Just as when televisions threatened the matinee back in the 1950s, on-demand streaming technology from places like Netflix and YouPorn are causing the powers who trade in overpriced popcorn to get a wee bit jumpy. Sixty years ago, some theater owners reacted to the outside threat to their livelihoods by unleashing a wave of insane gimmicks, like vibrating "Tingler" seats and mock "so scary you might die!" insurance policies. But we'd never resort to that level of desperate, publicity-seeking shamelessness nowadays, right?

Wrong.

5
They Want Phones to Be Socially Acceptable in Theaters

Wonderful. Just when society evolved to the point where most people realize that talking on a cellphone during a movie is a supremely shitty thing to do, now they're going to actually encourage us to use our mobile devices in the theater? People have been shot and killed for that.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living HellWFTS/ABC
The shooter was arrested, but only because he had also been using his phone during the movie.

The concept is called second-screen viewing. Smartphone apps like Shazam and SoundHound, which formerly were used for figuring out whether that song is Foghat or Papa Roach, have partnered with cinema ad networks so that their audio-recognition technology can be used to access additional promotional material on your phone while the preshow ads are playing on the big screen. So, we should keep our phones turned on to ... enhance the commercials? They've just combined the worst of both worlds.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living Hellleszekglasner/iStock/Getty Images
You'll take selfies for prizes during the "turn off your cell" announcement.

[inject-module]

If you were hoping this bullshit ended after the trailers, it's our sad duty to inform you that they're not going to stop there. As if being trapped in a darkened space with dozens of shouting, pooping toddlers wasn't exasperating enough, they've already conducted second-screen viewings of The Little Mermaid and other Disney films, in which they encourage audiences to bring an iPad along to access extra interactive features during the movie. Now, doing this sort of thing at kids' movies is one thing, but seeing as advertising executives aren't always known for their restraint, does anyone honestly believe they won't gradually try to trickle it into everything?

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living Hellchat9780/iStock/Getty Images, Halfbrick Studios
Oh, look: it turns out the murderer was a fruit ninja.

4
They Want to Turn Lobbies Into Seizure Factories

Over the years, we've seen theaters come up with some spectacular cardboard arrangements, called standees, to advertise upcoming films. Sometimes they have moving parts, and sometimes they're set up to give off a 3D illusion, and typically the way we would describe them would be "neat." Rather than, say, "an aggravating visual assault requiring a warning for any epileptics in the vicinity." Well, take a look at what's about to take the place of cardboard.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living HellBarcoTV
"It's three weeks, tops, before we start spamming you with ads for boner pills while
you're trying to get some Red Vines."

The digital-cinema company responsible for that relentless optical and auditory blitzkrieg is Barco, and the concept is called, rather unimaginatively, CinemaBarco (we'd have gone with The Eyefucker Gigantico). So far they've done this only for the opening of the latest Muppets movie as a demonstration, but their goal is far more wide-reaching and insidious:

"Imagine a wonderland of sights and sounds from the moment you walk through the door of your local multiplex, where everything around you is a modern expression of storytelling."

Odd that they don't mention that half of what you see has something to do with the concession counter.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living HellRyan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
Come for the grand mal seizures, stay for the diabetic comas.

The makers claim this onslaught of brightly flashing obnoxiousness is intended to hark back to the days of old Hollywood, when going to the movies was an exciting event worthy of ... well, an aggressively colorful artillery barrage in the middle of a lightning storm that rains candy, apparently. Regarding this clusterfuck, Jim Molony, director of business operations, says, "We want to create a story in the lobby." Presumably it's a story that can be told only through the language of uncontrollable vomiting.

3
Interactive Commercials

What's the most fun part of going to the movies? The commercials, of course! That appears to be the mindset of the folks behind a startup called Audience Entertainment, who seem to be banking on the dubious presumption that not only do people want to immerse themselves more fully in the pre-movie advertisements but also do it by standing up in a crowded theater and waving their arms in unison.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living HellAudience Entertainment
"Wave them like you just don't care."
"We don't."

