The future of moviegoing

High-tech hand-dryers, tiny cheeseburgers, shaking seats and spying cameras—all possibly coming to a theater near you

The future of moviegoing?
Robert Ullman

The annual movie-theater-industry trade convention ShoWest (at Paris and Bally’s) has downsized a bit this year, but it was nevertheless full of everything from cutting-edge projector light bulbs to really ugly carpeting, all competing for the attention of movie-theater owners and operators. Here are four things I spotted that average moviegoers might look forward to in the future.

• As a person with a small bladder, I find myself getting up to use the bathroom during all but the shortest movies, and I’m always annoyed when a theater has only time-consuming air dryers and not paper towels in its bathrooms. Now Dyson comes to the rescue with the Airblade, a super-sleek new dryer that works by “scraping water from hands like a windshield wiper,” or so says the sign at the booth. “It’s gonna chop your hands right off,” laughs the attendant as I cautiously wet one hand in the provided sink and then dip it into the device. A concentrated blast of air hits my hand, a little disconcerting but not life-threatening. I slowly move my hand upward as instructed. It comes away dry (within about 12 seconds, according to the promo materials). Amazing.

• We don’t have fast-food chain White Castle here in the West, but pretty much everyone is familiar with it thanks to stoner-movie classic Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Now you can enjoy the restaurant’s mini-cheeseburgers at the movies—or at least that’s what the company hopes, as they promote two-packs of burgers as hot new concession-stand items. The snack-size sandwiches are ideal for the movies, and taste pretty good even reheated from frozen.

• Older moviegoers may remember the Sensurround gimmick that used deep bass sounds to simulate the rumbling of the earth in the 1974 movie Earthquake. A reimagining of sorts is coming from Canadian company D-Box. Their Motion Code system features specially designed theater seats that actually shake, move and rumble in response to events onscreen. The technology debuts in two theaters this week with Fast & Furious, and at the D-Box booth I’m able to experience it while watching the F&F trailer. The motion is indeed impressively synced to the onscreen action, and feels a little like a milder version of a simulator ride. But after three minutes I’ve had enough; the D-Box representative explains that the effect only occurs during about a third of the movie, but even half an hour of that, spread over 90 minutes, would probably be enough to give me a headache.

• Theater-hoppers, beware: The folks at iCount are touting a new camera system that uses facial-recognition software to determine how many people are in an auditorium, and whether that number lines up with the number of tickets sold. I ask the iCount representative what happens if it doesn’t: Do employees come in and check tickets? No, he says. They just know that some shenanigans are going on, and can watch out for future offenses. This seems like a relatively pointless use for a sophisticated piece of equipment, although the iCount brochure does tout other, less exciting applications. For now, it’s probably safe to assume your sneakiness won’t be recorded.


Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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