Movie theaters in Beijing, Shanghai and other large cities in China are encouraging the audience to text during films by using “bullet screens” on which they can send text messages commenting on the movie and it will be projected onto the screen.
In places like Florida, texting during a film may get you shot, but in China there is row after row of cellphone lit faces and ringtones.
Instead of stopping rampant texting during films, movie theaters are embracing the practice. The idea is inspired by the experience of watching a movie on a tablet, where text messages can pop up while you are viewing.
The audience can spend the whole movie texting remarks about the film. They are sent by SMS at 0.1 yuan, about 10 cents, per message. Caution is taken to make sure offensive language isn’t posted to the screen.
The hope is that the audience interaction will lead to a moviegoing experience where the audience will dictate the story and its outcome, making films more like a video game.
“We are exploring how the response from the audience can affect the movie itself,” said filmmaker Shen Leping, whose movie “Legend of Qin” was screened with the bullet screen technology. “For example, we can conduct live polls and even alter the development of the plot based on responses we receive from audiences.”
However, some moviegoers don’t like the experience. They call the bullet screen messages a distraction.
“People like it right now, as it’s a new thing,” said a cinema manager in the Shandong province. “In the long term, it might affect people’s concentration. We are trying to continue with some bullet screen activities and play some films that young people like. Time will tell.”
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Gilles Klein