needed to respond to an interview where new AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron said that he might be open to allowing phone use during movies.

Aron’s logic was that to stay in business, movie palaces need to figure out how to appeal to people who are currently teens and young adults. Their product, the movie-going experience, may need to change in some ways “so that millennials go to movie theaters with the same degree of intensity as baby boomers went to movie theaters throughout their lives.” Allowing phone use might be one of those ways. Maybe.

Now, you may remember the Alamo Drafthouse policy on texting or talking on the phone: they will throw people out, as one customer learned. The company turned her not at all safe-for-work voicemail rant into a public service announcement that plays before movies.

That brings us back to Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, who sent out a statement pointing out that while innovation in the movie business is essential, innovating by allowing users to haul out their phones is a terrible idea.

“We as exhibitors rely completely on these creators for our content and have an unwritten obligation to present their films in the best possible way: on a big screen with big sound and a bright picture in a silent, dark room,” he wrote.


Alamo Drafthouse made a point of showing Beasts of No Nation, a Netflix-produced movie that was released in theaters and on the streaming service; users could watch it at home if they wanted to, or go to the theater for the full movie experience. The country’s major theater chains refused to show the film.

Claiming that all 22-year-olds can’t be persuaded to put down their phones is an unfair overgeneralization, League argues. “Regardless of your age, turning off your phone and focusing on a good movie is much-needed therapy,” he wrote, noting that people of all ages have attached our smartphones to our faces, and that’s not what going to the movies should be about.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.