Apple Watch and the Avid Moviegoer

As a cinephile and technology enthusiast, here are a few thoughts I had about the impending release of the Apple Watch.

Anyone who attends movies regularly knows there are cardinal sins that immediately will earn you the scorn of all who follow the rules of normal social niceties. You don’t talk during the movie, unless it’s no more than a lean-over hushed whisper. You turn your phone off, or put it on silent. If you have to sneak in food, you REALLY don’t want to bring in that extra-crinkly bag of chips that will announce itself to the audience every time you decide to reach in for a handful of greasy goodness.

A new addition to the list of sins has taken ahold of the population in recent years — the smartphone. The new bane of the moviegoer is not the ringing phone, but the blinding white background of the Facebook news feed that the numbskull in front of you is deciding to pull-to-refresh during a break in the action. Or the text reply about meeting up for coffee later that really just couldn’t wait an hour. From twenty rows above, or from six seats to the left, it makes no difference — the sudden entrance of light and motion in your peripheral vision immediately draws your attention, and will break any modicum of immersion you experienced with the film you’re watching.

This brings me to the main subject of this post — with the upcoming release of undoubtedly tens of millions of smartwatches into the consumer pool, this is only going to mean an entirely fresh hell for the moviegoer. The impact of the smartphone in a darkened theater is still somewhat muted because most people understand that they should leave the phone in their pocket. With the introduction of a pervasive smartwatch, notifications of many forms are now going to be out in the open at all times. These watches come with notification lights that will blink incessantly during the film, which will require the wearer to access the watch screen to turn it off and reply. Watch-wearers will also be playing notification sounds, and it will be much easier to justify checking your watch screen unremittingly simply based upon proximity and ease-of-access.

This is all whiny conjecture of course, but I imagine in years to come we will see theaters adopt “please switch off your phone and wearable devices” messages before movies start to help remind patrons the effect that their wearable tech has on everyone else. Smartwatches of course already exist now, but with any new Apple product the mainstream population won’t really be paying attention until their version comes out. I also envision smartwatches themselves will have a “movie mode” with a very low-impact light profile, such as a black background with dark grey text. Until then, I’ll be bringing a roll of electrical tape as a workaround for the early adopters.

Of course, we hope they will just be switched off altogether. But that would be too much to ask a lot of people.

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