Commentary & Movies 11 Sep 2007 06:21 am

Smellovision

Everything old is new again, including Smellovision, a short-lived attempt by the motion picture industry of decades past to introduce aroma into cinema.

Now a Boston “multisensory artist” is reviving the concept, according to an Associated Press story. She is using the smell of warm chocolate to enhance viewings of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Presumably, that’s better than injecting the smell of dead flesh into “Evil Dead 2.”

Smellovision was one of a host of gimmicks used by motion picture studios in the 1950s to counter the effect of television, which was hurting movie attendance and revenues.  Other tricks included changing movie screen sizes (VistaVision, CinemaScope), making objects appear to jump out at audiences (3-D), and wiring seats to move and vibrate along with events on the screen (Percepto).

According to filmsite.org, Smellovision and its predecessor, Aromarama, were used sparingly and with little effect. Smellovision was used only once, in the 1960 film “Scent of Mystery” (1960), where audience’s nostrils were assailed by 30 different smells injected into their seats and triggered by the film’s soundtrack.

It gives a whole new meaning to the line, “This movie stinks!”

2 Responses to “Smellovision”

  1. on 11 Sep 2007 at 1.Shannon said …

    You always have the most interesting topics, Chris!
    Personally, I think the smell of popcorn is the only smell we need in a movie theater.

  2. on 12 Sep 2007 at 2.Steve Wiandt said …

    I knew a guy who had a scratch-and-sniff card he received with his ticket to John Waters’ “Polyester.” At certain points in the movie the viewer was supposed to scratch and sniff. As you can imagine, the smells were pretty gross.

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