Cell Phones and Themed Entertainment: How To Cope?

“… and no flash pictures, please! Our spirits are frightfully sensitive to bright lights.”  Ghost Host – Disney’s Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion Grandma

While I know the narration of Paul Frees is considered sacred by many Haunted Mansion fans (as it should be), this particular warning seems to be rather pointless in the age of cell phones. Riders can be completely respectful of the no flash photography request yet fill the room with unnecessary cell phone light. Granted, the amount of ambient light from a phone isn’t usually as intense as a flash, but still distracting nonetheless. If you think that owning flash pictures (or distributing them on the internet) of dark rides somehow spoils the illusion/magic of it all, I encourage you to Google “lights on (insert attraction name here)”. That ship has long sailed years ago.

Haunted Mansion Walt Disney World

I can’t even remember the last time I went on a slow-moving dark ride and didn’t see someone’s face lit up from them either looking at their screen or taking selfies. In many ways, the parks have done this to themselves by creating so many apps and interactive games that can be used in theme parks these days. Not only are they encouraging guests to take their phone with them, they practically require you to stay tethered to it in order to manage FastPasses, check wait times or even look at photos taken throughout the day.

Le Reve Las Vegas

This new trend is hardly exclusive to theme parks. In Vegas, shows like Le Reve actually encourage patrons to snap pictures using special hashtags. You’ll see cell phones out and about throughout the entire show, but they discourage video recording.

Contrast that to seeing a Cirque du Soleil show pretty much anywhere. If someone takes out their cell phone… ushers will loudly yell at the offender shaming them to put their phone away. While indeed it is their right to do so, in my experience, the ushers yelling and stepping over me to make sure the one who should be shamed takes away from the show far more than any cell phone ever could. I get not wanting to spoil the show for others and keeping their secrets intact, but when you can purchase the DVD of most Cirque shows in the gift shop, I think having photos of your show floating around on the internet might give them some advertising and it’s free.

Room Escape Live

Oddly enough, it seems that the attraction that handles cell phones the best overall are escape rooms. Due to the intimate nature of an escape room and the “only use your wits” mentality, people are generally fine with leaving their iPhones in a locker or keeping them in pockets and purses for the duration of the challenge. Escape rooms are the only attraction I have been to in the last few years where I can walk in knowing I am getting a true immersive experience and that’s largely in part because me and my fellow teammates are told to not use them and generally speaking, most people gladly comply.

Escape Room Niagara Falls

I don’t have any solutions. I’m not even saying cell phones are good or bad. They play a vital role to the business model of most themed entertainment now. But is there a way to be able to put the phone down when needed and have guests only take them out when necessary? Or are we too far gone as a society to even ask such a question? Your thoughts?

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Images Copyright: Walt Disney Company, Theme Park University

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