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This Chinese movie wants viewers to live-stream their comments—on the screen

China theater bullet screen comments
Sorry, I’m busy reading the comments.
By Jeanne Kim
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

If you thought people tweeting while watching a movie are a little much, get a load of this: a Chinese movie is allowing—make that encouraging—viewers to live-text their comments, and projecting them on a screen next to the main show.

Released in the city of Hangzhou late July, the animated martial-arts flick ‘Legend of Qin’  requires cinemas to add a “bullet screen” alongside the main screen, on which viewers comments are streamed. The film has had 500 other viewings with live commenting.

The response: While some viewers were delighted by the feature, and seemed to enjoy reading the thoughts of fellow viewers, others complained the screened comments dizzying and a huge distraction.

In a poll of 400 viewers conducted by Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, 27% said the live-commenting feature was exciting, but over a half of respondents found the comments annoying.  (It can’t have helped that some texters projected what amounts to personal ads, seeking a potential spouse.)

Live commenting in Chinese movie theater

But bullet screens may be here to stay: they are being installed in theaters across cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, as filmmakers seek to generate more audience participation.

“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 film makers,” Shen Leping, the director of ‘Legend of Qin,’ told CCTV News. “For example, we can conduct live polls and even alter the development of the plot based on responses we receive from audiences.”

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