Burriss: New movie tech

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I've been reading about declining movie attendance and about some of the new technologies being proposed that are supposed to lure viewers back into the seats: wind blowing in your face, seats that jostle, and even rain you can turn on or off.

Movie insiders are calling this "innovation." Well, I hate to bring bad news, but guess what: this is nothing new.

One of my favorite movies is 1959 cult classic, "The Tingler." At the beginning of the movie director William Castle appeared and warned that some audience members may be particularly sensitive to certain "tingling" sensations, but they could protect themselves by screaming.

Then, during the climatic final scene, the Tingler escaped into a movie theater. At that point the film supposedly broke and an image of the Tingler moved across the screen. One of the stars, Vincent Price warned the audience the Tingler was loose. Unknown to the audience, some seats had been equipped with small electric motors which began to vibrate and give viewers an unexpected jolt.

In addition, in some cities "screamers" and "fainters" had been hired, and were carried on stretchers out to a waiting ambulance.

The use of smells to enhance the viewing experience goes all the way back to 1906. That's 110 years ago. The technique reappeared in 1929, 1933, 1939 and 1959, apparently to under-whelming success, since I doubt you know any of their names.

In 1974 came something called "Sensurround," for the movie "Earthquake." The system used a sub-audible bass sound at 120 decibels to give audience members the feel of an earthquake.

It seems every time you turn around there is some supposedly new technological marvel on the horizon. And that's ok.

But I have to wonder, how much money will audience members be willing to pay to have water sprayed all over their $10 bucket popcorn during a movie? My guess is, not many.

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Larry Burriss
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