Chinese cinemas show audience’s texts alongside film

Introduction of 'bullet screens' allows audience interaction, argues director Shen Leping

Cinemas in China are experimenting with ‘bullet screens’ which allow the texts of theatregoers to appear alongside the film they’re watching.

Legend Of Qin director Shen Leping has maintained that the pop-up message screens being tested in cinemas in Shanghai and Beijing can help filmmakers.

Picking up on an article which appeared in China Youth Daily, The Hollywood Reporter has published Leping’s support for the testing: “We are exploring how the response from the audience can affect the movie itself,” said Leping. “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 filmmakers.”

According to the article, the inspiration behind the idea comes from mimicking the way many of China’s film fans watch movies on mobile devices while communicating their views on what they’re watching.

Speaking to China Youth Daily, filmgoer Xu Huilin said: “This is a real way of watching a film. For us, it is exciting and fun. It is a reform in terms of the commercial model. It is just like when popcorn got into cinema for the first time, a lot of people protested that it would affect the film viewing experience.”

But not all of China’s cinemagoers are as excited about this new way of watching films: “I don’t like bullet screens,” said Riya Sang. “The point of watching a film in the theatre is to put away whatever is in your hand and focus on the film.”

Several film streaming sites in China like Bilibili already operate the bullet screen model (based on the Japanese video portal Nicodou), where users can comment on the film they’re watching using SMS.