Cheap Seats to Tweet Seats

Tweeting from the Theatre

“Ladies and gentlemen, during this evening’s performance, flash photography and video recording are strictly prohibited. Now, turn on your cellphones and enjoy the show!” – Peter Funt, The New York Times

Earlier this year, Peter Funt wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times about several theatres that are experimenting with “tweet seats” in their theatres.

What are tweet seats?

Essentially, the back row of a theatre is reserved for people to live tweet during a performance. In an environment where cellphone users are usually strictly admonished, theatres are now encouraging theatergoing tweeters to continue their “digital conversations” throughout performances.

The advent of tweet seats has spurred a controversy in the theatre world over this new section of the audience. Some argue that live tweeting from the tweet seats generates effective publicity. On the other side, some feel that phone use of any kind is disruptive for fellow theatregoers.

In his article, Funt asks if the risk of upsetting the majority of paying theatregoers is worth it.

He responds by writing, “The answer, in five characters, ‘u bet.’”

What if there was a tweet seat section in your local theatre? Audience members in the special section could write live tweets about sold-out shows so that those who couldn’t get tickets could at least read the highlights via Twitter.

But is it disrespectful, disruptive, and distracting?

Without a doubt, it’s distracting for both the regular audience and the tweeters.

Imagine having to tolerate hearing incessant clicking of keys and seeing illuminated phone screens during a beautiful ballet, elaborate opera, or amazing concert.

And if someone is busy tweeting, his/her eyes aren’t on the stage. A critical moment might be missed because those multimedia-obsessed eyes are glued to a phone screen.

No one is going to patrol the tweet seats to make sure the tweeters don’t start a game of Angry Birds or Words with Friends.

People who sit in the tweet seats are often given their tickets for free in exchange for their publicity tweets.

It begs the question whether those sitting in the tweet seats are really there to critically analyze the show and if can they actually provide meaningful insights in 140 characters.