The technology they've developed allows the audience to control what's happening onscreen by way of motion- and sound-sensing cameras. One might suppose something like this, which is essentially a larger-scale version of what you can do at home with your game console, might be worth a five-minute laugh at a theme park or something. But of course that's not what they want to use it for. Its intended use is for ad campaigns shown during movie previews, such as in the AquaDuck game, where your arm-flailing helps to send Donald Duck barreling down a waterslide in an advertisement for Disney Cruise Line.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living HellAudience Entertainment
Not even everyone in the paid promo video can be assed to play along.

And hey, look! They've partnered with our friends from Barco, the company from the previous entry that thinks theater lobbies should look like you're having a peyote nightmare while trapped inside an electronics store. The product they came up with is called iD (short for "Interactive Dimension") and is being billed as a way to "create a new cinema environment allowing moviegoers to physically connect and control the screen's content the moment they take their seat," according to the press release. Essentially, this appears to mean doing the wave in time with onscreen prompts, in a manner so obvious and simplistic that a sign-language-trained gorilla would find it condescending.

2
They Want to Project Your Texts on the Screen

You know how some TV shows have Twitter comments scrolling along the bottom so any random yahoo can weigh in with whatever inane, vapid thought that happens to be rolling around in their head at any given moment? Aside from the occasional appearance of large, floppy penises during news reports, it's generally more annoying than it is entertaining. Well, how would you like to see that sort of thing happening throughout an entire movie?

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living Hellcnfol.com
The subtitle guy's drunk again.

Theaters in China have started introducing something called danmu, which loosely translates to "bullet screens," whereupon movie patrons can post their comments via cellphone right up on the big screen for everyone to see. Actually, you can't help seeing it, since apparently the entire movie sometimes gets overrun by a Matrix-style swarm of text, all presumably spelling out whatever the Chinese equivalents are for "LOL," "YOLO," and "THIS MOVIE IS TOTES TEH GHEY SUXXORZ."

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living Hellvia news.com.au
We're pretty sure what we're looking at is the word "amazeballs," written out about 60 times.

We suppose this kind of thing could be fun in theory, if you were able to somehow pack the crowd with enough witty people who could turn the experience into an approximation of MST3K. But, realistically, the chances of that kind of random karmic confluence actually ever coming to pass are slim in the extreme. What you're more likely to wind up with is the world's first live-action theatrical reenactment of the birth of an average YouTube comments section.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living Hellvia TheNanfang.com
China's laws against political debate don't sound so bad now, do they?

1
They Even Want the Seating to Be a Huge Gimmick

Think we're stretching things a bit by comparing all this new "interactive technology" to the ridiculously goofy gimmicks of the 1950s? Well, put this in your e-cig and smoke it (or whatever you do with those things).

We swear the following video is not a spoof.

In case you couldn't or wouldn't watch that, we'll spell it all out for you. That was a promo for something called 4DX seating, which promises to deliver "a new movie-watching paradigm for the five senses." Which basically means they've taken every crackpot, carnival-esque contrivance from the 1950s and mashed them all together to make sitting in one of their chairs an ordeal more suited to cosmonaut training than anything resembling an enjoyable night out. Think we're exaggerating? Let's go over some of the features.

First, a mechanism jerks your seat around like a bully in a middle school cafeteria.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living HellLA Live Insider
For each showing, they put Dramamine on the seat like a hotel pillow mint.

Then, undeterred by the colossal failure of all previous attempts to augment the movie-going experience via the magic of stink, they've included their own version of Smell-O-Vision. And for those people who've always wished that the row they're sitting in could be more like a high school dance/dank graveyard/Liberace concert (complete with all the sticky residue that all those things entail), there are built-in options to produce bubbles, fog, wind, rain, vibrators, and tickle monsters.

5 Gimmicks That Will Soon Make Movie Theaters a Living HellLA Live Insider
This was designed for either porn or the Captain Planet movie.

But wait a minute. The promo promised to stimulate all five senses! So how will our taste buds get involved in "the paradigm"? We hate to even contemplate how these seats will be addressing that issue, but maybe they're referring to the panicky, dry-mouthed sensation theater owners will get after forking over up to $2 million per venue to install them.


For more poor cinematic gimmicks, check out If Classic Movies Used Viral Marketing.

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