13 Entertainment Industry Innovations That Failed Spectacularly

You gotta at least give William Castle credit for trying — and trying and trying and trying
13 Entertainment Industry Innovations That Failed Spectacularly

It’s easy to have ideas. The hard thing is knowing whether your idea is a good one or in fact, as is the case with the vast majority of ideas, it sucks a big dog’s ass. Everyone has a friend who has poured their life savings into something dumb because they were so in love with their stupid idea that they just couldn’t see how silly it was. Add the glamor and allure of the entertainment industry, and Hollywood’s eternally sexy draw and seemingly endless potential to make money, and it becomes even harder to know whether you’re sitting on a world-beating idea or a complete waste of everyone’s time.

The basic ways we experience entertainment have remained largely unchanged for decades. We’re either in a big room watching a giant screen, in a smaller room in our homes watching as big a screen as we can afford or waggling some sort of controller about to affect what happens on, yep, a screen. We’ve added fancier visuals, improved the sound quality and got really into watching a small screen at the same time, but otherwise that’s pretty much it. This means people are constantly convinced that there’s an element they can add that will just revolutionize everything and reinvent the world of entertainment. 

Smell-O-Vision: You’ve Seen the Movie, Now Smell the Background!

Theatergoers sitting down to watch the 1960 movie Scent of Mystery were treated to 30 different odors pumped into the cinema at key times. Similar endeavors — Scentovision, Smellorama and Aromarama — also, well, stank. (Source)

Percepto!: Scaring Moviegoers from the Ass Up!

Publicity-courting producer William Castle unveiled a new gimmick when releasing The Tingler in 1959: Several seats in larger theaters had a device called Percepto! attached to them, which vibrated unexpectedly and terrified people. Great fun but very, very expensive. (Source)

Illusion-O: For Horror Fans Afraid of Ghosts!

Castle loved a gimmick. HIs 1960 movie 13 Ghosts was released in Illusion-O — viewers were given red- and blue-lensed glasses, with red revealing the ghosts on-screen and blue hiding them. (Source)

Emergo: Terrifyingly Specific!

One more from Castle, whose House on Haunted Hill was released in Emergo — reels shipped with an elaborate pulley system and fake skeleton, which flew over the audience at key moments. Great gimmick, very pricey and limited to skeleton movies. (Source)

Motion Smoothing: Finally, Everything Can Look Like ‘Days of Our Lives’!

Screens have got too good for some older-shot stuff, so some bright spark came up with motion smoothing, which guesses frames in-between the existing ones and makes everything look like a live episode of the Bold and the Beautiful. (Source)

Quibi: All the Problems of Every Medium in One Expensive App!

“Everyone’s always looking at their phones,” was the entire thought process behind Quibi, a Hollywood-on-mobile endeavor that lost billions because there was literally no point to it. It was simultaneously like a shittier YouTube and a shittier version of TV. (Source)

3D TV: Fun for the Whole Family, Almost!

3D TVs looked, in many cases, awesome. However, only as many people could watch them as you had (expensive) glasses for — if grandma pops round to watch a movie, dad’s sitting in the kitchen with his thumb up his ass. (Source)

Google Glass: Look Like a Pedo for Just $1,000!

One of the potential applications for Google Glass was to function like VH1’s Pop-Up Video, annotating what you were watching. However, as they could record, they were banned from movie theaters. Also they made everyone look like a child molester. (Source)

Web TV: Not the Web, Not TV!

Timing is everything, and Web TV came along at a point when a lot was changing. Bringing the new-fangled “internet” to your TV without a computer made more sense in 1996 than 1999 as everything else got cheaper and easier. (Source)

Magic Drawing Screen: Adorably Radioactive!

1950s kids’ show Winky Dink and You had an innovation where viewers used static electricity to stick a plastic sheet to the screen and draw on it. Kids without sheets ruined TVs, and everyone got exposed to lots of X-rays. (Source)

Virtual Boy: VR, But BS!

Launched in 1995, the Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s worst-selling console ever — the technology just wasn’t there yet for a home VR console to work. It was heavy, extortionately expensive and not very good. (Source)

Interactive Cinema: Like Movies But Worse!

Attaching a few buttons to theater seats struck people as the perfect foil to rivals like cable TV and fancy-schmancy CD-ROMs. Loews launched interactive films, where you could vote for what happened next. The films, however? Very, very bad. (Source)

VHS Games: Putting the Bored into Board Games!

Quickly made obsolete by better technology, there was a brief vogue for VHS/board-game combos — after all, what could make an America’s Funniest Home Videos compilation more fun than having to roll a dice between nut-shots? (Source)

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