5 Cool Innovations That Might Make Movie Theaters Tolerable
Movie theaters are dying (and apparently have been since TV was invented), as more and more people prefer to watch films in the comfort of their own home, without overpriced Twizzlers or a toddler kicking the back of their seat. There are smart people out there trying to lure us back, though, offering things like ...
Wildly "Immersive" Movie Watching
In the book of Genesis, God says "Go hard or go home" at some point between creating Transformers and inventing ham. It's an intense chapter. But the lesson to take away is that sometimes you need to go balls to the wall on something, and that's just as true for the cinema experience as it is for holy ham. Thus, we have the rise of alternative cinema.
Secret Cinema is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to alternative cinema, providing you can handle the price tag, which can get over $100. If you went to see 28 Days Later at your local theater, you probably sat in the dark and hated every moment of your life in that dung pile of a movie house. Secret Cinema showed the movie in a warehouse, where audience members were given the option to buy costumes and were accosted by extras as they set up the scenario of the rage virus being unleashed. Then they were toured through impeccable setpieces and maybe the odd overpriced snack, taken to a blood-soaked rave with alcohol, attacked by rage zombies, the military, and hospital personnel, and then finally invited to watch the movie in the comfort of a military-run hospital room. It's 50 percent movie and 50 percent an entire mock world set in the movie, featuring actors and other customers like you.
Secret Cinema has done this for Back To The Future, Blade Runner, Dirty Dancing, and even Moulin Rouge. If a movie has an immersive enough universe to build in, they build in it, and you can play in it for two hours while never having to worry about actual monkey bites or the scourge of Patrick Swayze's tight pants.
If that seems a bit too active, and you prefer your viewing experience to be a bit more relaxed, there's another theater that seems like it was really designed for people like me in mind, which is to say people who hate pants but love beer: the Hot Tub Theatre. If the name didn't make it clear, the Hot Tub Theatre is where you watch a movie while sitting in a hot tub. Seats are for suckers; you need jets of recirculated water shooting your butt crack in a room full of strangers. Ideally, you'll be in a tub only with people you know, but you know what? I'm a friendly guy. I'll hop in the tub with you. Just don't splash my popcorn, and we're golden.
Finding Creative Ways To Keep Children From Ruining Everything
When I went to see the Evil Dead remake, the people who went into the theater ahead of me appeared to be a family of four, with one of the kids looking to be about six. Now, maybe the parents just hated their child, or maybe he did something shitty at home and his punishment was to sit in abject terror for 90 minutes. Whatever the case, it still rubbed my rhubarb a little to see a child in an adult movie. The fuck was that about?
So what do you do with the kids? You can't just shove those things in lockers anymore; this is 2018. To fix this problem, some theaters are totally going out of their way to make moviegoing a more family friendly experience. For instance, Cinepolis in Southern California has a playground for the kids, complete with a 55 foot long, 25 foot high structure with slides and climbers and the kinds of brightly colored crap that really amuse children, all right there in the theater. But before you spit your LaCroix in a panic, know that it's meant to tire the kids out before a movie starts -- you can't use it during the movie. So in an ideal world, that kid who nearly shit his pants during Evil Dead would've been too exhausted to do any pants-shitting during the actual movie.
Other theaters offer up bean bags to stop your kids from fidgeting so damn much, and if all goes well, maybe they'll just pass right out. If your kids are smaller, there's something called Stars and Strollers for when you don't have a sitter, or if you just really like the idea of hanging out with a bunch of other parents and babies at the latest Tarantino family friendly funfest. The theater has lowered volume to be less abrasive to the tiny human you created, and dim lighting so you can still see where your kid is and not be dropping peanut M&M's on their head for two hours.
And hell, if that's not good enough, some theaters literally have babysitting available, so you can finally go see Pitch Perfect 4: Pitches Be Crazy without having your child point out all of the redundant screenwriting tropes of the Pitch Perfect series.
Live Orchestra Accompaniment
There's always a chance that the thing that doesn't appeal to you about seeing a movie is the fact you're just seeing a movie, and that's how the poors entertain themselves. You're a fan of doing whatever the fuck it is rich people do for fun. That means taking classy trips to the, ahem, cinema. Well hold on to your monocle, because some people are bringing high society to the movies!
The Asian Dub Foundation, a group of musicians who probably don't do a lot of Taylor Swift covers, had the inspiration to present the score to the movie THX-1138, which sounds just OK until you fold in the much cooler aspect of how they presented it: live during a screening of the film. While you want to do this with movies that have little to no dialogue, as a blaring trumpet doesn't mesh well with Wes Anderson bon mots, it adds a very intense new dimension to the film. That's art and shit right there.
Silent films like The Passion Of Joan of Arc have also had live scoring by 24-piece orchestras, proving that you can breathe new life into a movie even if it is almost 100 years old. And events like The Harry Potter Film Concert Series do the same thing with more modern films. If you still don't get why this should be a thing, tell me you wouldn't get pumped hearing the Star Wars theme live when the logo goes floating off into the distance.
When those horns blast to life, you'd be able to feel that shit pulsing through your shoes.
Screens That Actually Surpass What We Have In Our Living Rooms
Part of the challenge for theaters is they're competing with home setups that are legitimately better. Some folks pour five figures into TVs that seem to have more resolution than real life, somehow. For example, home TVs can have better contrast, since projections can't show true black very well (it's actually not possible to project blackness onto a surface, if you think about it). That's why some theaters are upgrading to LED screens, so you get the same clarity your rich friends get on their glorious setup -- only, you know, gigantic-movie-screen-size.
Or, if you need a more immersive experience, there's Barco Escape. The Barco Escape screen is 270 degrees of panoramic movie, with a screen to the left and right of the main screen, plunking you in the middle. Because when Iron Man is shooting some lasers at an alien in front of you, you deserve to see Hulk taking a dump on an entire race of extraterrestrials on the right.
ScreenX is offering the same experience. Black Panther was one of the first major North American films released in the format. However, it's been mostly used in Korea up to this point. There are currently only three North American theaters that offer ScreenX, but if it expands, you could absolutely look forward to watching the Howard The Duck reboot in glorious 270-degree 3D.
Focusing On Awesome Things That Just Can't Be Done At Home
The traditional defense for the theater experience thus far as been just that: the experience. You can watch all seven Police Academy movies at home, but it's not the same as that big screen, with the smell of popcorn in the air and the murmur of inconsiderate monsters who think it's OK to talk through previews even though that's the second-best part. The theater experience is awesome, and now it's more experience than you've ever experienced.
For example, with Onscreen.com, you get to vote on the movie you and a group of friends, or just a random group of whoever, want to see. If enough people vote to see it, a screening takes place. You finally get your chance to see Highlander 2: The Quickening on the big screen. Life is good!
A number of theaters are also putting the effort into making virtual reality more than just YouTube videos of old people falling out of chairs. AMC is working with a company called Dreamscape to create multi-person, full-room virtual reality experiences that align with movies as a kind of parallel entertainment experience. So if you're going to see Jurassic World 2, then the VR experience might be you immersed in a world wherein you're hounded by people demanding to know why they keep sending children to these islands full of dinosaurs when it never, ever works out. Also you probably shoot stuff or whatever.
Now if they can find a way to deliver that immersive experience while also immersing my real body in a hot tub, they may finally have brought the magic back to cinema.
Forget about the microwave, have you tried making your own popcorn at home in a popcorn popper?
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