Illustration by Brennan Bova
Outside of talking with your mouth full, the act of texting in a movie theatre is easily one of the most obnoxious social habits ever conceived in the history of human behaviour. In fact, my own personal vision of hell prominently features this particular custom, with rows and rows of lit faces and chiming ringtones continuously interrupting my $11 movie-going experience for all of eternity.
Luckily for me, a select number of theatres in China are working to make this nightmare a reality, since the advent of “bullet screens” are already being tested in cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
“Bullet screens” are a truly diabolical piece of technology that not only encourages an audience to text during a movie, but also captures each message and projects it onto the screen while the movie is playing.
So, basically, bullet screens are some kind of weaponized trolling device that gives asshole moviegoers everywhere the power to undercut my enjoyment of a movie by posting snarky, unfunny commentary throughout the film’s running time.
From what I gather, this new kind of gimmick is making waves in China because mobile devices are the most popular platform to watch movies on in that country. As such, production companies want to capitalize on this potential market and use this new format to create some kind of large scale social media experience.
There’s nothing wrong with mixing social media and film together, since letting people stay connected through sharing and reliving their varied movie-going experiences is an inherently positive thing. However, there is one specific time and place where this sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable, and that is when the lights in the movie theatre go dark.
If you decide to pull your phone out and start texting at that point, you are not doing so to contribute to a communal movie experience. Instead, you are doing it to feed your own ego and satisfy your need to stay connected to your Twitter feed like a goddamn addict.
Call me old-fashioned, but I always viewed going to the movies as an opportunity to get away from texting, social media, and everything that has to do with the Internet. But nowadays, more and more people are using this sacred time as an opportunity to check how many likes their latest selfie has on Instagram.
This already happens way too much in Western society, and I’m terrified that the hypothetical adoption of something like “bullet screens” in North America would only encourage and exacerbate this kind of bad behaviour.
I’m not usually the kind of guy who calls for boycotts when it comes to movie news, since I find most of these movements to be childish and petty. That being said, if “bullet screens” somehow become the hottest new thing in Canadian cinemas, you bet your bottom dollar I’d be leading the picket line.
There’s no way I’m letting my night out to the movies turn into “Facebook Scroll: The Movie.”