Warning: cranky old lady rant coming. Avert your eyes if you don't like this sort of thing.
I saw Catching Fire last night, on its second weekend, at an 8 PM show on a Saturday. Normally, I go to matinees, because I am cheap. But, for complicated reasons, I was there. This is all to say, I haven't been to a crowded showing where the audience skews young in quite a while.
During the previews, I could see lots of phone screens. Maybe a dozen. They were the brightest things in the theater. Far brighter than the projected image on the screen. I thought, surely, everyone would put away his phone when the movie started.
The young man (age hard to tell...I put him at 16-20) sitting right next to me, in fact, was looking at his phone more than he was watching the movie. He was reading his Facebook feed, composing status updates, and tagging lots of people. I know because it kept distracting me from the film, so I read over his shoulder.
He was RUINING. The MOVIE. Which cost ELEVEN DOLLARS.
I noticed, though, that he kept logging out of Facebook, so when he went back to check it again, he had to log back in. I reasoned that he was trying to deter himself from checking his phone. Each time he finished, he thought, "I know, I'll log out. That way, it will be a pain to get back on, which will make me less likely to check it again." (I often use the same logic when polishing off a pint of ice cream.)
Before the film had started, he had to leave and come back twice, awkwardly stepping over my companion and me. Each time, he apologized for inconveniencing us and said thank you, and we were, of course, very polite and accommodating. This was not a rude kid.
So about twenty minutes into the film, when I couldn't take it anymore, I leaned to him and loud-whispered, "YOU KNOW. THAT SCREEN IS REALLY BRIGHT." He apologized and put his phone away. I thanked him. I was afraid that might not last very long, but no. He didn't turn it back on for the rest of the movie. There were a couple others in rows further down, and they were annoying, but they were too far away for me to yell at. And the one right next to me was the one really ruining the movie. Which cost eleven dollars.
The kids in the theater didn't make me mad. They're kids, and they need to be told. What made me mad, after the fact (I was not ruminating on this during the movie, mind you. It was great. You should go.) was remembering every dummy on the Internet, who inevitably is not someone who spends much time in a classroom, who suggests that if teachers' lessons were interesting enough, kids wouldn't be tempted to distract themselves with their phones. Therefore we shouldn't have to require kids to put away their phones sometimes during math class.
Um, Francis Lawrence can't keep kids from being distracted by their phones. With a crazy-good story about reluctant teen revolutionaries. And a $78 million budget.
Learning takes focus. Focus takes practice. Kids might never know how jaw-droppingly cool are the things we are trying to teach them, if their focus is interrupted by Snapchat every two minutes. There are some things they need to be told.