Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I Saw the Future and It's Awesome!

Remember those days when you, your folks, your friends, maybe your girlfriend would all mozy down to the ol' cinema? That was before the big Famous Players and Cineplex Odeon conglomorates took over the movie biz and "disappeared" (that's mob speak) many of the smaller community theatres.

Fun Fact: Back in the 1930 (the earliest year from which accurate and credible data exists), weekly cinema attendance was 80 million people, approximately 65% of the resident U.S. population. That's changed these days. At the beginning of the 21st century, that figure was only 27.3 million people, which was a mere 9.7% of the U.S. population.

And that's before the advent of the age of the home entertainment systems, big flat screen TVs with crystal clear HD screens, and of course amazing new sound systems capable of sound we could never experience on the older TVs. DVDs were almost as good as the big screens.

Then there's the increasingly fast download speed provided by high-speed internet connections. Suddenly you could download a movie quickly - and on pirate sites - for free. Why pay $15 for a movie, when you could see it on your home theatre before the release date for nothing?

So it seemed to me the time of the movie theatre was in its decline. After all, what could the future theatres possibly offer that I couldn't get at home? And then, I went to the Vancouver Acquarium. That's right, the aquarium.

I was there at the behest of my lovely redheaded partner. We joined dozens of kids and adults for the opening of the Acquarium's 4D Experience. In the theatre we were treated to the Shallow Waters episode of the landmark series Planet Earth - but with a big twist. First of all the whole show was in incredibly sharp 3D - awe inspiring when you see a giant whale or a host of sea snakes swimming towards you.

But by far more impressive was a combination of mist, air effects, bubbles and smells all of which are perfectly timed with what was happening on screen. When a whale surfaced and blew from his blow hole, we got sprayed, when thousands of little fish swam by bubbles on the screen and real bubbles hitting our noses, and when the sea snakes swam around us in 3D - air nozzles blew under our leg simulating the feeling of a predator swimming by. Then there were our seats, vibrating, jerking and generally bringing the show to life.

Watching Planet Earth is always an amazing experience. But experiencing it not only visually but on all five senses is something else. Can you imagine watching a horror flick and feeling the breath of Freddy on the back of your neck or the smell of the ocean where the action's taking place? Or imagine how cool it would be to smell the chocolate factory as Charlie walks through it and creepy Michael Jacksonesque Wonka prances about. The possibilities are limiteless.

1 comment:

Theodora Lamb said...

Nice research, Kurt. I still feel a thrill when I step into a theatre. So many good memories - first dates, movie night with my Dad, girlfriends out together, real butter. Although I loved the 4D experience, a part of me hopes the old school approach to movies doesn't disappear - sometimes I'm so engrossed in the story, I don't want to be vibrated or sitting in a storm of bubbles. It's sort of like meditation - if the movie is great - I can look forward to a two hour outer body experience.