While many moviegoers – of various level of curmudgeonry – bemoan texting while viewing, often, it’s a survival strategy (Who could have sat through Mom’s Night Out without it?). Several Chinese movie theaters, capitalizing on our malaise, will soon introduce bullet screens, allowing viewers to project SMS text messages onto the screen while the movie plays. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “the inspiration behind the idea appears to be that it mimics that of watching a movie on mobile media – which is how most Chinese people watch films.”
That sounds terrible. As much as I love to send a text or craft an update during, say, a Step Up 5 motivational speech sequence, I have zero interest in reading other people’s commentary. Oh, you’re really loving this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opening fight scene, fifty-year-old man with crumbs all over your pants? Wow, you really love the message behind Heaven is for Real, thirteen-year-old with your feet on my seat? Congratulations, you’re terrible. Keep your thoughts to yourself.
So far, bullet screens have been introduced in medium-to-big cities throughout China, and reactions have been mixed. SMS messages are censored (duh) and cost 10 cents a pop: a 100% mark-up from an MTV TRL text. Moviegoers have already complained about the use of phones in Chinese movie theaters. And while bullet screens will be marketed primarily to adolescents – and must be approved by the film’s writers – it’s unclear whether the trend will become a phenomenon. Please God no. I’ll message them about it.