Tweet seats: Don’t give away the ending

Istockphoto/ globe staff illustration

Sure, most theaters still want audiences to turn off their phones before the curtain rises. But when retailers, political campaigns, and media organizations are harnessing the power of social media, it was inevitable that some venues would try to drum up free publicity by letting patrons tweet away. As the Globe reported last week, a number of local venues, including Lyric Stage Company in Boston and the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, are considering “tweet seats,’’ where theatergoers who can’t bear to leave the grid can tell their friends about every passing scene.

Especially in lean times, arts groups should look for ways to broaden their audiences and dispel the image that they’re off limits to all but the wealthiest. Still, using social media to break down old forms of snobbery risks creating entirely new ones. As the Globe article noted, when the Palm Beach Opera set aside an area for tweeters at a dress rehearsal, it restricted the free seats to those with large and active followings.

And there’s a more basic risk to letting patrons live-tweet on the opening night of a show whose script is the same every night. Would Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet’’ have proved as enduring if someone had tweeted, “OMG! #spoilers They both die in the end?!’’

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