Bigger, closer, more intense. A new type of movie-viewing experience promises patrons will feel part of the onscreen action—whether flying through the Grand Canyon or galloping with wild horses. But will ScreenX live up to the hype?
It’s the next big thing in what experts call “immersive” (the feeling of being physically present) movies. ScreenX expands scenes onto the side walls of the theater. So action extends beyond peripheral vision—about 270 degrees—nearly surrounding moviegoers with picture.
Attendance at theaters has been plunging for years. Online services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have cut into movie revenues even more. Paul Kim, Vice President of Studio Relations and Productions at ScreenX, helped develop his company’s panoramic display. He says, “We needed to find a way to get people back in the theatres.”
This isn’t the first tactic movie experts have used to woo customers. A decade ago they tried 3-D. Next came ultra-high res IMAX projectors and 4DX—which features moving chairs and real-life special effects like piped in scents and snowfalls on the audience. Those innovations helped somewhat. Since 3-D became popular, global box office revenue has grown. But that growth seems to be fading. Time to introduce something new.
Humans love new ideas, gadgets, and experiences. God hardwired us to enjoy new days, new mercies, and definitely the new birth. But He also wants people to balance the desire for new things with contentment. Forever chasing the “god of originality” is futile. And like all false gods, originality alone is neither truly real (remember Solomon’s “nothing new under the sun”?) nor satisfying. Only God “satisfies the longing soul.” (Psalm 107:9)
Kim insists ScreenX is more than bigger, better, and newer. The goal, he says during a YouTube interview, is always storytelling. “We don’t want it to be a gimmick.”
During a ScreenX movie, the center screen tells the main story. Some parts of the film don’t have anything playing on the sides. The extra-wide format works best for sweeping landscapes and action sequences—hiking in the Himalayas or fighting an intergalactic battle.
Techno-storytelling comes at a price. ScreenX will pass along the cost of additional screens, projectors, and editing to moviegoers by adding about three dollars per person to each ticket.
ScreenX may be a last-ditch attempt to drag movie fans off the sofa and away from streaming shows. It’s unclear whether this latest invention will work. Perhaps because more than experiencing newness, humans enjoy hanging onto their money.