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For theater owners (and studios), cell phones and tablets are the enemy today, distracting, and often angering, filmgoers. But a contingent of entertainment industry executives sees potential in the second screen inside movie theaters — and says it won’t be long before cinema chains agree.

“Cinemas have changed over the years, from being privately owned one-off, one-screen affairs to multiplexes owned by major corporations,” says Peter Wilson, director of High Definition and Digital Cinema. “They’re a bean counter-led business, where every square centimeter has to make money.”

The theory goes like this: Young theatergoers are going to use their phones anyway, so why not exploit that — especially in the commercials or previews that precede a feature?

“Advertisers always have this struggle that 50% of all advertising money is wasted,” says Pat Griffis, senior director of technology strategy at Dolby Laboratories. “The key is if you can get any information from people who come to that movie, you begin to build a database. That’s usually what they’re looking for: To build interest in their product. … There’s money there — and the audience is captive.”

Real world examples range from filling out a survey in exchange for a free drink or popcorn to downloading film clips and instantly buying tickets for an upcoming film.

There’s also a potential for a new sort of filmmaking — an interactive movie where the audience crowd-sources the narrative.

The two big fears are piracy and in-theater disruptions. For the latter, Griffis notes peer pressure still works well in getting people to put phones away.

With piracy, individuals with phones aren’t the real problem (since it’s still obvious when someone’s copying a film with one) — and professional pirates use much more sophisticated equipment today.

So far, no theaters have embraced the second screen. Ultimately, it will likely be advertiser-driven — but as technology continues to evolve, it could be inevitable.

“This isn’t suitable for all showings, because there are people like myself who would get annoyed with people fiddling with keyboards next to them, but at the same time, movies are changing,” Wilson says.


Flexible displays
Samsung and Hewlett-Packard are leading the charge in this technology, which could result in screens in places that seemed impossible years ago – like backpacks and furniture. It likely won’t be until 2015 that these really begin to establish a foothold (likely in eReaders and tablets). By 2018, NPD expects flexible display sales to top $8 billion.

Apple’s Retina display boasts of being the sharpest display on the market, but AMOLED could give it a run for its money. The displays have fast response times, high refresh rates and are more power efficient than other tech. Growing fast in the mobile world, TV manufacturers are eyeing the tech for other, larger uses now.

Wearable screens
Google’s Project Glass is the most visible example of wearable technology, but there are a lot of tech companies exploring the field. Users can visually interact with friends and get essential information about entertainment they’re consuming.