Vibrating Seats, 270-Degree Screens, Smell Effects: Meet The Movie Theater Of The Future

Any parent of a tween or teen will gladly tell you that getting them to pay attention to any one thing for two hours is next to impossible, what with the constant stream of distractions offered by their TV’s, video games, and mobile devices. This is a problem for movie theater owners – they rely on that money from the 12-17 and 18-24-year-old crowds. And to get those butts back in the seats, movie theater chains are coming up with innovations designed to draw, and keep, crowds: 270-degree screens, seats that vibrate and undulate with the action on the screen, and even bursts of smell effects, the New York Times is reporting.

Ben Carlson, president of entertainment think tank Fizziology, says that going to a movie and staring at a screen for two hours just doesn’t gel with the younger crowd.

“The traditional moviegoing experience is at odds with the rest of their lives.”

To address the problem, movie theater chains have come up with some rather innovative ideas.

At the Regal in downtown Los Angeles, for example, you can pay an extra $8 to sit in seats that dip and vibrate in time with the movie, while compressed air shoots at you to simulate bullets flying by. Fans blow air on you to simulate wind, while you can get splashed on and rained on if you’d like, according to Bend Bulletin. Smells, such as burning rubber, gunpowder, are pumped into the theater at opportune times.

And remember those stern warnings you’re used to seeing at the beginning of movies, asking you to put your cell phone and other mobile devices away? Some theaters are now integrating movie devices into the experience. Disney, for example, has tested out what they call Second Screen: Bring your iPad or other tablet to the movie theater, and play games in sync with the action while the movie plays.

If that sounds ridiculous, consider yourself an old fogey; during a recent Second Screen screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas, the system was a huge hit.

And over in China, a theater chain is attempting to bring live text-messaging into the movie theater experience.

Another theater chain, Cinemark, is trying to upgrade the moviegoing experience while cutting back on the gimmicks, by offering 270-degree screens (but forgoing that vibrating seats and smell effects). After all, says Cinemark CEO, Timothy Warner, the movie proper should serve as the focal point for the experience.

“Unlike some of the others, we still think the reason people go to the movies is to see movies.”

Do these new innovations for the movie theater of the future add to the moviegoing experience, or detract from it?

[Image courtesy of: The New York Times]