Would you go to a movie theater to see a film as the entire audience livetweets it? Where your fellow filmgoers’ comments are displayed onscreen along with the film?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chinese theaters are testing what they call ‘bullet screens,’ which allow filmgoers to use their phones to send text messages commenting on the film, which would then be broadcast onscreen—for a small price.
Since many Chinese citizens already watch films via mobile devices, where they can communicate with one another about what they like or dislike, the idea makes sense: it’s the same thing, only bigger. Since bullet screens, in their current incarnation, can only be used with studio approval, attendees could presumably interact with filmmakers if the practice ever takes off. But public opinion remains split so far—while some enjoy the opportunity for interaction, others find it distracting. After all, why go to a theater for an experience you already have at home?
The test echoes a similar debate in American cinemas over the past few years as theaters and studios conduct their own experiments with second-screen experiences, prompting a similar divide in public opinion: Some see it as a disrespectful nuisance, while prominent tech pundits suggest a filmgoing experience that’s friendlier to those who prefer to multitask. Ultimately, theaters will likely try everything and anything available in order to fill seats, and along the way, inevitably, some ideas will be more appealing than others.