Movie theaters offer video games to fight falling ticket sales

The article in the International Herald Tribune is about new hybrid movie theaters in Madrid.  I think, as they themselves describe this, it’s very early, still being worked out, and we don’t yet know how this might (or might not) work as a business.  But I’m glad they’re working on it!  One of my favorite things from SIGGRAPH last year was a similarly fun theatre experience, which I blogged about here: The funnest thing you’ve never heard of

Some interesting highlights from the IHT article:

The result is a hybrid movie theater with all the digital fire and fury of a video game: fog, low smoke, black light, flashing green lasers, high-definition digital projectors, vibrating seats, game pads and dozens of 17- inch, or 43-centimeter, screens attached to individual chairs. And naturally, there’s buttered popcorn.

“Forget the pathetic speakers of a PC or television!” screams an ad for the theater, which opened for games in December and is offering cut-rate €3 tickets to nurture the market. “Come feel the sound that puts you at the center of the action.”

“We’re trying this concept because there are many theaters in Spain and admissions are down,” Martinez said. “So we have to offer new products.”

“We see the future with multiplexes with five screens, one for the traditional Hollywood spectaculars and the others for screens for video halls and 3-D. That’s the next step.”

Other companies are also experimenting with different approaches to mix movie magic with video games.

CinemaxX, one of the top movie exhibition chains in Germany, carried out a four-month trial with video games on one of its screens in Essen last year. And TimePlay Entertainment, based in Toronto, is developing theater technology that would allow moviegoers to play 15 to 20 minutes of interactive, ad-sponsored games before the start of movies.

Yelmo is trying to develop an educational arm that would rent out the hall to schools that could use the system for learning and testing. And it also has plans to market the theater to corporate and senior citizen groups to attract a broader audience.

The theater is also busily organizing game tournaments with competitions this month for Manga video games and Pro Evolution Soccer, a popular soccer game produced by Electronic Arts.

The most intense activity took place on the little silver screens where players battled against one another. The giant screen formed an edgy backdrop with game highlights and changing scores posted by a person working as sort of a video game jockey tracking the play.

“We’re still learning because this is so new, but it’s better to play this way in a tournament because there are plenty of screens,” said Fernández, 21, a Madrid university student who plays video soccer under the name of “Vaquizza” with a “clan” of other players. “Next Saturday, I’ll be back with a friend.”

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