Over the past months there has been much talk about the future of cinemas post-lockdown, as both independent movie theatres and multiplexes look at how they can ensure the safety of audiences, and adapt for social distancing.
With cinemas starting to open up across the UK as lockdown eases, things are already different for audiences with masks being made mandatory, limited seating to ensure there are unoccupied seats between parties, and enhanced cleaning throughout.
But the changes may not stop there, as a new futuristic cinema design is set to revolutionise the movie going experience.
Although the new Ōma Cinema, which is due to launch in Paris next year, was designed before the pandemic, people are now looking at the unique movie theatre as being the future, providing not only a luxury experience, but also a way to ensure social distancing and safety guidelines are met.
That’s because instead of the standard rows of seats you usually find, audiences instead sit in a range of pods which not only allows for social distancing, but also ensures everyone has a perfect view of the big screen.
And yes, it does remind us of the Galactic Senate from Star Wars!
We chatted to Ōma Cinema’s co-founder Nicolas Chican about the unique design, how it ensures every seat is the best one in the house, providing a safe experience, and whether there are plans to roll these out in UK – to which we were glad to hear the answer was very much ‘yes’!
Zavvi: What was the idea behind the Ōma Cinema?
Nicolas: The idea of these hanging balconies came from a desire to bring spectators closer to the screen. As we could not increase the traditional slope of tiered seating due to accessibility standards, Pierre Chican [the architect] decided to divide the room into several pods.
The unique configuration of the Ōma cinema allows highly personalised services to offer something truly new to audiences including possible privatisation of entire boxes for family or friends, and table service on all or selected pods.
Its highly flexible design also means that cinemas can truly tailor it to their needs, with a near endless set of options of VIP pods, more usual row seating and other configurations per balcony. We wanted to design a movie theatre that combines intimacy, immersion, and customisation.
Zavvi: How does it ensure that every seat is the best one in the house?
Nicolas: Every seat can have an unparalleled view of the screen as each pod is much closer to it. A spectator’s view isn’t restricted by people sitting in front, or the fact that the slope of a traditional cinema screen seating layout isn’t banked enough.
Depending on how each cinema wants the pods to be laid out, each separate balcony could have sofa-style seating, or armchairs, or a smaller set of more usual cinema seats in a row.
It means that audiences are more immersed in the screen experience, while also experiencing something like seating in a ‘box’ at the theatre.
Zavvi: How is it suitable for social distancing, adapting to the pandemic?
Nicolas: This wasn’t a factor in our design but it is an added bonus when it comes to the challenges facing cinemas at the moment.
As there are fewer seats in each pod, the audience is already distanced from each other. This concept doesn’t rely on the usual rows of seating – depending on each pod layout, it can be limited to a single family unit seated together, or smaller rows of seats on each balcony.
Also, by dividing the seating area into several intimate pods with unique and independent access from the back, Ōma allows the separation of the traffic flows when the spectators enter the movie theatre.
Zavvi: Of course it went viral reminding people of the Star Wars Galactic Senate? Did this surprise you, or was it a comparison you were already aware of?
Nicolas: Star Wars never crossed our minds! For us, the Ōma Cinema design is close to the pods you can find in opera houses and boxes in traditional theatres.
The idea came from a desire to reinvent the traditional cinema layout, based in 30 years of experience in designing cinemas.
We wanted to show cinemas and audiences that there is a new way to think about how people watch and experience films, and that can be driven by the architecture.
Zavvi: At what stage is the first one in Paris currently at in terms of construction?
Nicolas: At the moment it is planned to open next year.
Zavvi: And do you plan for some to open internationally too, for example in the UK?
Nicolas: That would be our ambition, certainly! We would like to bring this new concept of cinema to cinemagoers around the world.
To find out more about Ōma Cinema, visit their website.
For all things pop culture and the latest news, follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.