When I think of impressive directorial debuts, Sam Mendes’ American Beauty races to the forefront of my mind. It pains me that people dismiss the film as ‘sick’ because they hear about the relationship between Lester and Angela.
At its heart, American Beauty is about Lester realising that he lives an unhappy, monotonous life, and taking steps to fix that problem. Steven Savona is not an oncologist from New York, but is a 19 year-old journalism student who loves film, words, wit and the NRL. Not long after my rather lackluster second screen experience at Regal Cinemas using the FirstLook sync app, a pair of news stories caught my attention.
This got me thinking: Would it be possible to produce a fully interactive cinematic experience with the audience, at scale, in a movie theater environment without installing custom hardware at each viewing location? The invention of the DVD player helped bring in an era of games that took the traditional board game and combined it with the TV to produce interactive gaming experiences. The modern day movie theater not only has a digital projector system, but it is driven by a traditional PC server based network architecture.
The movie itself can be created using multiple decision journey scenarios and loaded onto the hard drive for delivery to the theater just like any other film.
I did mention in the original question about finding a way to do this without hardware installation. Home TV and movie watching has seen a dramatic rise in the development of new second screen and connected viewing experiences. This entry was posted in Second Screen and tagged AMC Theatres, cinema, movie theater, Regal Cinemas, second screen by Chad Elkins.
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Written by Alan Ball (in his screenwriting debut), it is a richly nuanced film, and of all the films I’ve watched in my life to date, I’m happy to call it my favourite. I’ve heard people declare that they refuse to watch it because of this plot point, and others have watched the film and disliked it for this reason alone. The mark of a great film, or a great piece of art in general, is that it can focus on a theme that is generally frowned upon by society, and make the audience accept it. Hall’s cinematography beautifully encapsulates the underlying beauty and personality of a quiet American suburb. Fast forward nine years, and I could only remember specific images from it, but that was enough to make me buy the film on DVD, one Thursday afternoon in 2008.
Presenting choice-based elements to progress a story is extremely easy in a web-based environment and can even be accomplished with annotations in YouTube: a fun example of this is the Saved By The Bell game. A groundbreaking achievement, it leveraged voice activated software for a single user in the audience to make simple verbal choices in real time with the action taking place on the screen.
This diagram is from the Sony SRX-R220 projection system terminal, but should be fairly representative of the typical cinema megaplex. The local server PC would be loaded with the software that is designed to receive commands from a remote server on the Internet and then pull the appropriate clip from the film hard drive which is relayed through to the projector.


Movie theaters are continually looking to find new and innovative ways to create interactive experiences for their customers. While the quality of the viewing experience at theaters continues to improve with better visuals and sound, the creation of interactive transmedia storytelling has lagged behind. In a nutshell, it’s about a middle-aged man named Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), whose apathetic existence is injected with vitality once he grows attracted to his teenage daughter’s  friend, Angela (Mena Suvari).
I didn’t feel the slightest bit sickened by the relationship between Lester and Angela.
We see Lester change his lifestyle by rebelling against his family and society’s expectations in general.
There’s a particular scene where Hall creates the illusion that Chris Cooper’s character is disappearing as he walks into the rain, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking considering what takes place before it. I immediately watched the film when I arrived home, and my eyes were filled with tears when the end credits began to roll. The movie itself is stored on a hard drive and is connected to the server PC along with the projection terminal. For example, the AMC Theatres app was recently updated to allow for augmented reality experiences that customers can trigger off movie posters.
Advancements in the digital delivery infrastructure have changed the projection model at these theaters to the point where filmmakers and cinema operators alike need to be thinking about the possibilities of improving the moviegoing experience. Below the surface, it is about a whole lot more, and that’s what I’d like to espouse throughout this article.
He lusts over Angela, as his marriage to wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) has been reduced to a semblance of what it once was.
It’s also worth taking note of how the colour red is used as a motif for a life force than cannot be suppressed. The smartphone application uses audio content recognition technologies to deliver synced content at just the right moment during the film when it is needed. All of this is routed into the theatre management system computer which is connected to the Internet. Cell carrier signals are often weak inside buildings, especially in the theater, so adequate wi-fi routers would be needed to ensure a good experience. By using this same interactive software driven model outlined here, movie theaters could leverage their primary apps to create a wide variety of fun and engaging experiences during the pre-show before the film. The technology elements are now in place, someone just needs to assemble them the right way. Both characters seem enthusiastic about the possibility of sexual exploration, and at no point is sexual harassment evident or implied.
He starts smoking marijuana once he is acquainted with his new next-door neighbour, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley). In one of the film’s most powerful scenes, she fails to sell a house, and afterwards slaps her face with brute force and bawls her eyes out in that very house she failed to sell—all behind closed doors, of course.
By the end of the film, the major characters have all taken a close look at themselves, and they come to realise that the dreams they aspired to at the beginning are nothing but mere illusions.


Thomas Newman’s score is the film’s pulse, and it complements so many pivotal scenes perfectly.
The Choose Your Own Adventure books used a stacked method and readers were asked to skip to different chapters based on decision elements the characters were faced with. While this is nothing new to the home viewing environment, it is the first second screen experience designed for use while watching a film in the theater. This configuration shows that it is entirely possible to build an interactive movie experience through the application layer without the need for additional hardware in the theater seating area or in the projector server rack. Those decision results are sent to the remote server and relayed back to the theater management system over the Internet which passes the information to the server PC in the projection system rack.
This is really no different of a concept than what retailers should do for consumers when they are encouraging visitors in their stores to utilize proprietary and 3rd party apps.
Providing an incentive for moviegoers to arrive at the theater early for the pre-show, should translate to additional revenue at the concession stands – an incredibly important profit center for theater operators. Again, I must stress that American Beauty does not use this element of the story as its fulcrum.
Some of them realise the beauty in this, whilst others are left to slay their personal demons. The Encyclopedia Brown series was similar in style and asked readers to solve riddles and decipher clues as they worked through the book.
All of these examples are moving us toward heightened interactivity, but they are centered around a home environment, not the modern day cinema. The answer to the question posed above lies in the combination and evolution of both of these earlier cinema-based executions. To ensure results are tabulated from the individual showing and not influenced by outside tampering, it would be easy to generate unique codes printed on tickets at the theater for the specific showtime at that single screen which must be entered into the app. The backdrop of American suburbia elegantly complements, though paradoxically contrasts against the film’s truthful elements.
The app can be socially connected enabling the user to share and leverage their networks to participate in the experience.
Though the film’s story is fictitious, I felt for the characters as though they were real people.
With the real-time 2 way dialogue with the projection server, the possibilities to expand interactions with the audience are almost limitless. For example, that same social connectivity could even be used to insert audience members into the film itself – similar to the True Blood Immortalize Yourself and Falling Skies Today We Fight campaigns. Let it be said: American Beauty is a film you need to watch experience at least once in your life.



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