First, it was movement. Then, color. Finally sound cemented film as something more than a photographic fluke. Indeed, as the artform grew and took shake, several “gimmicks” were employed to keep the people interested. After the dark days of magic lanterns and other optical entertainments, the zoetrope and its imitation of life made the movies legit. Then came the advent of the whole 24 frames per second dynamic. Throw in a few tints, some poorly recorded voice and music, and a juggernaut was unleashed. Since the first quarter of the 20th century, however, studios and those stuck getting butts into seats have been trying to find a way to up the ante. From artistic invention to flat out flimflams, the gimmick has been a major part of the motion picture experience.
Now, a near 100 years later, we’re still looking. As part of today’s terrain, we have feigned interactivity (hit a button on your seat, vote for where the plot goes next), seats on actuators and gimbles (to mimic movement), and the newfound affection for an increased frame rate. Not unlike the Spook Shows of the ‘50s and ‘60s which saw actors dress up as monsters to torment and tease a vulnerable audience, the modern gimmickry is all smoke and ticket sales mirrors. Still, it’s interesting to reflect on the extremes some will go to in order to make money with their movies. From the oldest bait and switch tricks in the book to some of the most imaginative publicity ever propagated, the cinematic stunt remains part of the process. Here are 10 intriguing examples of its application, from the sensible to the surreal. While almost always about money, there’s a little magic to be found here as well.