Many like to think of the cinema as a place that lets their mind wander; something that takes them to different worlds and lets their imagination run wild. In order to do that, you need peace and quiet — which is why cinemas provide advertisements reminding guests to turn off their phones and avoid taking during the film.
Some cinemas in China, however, are going in the complete opposite direction. Chinese audiences aren’t only encouraged to complain about the movie they are watching, but share their comments with the rest of the audience—by having them projected on the movie screen.
Theaters in Beijing and Shanghai have begun experimenting with a live commenting system through which audiences can share a comment by sending a text message from their phone, reports Sohu Entertainment. Messages are then projected directly on the screen over the film, or onto an adjacent screen.
The Legend of Qin is an animated film that has tried the new feature in 50 theaters in Beijing and Shanghai since it was released on August 8. Shen Leping, the film’s director, is very enthusiastic about it, saying:
We are exploring how the response from the audience can affect the movie itself… We are, in fact, putting the director and viewer on equal terms and I think many of the opinions of the viewers are very helpful for film makers.
The screenings that feature live commenting predominantly feature young audiences, 80% of whom are 24 years old or younger. This demographic is more familiar with live commenting, which is already used online. Called danmu, or “bullet screen” for the way words scroll from left to right like bullets, live commenting on videos puts user content on equal terms with the video content. Originating from Japan, two Chinese websites that have popularized the danmu are ACFun and Bilibala.
To give you a taste of what this experience is like, here’s a video (below) with live commenting enabled. The video shows a video-taped confession of Taiwanese actor Kai Ko, who was arrested on drug charges along with Jaycee Chan. Screenshots are first provided, and then with a video clip below.
Having moved from the internet and onto the silver screen, audiences can use the live commenting system to bring their own snark and sarcasm as they enjoy watching a movie through the interface of their own phone.