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Movie theaters, studios react to potential “Theater Mode” in upcoming iOS update

People are not happy

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To say that film Twitter, as it has become to be known, lost its collective mind when a rumor began circulating that the newest iOS update would have a “Theater Mode,” is an understatement.

The rumor started with a tweet from Sonny Dickson, a contributor to Forbes who has broken Apple news in the past. Dickson said that in iOS update 10.3, a “Theater Mode” would be added that could be accessed from clicking on a “popcorn-shaped Control Center icon.” Dickson didn’t allude to what the mode would do, but in 2012, Apple patented technology that would “disable noise and/or light emanating from wireless devices (such as at a movie theater),” according to Collider.

The idea that Apple was developing a mode that would make it easier for people to text in a theater has caught the ire of many, but none more so than theater chains like the Alamo Drafthouse. The Alamo, which already has a strict, “If you take your phone out to text, we’ll kick you out of the movie” code in effect, is particularly upset.

Tim League, founder of the Alamo Drafthouse, issued a statement to Polygon about the rumor. Although he could only comment on what he heard — Apple hasn’t commented on the rumor — he did have a rather colorful stance.

“If this enhancement turns out to be a means to make it easier to text in cinemas, I may have to book a ticket to Cupertino and pack my can of whoop-ass,” League said. “I have confidence, however, that a fellow Tim would not make such a mistake.”

Studios like Annapurna Pictures (Her, The Master, Sausage Party) tweeted out their own take on the iPhone situation.

Despite the heated debate the rumor led to on Twitter among critics and those in the industry, this isn’t the first time the subject of texting in a theater has been broached. On April 13, AMC made headlines when CEO Adam Aron commented that taking certain theaters and making them “texting friendly” would be a way to appeal to a younger, “millennial” audience.

“When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow,” Aron told Variety. “You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.”

Two days later, following massive outcry from cinephiles, Aron walked back his statement. Aron confirmed there would be no texting allowed in theaters, “not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future.”

“We have heard loud and clear this is a concept our audience does not want,” Aron added.

It’s unclear if the rumored “Theater Mode” would allow for easier texting capabilities in a movie theater or if it would act like “Airplane Mode” and simply stop incoming calls or texts during that time period. According to Dickson, the first beta for iOS update 10.3 is “scheduled to seed” on Jan. 10.

Polygon has reached out to Apple for comment and will update when more information becomes available.

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