Movie critics have chance to shoot from the hip

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-08-09 07:38:45

Movie critics have chance to shoot from the hip

Danmaku is a Japanese term for shooting games and refers here to a real-time commentary subtitling system for films. How does it work? Audience feedback is texted and then projected alongside or onto the screen. How much is it? One special danmaku screening cost more than 50,000 yuan ($8,110). Wi-Fi service must be paid for and a screener is needed on site to vet the content. [Photo by Guillermo Munro/China Daily]

Do you hate the whispers in a darkened movie theater from people who love to share their insight as the movie is showing?

Do you, for once, want to scream "This movie sucks!" when you see no redeeming value in a blockbuster everybody seems to hate but nobody wants to miss?

Now you can do that without fear of being kicked out of the cinema. Some movie theaters in China are being retrofitted to allow audience members to text their feedback and have it projected alongside or even onto the screen.

The Legend of Qin, a new animated feature that premiered on Friday, had several danmaku previews that opened up a new theatrical experience. Danmaku - literally "bullets" - is a Japanese term for shooting games and refers here to a real-time commentary subtitling system.

"We want to attract the 15-to-29-year-old demographic," said Shen Leping, the movie's director. "This generation grew up on the Internet, which enables them to have interactive viewing."

Such screenings have been experimented with in the United States, but Chinese netizens have far more experience with the same function, which is available with Internet video streaming.

Not all movies are fit for such instant on-screen comments, experts say. The feedback should not be tried for tear-jerkers, but family films and comedies may benefit from it, they say.

Film companies can increase revenue because danmaku screenings encourage repeat viewings. Tiny Times 3 is an ideal choice for danmaku. It was scheduled to be the first Chinese film with this function, but was pre-empted by The Legend of Qin. However, it upped the ante by projecting comments onto the center of the screen (rather than the edge or outside it).

As it is a film that has been widely panned but has a huge following, it provided a wealth of material for lampooning.

The cost of this special screening was more than 50,000 yuan ($8,110), according to a representative of Le Pictures, distributor of the Tiny Times series.

Wi-Fi service to a full house of filmgoers alone costs about 30,000 yuan, and a screener is on site to vet the content. But the possibility of raising ticket prices for such screenings is limited, the representative said.

There is also the chance that filmmakers may balk at danmaku screenings for fear of perpetuating negative reviews. Who wants to be the target of a two-hour barrage of texting potshots?

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