The 'Beanie Plex' May Be the Movie Theater of the Future

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In a world of Netflix and smartphones, theaters will have to give consumers a better viewing experience. Step 1? Bean bags.

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TGV Cinemas via Screencrush

This movie theater does not have, strictly speaking, movie theater seats. This theater does not feature mandibular chair bases that snap closed the minute they're relieved of their occupants. It does not feature cushions made of acrylic velour. It does not feature cup holders large enough to accommodate all four "digestive compartments" of a cow's stomach worth of soda. It does not feature armrests that ensure one will spend the duration of a film either too far from -- or way, way too close to -- one's seatmate.

Instead, this movie theater has couches. Couches that are made of bean bags.

Yes. The world is a wondrous place. 

These particular movie-seat bean bags, alas, are located in Malaysia. But -- and this is only about 80 percent wishful thinking -- they could also be coming to a theater near you. Because movie prices are going up; box office gross is going down. Given Netflix and Hulu and OnDemand and iTunes and Amazon Prime and the approximately 5,000 other movie-watching options available to consumers -- on their phones, on their tablets, on their TVs, or craftily projected onto screens and walls -- theaters as environments will have to evolve. Their main selling point, of course, has long been the fact that they offer an experience rather than a film; in the age of the home theater, though -- and in the age of the mobile theater -- experience itself is no longer enough. An itchy acrylic chair can't compare, generally speaking, to one's own perfectly plump couch -- and stadium seating begins to look much less appealing when you can stream a movie onto your phone while sitting on the beach. 

So theaters need to up their game. They need to find a way to make themselves not just an experience -- because, now, we can get "an experience" anywhere -- but an experience that people will choose even over their own couches. One way to do that will be to improve themselves as settings for the things theaters are often best suited for -- dates, and casual outings with friends and family -- by making themselves more inviting, more friendly, more cozy. 

And one way to do that? Couches. Couches, preferably, constructed of beanbags. 

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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