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Are China’s “Bullet Screens” the Next Big Movie Gimmick?

What’s the one thing you hate most while watching a movie in a theatre? Screaming children? Your fellow movie watchers’ incessant chatter? The guy who insists on placing his bare feet over the seat next to you? There’s a cornucopia of bad movie behaviors to choose from.



After much thought, my personal pet peeve is people texting during the movie. That’s why I’ll most likely never want to see a movie in China where cities are now implementing “bullet screens” into their theatres. Well, that and I’m not going to China any time soon.

Bullet screens allow audiences to send text messages on a film while sitting in the theatre. The problem? The messages are projected on the screen. Apparently, Chinese theatres that are using bullet screens are attempting to attract the country’s large mobile device using audience. Mobile devices are the most popular platforms to watch films on in China. With bullet screens, theaters are hoping to create a large scale social media experience that gives audiences a way to express themselves freely while watching a movie. The reaction to bullet screens has been mixed, but that hasn’t stopped Chinese movie theatre chains in Beijing and Shanghai from implementing the screens for select films.


After the reemergence of 3D with Avatar, it is possible that bullet screens could make their way to the United States and become the latest film watching gimmick? I sure as hell hope not.

Can you imagine watching this year’s Captain America: The Winter Solider, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or Guardians of the Galaxy and seeing the word “fart” continuously scroll across the screen a hundred times? It would be a nightmare that I would never want anyone to experience. It would definitely make me never want to see a movie in a theatre again. Not only would you see the annoying chatter of some idiot sitting five seats above you, but your eyes will be greeted to a few dozen flashing screens of every person in the theatre.


Screenshot from CCTV

Now, while trying to enjoy a good movie could be extremely frustrating with bullet screens, is it possible that these screens can improve a particularly terrible film? Honestly, I think it’s something worth trying. Mocking a bad movie through texting and social media isn’t unusual. How many times have we ripped apart a film in less than 140 characters?

This summer movie season, while strong, had a few stinkers sprinkled in with the more critically acclaimed blockbusters. A few laughs with bullets screen could be had at the expense of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction and the guy whose name I don’t particularly feel compelled to look up who made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


Still, this would require people actually putting thought into their text messages. I imagine we’ll get several guys who think “penis” is an apt way to describe what is happening on screen before we get a criticism with a little wit behind it. This technology could possibly be used well in the hands of professional movie mockers like Rifftrax and Master Pancake Theatre. With years of experience mocking movies, it wouldn’t surprise me that they could do something with bullet screens to earn a few earnest laughs.

What about you reader? Are bullet screens the way of future? What are your biggest movie pet peeves? Let us know in the comments below.
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