Thursday, October 15, 2009

Smell-O-Vision Makes a Delicious Comeback

That’s right, you read correctly, Smell-O-Vision was pulled off the movie industry’s back burner and recently featured during a screening. Adventurous moviegoers that attended the event were able to experience the five senses in a way that many have not experienced before. Their sense of smell was stimulated and controlled as they watched a screen in front of them, smell matching up perfectly with what they saw.

This spin on film, as a way to enhance the moviegoers experience by adding another layer to films, was created in the 1960’s by Hans Laube, a professor of Osmics – the study of smells. Laube’s vision was to allow eager film buffs a new way to experience the art. He wanted viewers to not only see what was going on in the movie but to smell what was happening as well.

Smell-O-Vision made its first appearance during the screening of Scent of Mystery in 1960 where 30 different scents were injected into individual theatre seats through a system of pipes. The pipes were attached to a belt that held small perfume bottles lined up according to the order that each smell was to be released throughout the film. Laube named his belt and pipe system the “smell brain” and his bottled smells were released at different points during the film, triggered by the projectionist as he followed along with the movies music score.

The New York Times was quoted as saying, “[Smell-O-Vision] produced odors as quickly and as easily as the soundtrack of the film produced sound.”

Though Smell-O-Vision received rave reviews, the idea never really caught on as something that would take place in movie theatres regularly. The fad died down, and being able to smell what was happening on screen became a thing of the past until now.

On Friday, September 4th 2009 the Somerville Arts Council held an event in Union Square that featured Smell-O-Vision during an outdoor screening of Mel Stuart’s 1971 film classic Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. The smell of candy was pumped in and over the crowd throughout the movie creating a unique experience for all that attended. Though the production did not feature the original “smell brain” system that Laube created, the creative intent and crowd entertainment value were still there.

“I saw Willy Wonka when I was a little kid and always liked the way it stimulated my imagination but I never imagined that it could be like this,” 21 year old Boston University student Jason Bonner said of the screening. “Being able to smell the candy added a completely different element to the movie, it made me hungry for candy. It was awesome,” he remarked.

The event was such a wild success that it will be re-screened at the Brattle Street Theatre on Brattle Street in Harvard Square, Cambridge Massachusetts on December 13th 2009. But before you get your hopes up on going to experience this “awesome” event, let me break it to you now, it’s already SOLD OUT. I know, I didn’t get tickets either but don’t let it get you too down. Smell-O-Vision has proved its popularity in Boston. There is no reason to think that this version of enhanced screenings will not take off, allowing for future presentations and productions.

To keep up with Smell-O-Vision opportunities check out

I hope to have left you all hungry, I mean smelling, for more.

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