As many theatres in North America continue to wage war against cell phone use in movie theatres (some more than others), it appears that a number of cinemas overseas are already admitting defeat. It’s no secret that there are plenty of countries around the world where people are even more addicted to their mobile devices than we are here. China, in particular, has more than 1.2 billion cell phone users and for many of those users, mobile devices also serve as their primary source of entertainment. So how do you convince them to get out to a theatre to watch a movie on the big screen? By recreating the mobile experience and adding annoying text messages on screen, that’s how!
According to THR, several theatres in major Chinese cities have started experimenting with something called “bullet screens”, which allow moviegoers to send text messages while watching the movie that will then appear on screen for others to see. The idea seems to have been sparked by several successful Chinese movie websites that also enable users to share snarky comments about the movie via SMS. As you would expect, the messages are filtered to remove naughty words and other inappropriate content.
One of the movies being screened with this new technology is a 3D animated movie called The Legend of Qin. The director, Shen Leping, had this to say about the new innovation:
“We are exploring how the response from the audience can affect the movie itself… We are, in fact, putting the director and viewer on equal terms, and I think many of the opinions of the viewers are very helpful for film makers.”
So is this the future of moviegoing in the modern age? It’s too early to tell. I’d like to think that most people would find these comments annoying and distracting, and even in China there seems to be some opposition to it. Still, I suspect that there is an audience for this kind of thing out there. I can see the appeal of doing something like this online with a group of friends, but it really doesn’t belong at a movie theatre. Would you be interested in watching movies with a bullet screen or is this just about the worst idea you’ve ever heard?