Showcase Cinemas is leveraging biometric technology in an effort to convince people to go to the theater. The cinema chain conducted a study in which it monitored heart rate and skin conductance to measure the audience’s engagement levels during movie screenings, and unsurprisingly concluded that audiences were much more satisfied when watching at a theater than they were when watching at home.
To carry out the study, Showcase screened the film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle for participants in two different settings. One group watched the film at a Showcase Cinemas location in Revere, Massachusetts. The other watched the film in a simulated home environment at Schlesinger Associates in Boston. The home environment included couches, a TV, and consumer-grade lighting and sound features. Jumanji was chosen because Showcase determined that the film played well in both settings and would not bias the audience.
Data was collected through biometric sensors placed on the wrist, collarbone, and hand. It showed that those who watched the film in the theater had much higher levels of “neurological excitement,” and registered that excitement much more frequently throughout the film.
After the movie, the participants were asked to complete an online survey to supplement the biometric findings. The survey revealed that theater viewers were more satisfied with the picture clarity, screen size, sound quality, atmosphere, and seat comfort, and also left with a better opinion of the film and were more likely to talk about it with other people.
It would be prudent to view the results with some skepticism given the study’s limited methodology and Showcase’s obvious conflict of interest. All of the study’s 80 participants were men between the ages of 18-44, so the findings may not be representative of the general population.
Even so, the study speaks to the growing influence of biometric tech, which is perceived to confer a degree of scientific legitimacy to ordinary consumer data. Disney is already using facial biometrics to monitor audience engagement, while PreShow is using gaze tracking to offer people free movie tickets in exchange for watching mobile ads.
October 22, 2019 – by Eric Weiss