Let’s go see and smell a movie

Dec. 15, 2017
by Mark Ollig

People attending the 1981 movie premiere of “Polyester” received a numbered scratch-and-sniff card.

The movie watcher smelled what was being shown on the screen of this “Odorama”-promoted movie when prompted to scratch and sniff a specific card number.

The history of dispensing theater movie and stage-play related aromas before an audience goes back to the beginnings of the 20th century.

In 1906, Samuel Lionel Rothafel, who worked at The Family Theater in Forest City, PA, came up with an idea.

While a motion picture newsreel film of the 1906 Rose Bowl parade played inside the theater, Rothafel took a wad of cotton wool, soaked it with rose oil and placed it in front of an electric fan directed towards the seated audience.

The fruity fragrance of roses wafted throughout the theater amid the now delighted seated patrons.

It seems as if Rothafel used good-old Minnesota ingenuity – in fact, he did. Samuel Lionel Rothafel was born in Stillwater in 1882.

By 1933, Paramount’s Rialto Theater on Broadway had installed an in-theater “smell system” using fan blowers which released various aromas during a movie.

After the movie was over, it took hours (sometimes days) for the odors to disappear from inside the theater building. This particular smell-system eventually proved unpopular.

During the late 1950s, Hans Laube invented a scent-dispensing machine.

Laube’s machine discharged a variety of smells coinciding with the events occurring during a theater movie or theatrical play.

Various mixtures and dilutions of liquid scented perfumes; including a scent neutralizer, were also dispensed.

Nov. 19, 1957, US Patent number 2,813,452, titled Motion Pictures With Synchronized Odor Emission, was awarded to Hans Laube’s odor-dispensing device named Smell-O-Vision.

“Scent of Mystery” is a 1960 movie using Laube’s new Scentorama machine with an updated version of Smell-O-Vision.

The Scentorama machine could circulate up to 30 different smells towards theater seats using scent emitters activated by signal code markers on the movie’s film.

Unfortunately, the results audiences experienced were not well received, and no future movies were shown using Smell-O-Vision.

I uploaded a photo of the Scentorama machine at http://bit.ly/2z97KJ0.

Not long ago, the successful mixing of smells with your favorite movies, gaming, and television programs became a reality through a French company called Olf-Action.

The company name is no doubt a play on the word “olfactory,” referencing the sensory system used for smelling.

Olf-Action uses Odoravision for the delivery of odors or particular scents to an audience throughout their viewing of a motion picture film.

This method of scent-delivery is called smell-synchronization.

An in-home version of Olf-Action’s Odoravision System is capable of administering 128 unique scents and up to three simultaneous scents over the course of one motion picture film.

A movie player’s video output connects to an Olfahome model 4045 scent-dispensing rectangular box unit weighing 44 pounds.

The box unit is attached to the ceiling approximately 10 feet in front of, and above the movie viewers, and has 40 individual, open-air nozzles, with individual scents stored inside cartridges.

Some of the scents listed included cakes, gasoline, flowers, roses, wood, sea water, smoke, candies, fabrics, trees, and one I like; the smell of freshly-cut grass.

Olf-Action listed several movie film titles available in Odoravision, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

The human nose can differentiate a large number of unique scents.

Ernest Crocker, a chemical engineer, and MIT graduate, used a mathematical rating system and came up with 10,000 as being the number of recognizable smells a human can detect.

It might be surprising to learn scent marketing is an industry unto itself, and is used by stores, restaurants, and hotels to promote customer satisfaction and increase revenues.

Statistics show carefully selected scents will attract and influence consumer spending, and make a product more easily remembered.

Possibly, Smell-O-Vision will make a comeback.

So, the next time we watch a movie and tell people it stinks, they won’t know whether we meant the acting or the smells in it.

Do I hear laughter from some of my readers?

Nostalgically speaking, one unforgettable scent I do fondly recall while seated in my hometown’s movie theater, was the enticing popcorn aroma floating in from the front lobby’s popcorn machine.

Sometimes, I wonder if a fan was purposely used to send those freshly-made popcorn smells into the theater seating area to tempt us to buy more popcorn. If so, it worked for me.

Visit Bits & Bytes online at http://bitscolumn.blogspot.com.

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