Every time I go to the movies here in the States, I sit through a PSA that tells me to turn off or silence my mobile phone. If I don't, I could be harassed by my fellow moviegoers, or worse, kicked out of the theater. And rightly so.
But some movie theaters in China are flipping the script on this longstanding theater etiquette.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, movie theaters in several Chinese cities are experimenting with a new technology called "bullet screens." For a small fee (about 10 cents), moviegoers can text commentary to the theater and see their comments appear on-screen in real time.
The experiment mimics how the Chinese tend to watch movies online. Streaming services in the country often let users comment on movies via SMS.
Thus far, tests of the bullet screen concept have produced mixed results. Some Chinese theatergoers have found the commentary to be fun, while others prefer a purer movie-watching experience.
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the manager of a theater in Shandong Province that recently experimented with the bullet screen tech:
“People like it right now, as it’s a new thing. 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.”
As you'd expect given China's history of censoring digital communications, all submitted comments are filtered for profanity and other sensitive terms before being posted on the big screen.
Considering the ongoing crusade to stamp out mobile phone use in American theaters, it seems unlikely that bullet screens will arrive on these shores anytime soon. But we could certainly see them catching on for midnight movies like Rocky Horror and The Room.