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Heckling allowed but use your thumbs

ST. CHARLES – Is it the next big thing or upstart undercurrent?

Wisecrack subtitles shown along with a feature movie, sent via text messaging from the cell phones of a movie-house audience, is being tried at Charlestowne 18 Theatres, 3740 E Main St.

Sharpen your wits for a showing of "Napoleon Dynamite" at 10 p.m. Saturday.

Rien Heald, creator of the software MuVChat,  said the idea floated across his transom for the first time while he was on a train, listening to the music of the group Squirrel Nut Zippers and reading about Charles Darwin.

"It was the juxtaposition of two bizarre thoughts," Heald said.

Heald, a 46-year-old Naperville resident, said when he tells people of his own generation about his invention, he gets "a blank look ... even disdain."

"This concept is for Generation Y,"  said Heald, a self-employed consultant for  internet product development. "It's for people 18 to 30 years old."

Heald said MuVChat is as simple as hooking up a computer to a digital film projector. The computer receives the text messages from the audience and posts them in a blank space along the bottom of the screen.

"It's a congregation of those who love to text," said Chris Johnson, vice president of of Classic Cinemas, which owns  Charlestown 18 Theatres. 

"It's like 'Rocky Horror Picture Show,' only instead of shouting at the screen, you text your comments," said Johnson. "We tried it once with the movie 'Zoolander' and it got a good reception."

Johnson said he thinks MuVChat would work better with well-known movies that have had a lot of play on television and not first-run features.

"Kitsch movies we think would work the best," he said. "You can anticipate what's going to happen, and it's fun to interact with other people who don't know who you are."

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