OMG! Theater to Allow Cell Phones During Live Performances

Welcome to the performance space of the future: A 2,000-seat concert hall, a state-of-the-art building, and a policy that allows the audience to use cell phones during the show.

The bold decision of the Tateuchi Center to be built in Bellevue, Washington, first reported by the New York Times, is a play for a younger, texting generation to take an interest in attending live performances.

John Haynes, the CEO of Tateuchi Center, who is overseeing its design and construction, was given the option of putting a cell phone signal block in the performance space. He thought, "That is exactly the wrong direction to go in." For a tech-savvy audience to feel at home at an arts center, Haynes decided to not just let Wi-Fi into the space but also to allow tweeting and texting during live performances.

Speaking on the phone to Yahoo!, the 64-year-old said, "I am convinced we can control the experience, but we can't forbid the experience." He added, "We are creating a new etiquette for a younger audience."

That new audience, Haynes hopes, will include the employees of Microsoft, which has its headquarters nearby. The software firm has put $2.2 million toward the arts center.

It's not a coincidence that a theater opening its doors in 2014, and in a tech mecca that includes heavyweights like T-Mobile, Expedia, and Infosoft, is considering how to incorporate mobile into its welcome message. Audience members, for example, could be given polarizing film to place over their brightly lit cell phone screens, allowing them to update Facebook without bothering the people sitting next to them.

Haynes said this isn't giving in as much as moving on and getting ready for the next generation of concertgoers, who engage with social media 24/7. "There's an inevitability to evolving cultural norms. We're recognizing it early."

Response to the new gadget-friendly policy has been met with mixed reviews. On GeekWire, one fan applauded: "I'm glad Bellevue is embracing technological progress." Another disagreed: "I love technology. I also love live performances and movies on the big screen. The two don't mix IMO."

Still, there's one line that even this arts center of the 21st century won't cross: It won't allow phone calls. "That is rude behavior. We will not tolerate it."