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Tuesday, 24 January 2012 16:33

Another threat to the cinema experience - just say no to QkR


That's just great! A credit card company, a cinema chain, and one of the big four banks have just legitimised the use of smartphones in cinemas.

What are the three most irritating things about going to the movies? Number one is another patron repeatedly kicking the back of your seat. Fellow cinema goers who keep talking take second spot.

And third is the glow from the smartphones in the hands of those who are so addicted to the digital teat that they can't find the common courtesy to switch their phones off before they enter the cinema. (Anyone who lets their phone ring - or worse, answers it! - deserves to be thrown out immediately.

So I was horrified to learn that Hoyts, in conjunction with MasterCard and the Commonwealth Bank is trialling a system that allows movie goers to order food and drinks via their iPhones or Android smartphones.

To make matters worse, the trial is limited to selected (premium) La Premiere cinemas. Terrific! You can pay extra for the privilege of being even more annoyed by thoughtless fellow patrons.

The trial uses MasterCard's QkR smart ordering service.

Cinemas are supposed to be about the movies - see page 2.


"We're focused on smart ways to simplify and improve the consumer experience," said Matt Barr, head of market development and innovation at MasterCard Australia. "QkR has many possible uses, and this pilot is just one great example of leveraging different technologies in a new way to create an easy and convenient ordering experience."

No, Mr Barr - what you've done is drive another nail into the already ailing body of common courtesy.

And the line from Hoyts just shows how dependent cinemas have become on food and beverage sales rather than their core business of showing films. (Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if cinemas now consider F&B their core business.)

"For our La Premiere guests, being able to purchase a meal, dessert or another round of drinks using QkR without missing a second of the movie is a real luxury!" said Hoyts CEO Delfin Fernandez.

Wrong again! What would be luxury is the opportunity to watch a movie in a quiet cinema, surrounded by other patrons who are there to actually watch the film, not to stuff their faces and carry on as if they were in their own loungerooms. Heck, I reckon I'm quieter in my loungeroom than some of the people I have to put up with during my increasingly rare visits to the cinema. Some films deserve to be seen in a cinema, but finding convenient times when the yahoos are otherwise occupied is getting more difficult.

But maybe the problem is that standards of behaviour have already fallen (or maybe 'changed' would be a less loaded word) to the extent that most patrons see nothing wrong with using a smartphone during a movie.

A useful tool applied to the wrong situation? See page 3.


According to the ABS, cinema attendance barely changed between 1999 and 2010. But 15-17 year olds are much more likely to go to the cinema than older people, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised about their tendency to fiddle with their phones.

Anyway, to Mr Barr and Mr Fernandez I say a pox on both your houses. I'll just get used to waiting for films to be released to pay-per-view.

That's not to say the technology isn't without merit - it would be very handy in a bar or cafe that provides table service. But cinemas are supposed to be quiet and dark.



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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.


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