Forget the pre-movie reminders—London’s Prince Charles Cinema does those on-screen warnings one better: they opt for ninjas. Really volunteers in “Morphsuits” (think It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or the Vancouver Canucks’ Green Men), the ninjas clad in all-black Lycra bodysuits swoop to noisy patrons, giving them a stern—if comical—warning to simmer down.
The idea started earlier this month after Morphsuits teamed with the cinema to create the “Invisible Cinema Ninjas.” By giving regular moviegoers free tickets in exchange for serving as a ninja (sadly, no true ninja training was included in the deal), the Leicester Square theater was able to keep a strict watch on its “code of conduct” in a trial run that has proven successful.
“The ‘Cinema Ninjas’ may sound ludicrous, but they have been a real success in clamping down on those ruining films for everyone else with inconsiderate behavior,” says Paul Vickery, head of public relations for the theater. “Like every cinema, we were irritated and upset by the minority of people running films for everyone else.”
Gregor Lawson, Morphsuits founder, says the idea actually stemmed from a Facebook page, where fans discussed using his suits to dress up as ninjas. That turned into a marketing plan that put ninjas—and his Morphsuits—into theaters.
And while this may partly be for publicity, there’s certainly some strategy involved. The volunteers position themselves in the darkest spots in the theater and when they spy a ringing cell phone, chatting patron or popcorn-thrower, they spring into action, handing down a stern talking to and reminding everyone around them how to act respectfully.
Adbul Stagg, a visitor caught taking out a cell phone at the start of a movie, says in a theater press release that he found being “suddenly” confronted by two ninjas “pretty terrifying at first,” but he got a good laugh out of the situation and quickly realized he was being a distraction.
The initial trial has gone so well that the cinema hasn’t given thought to ending the program just yet. Because, after all, who doesn’t love a ninja? Especially at the movies.