Filmed in Cine-Aroma: Smellovision Returns
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
BOSTON -- Megan Dickerson always loved the rich colors and melodic scores of the film "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." But she also longed to experience the sweet scents of chocolate and schnozberries.
A self-proclaimed multisensory artist, Dickerson is now trying to revive Smellovision.
She's staged outdoor showings of "Willy Wonka" for hundreds of people and used oscillating fans and artificially scented oils to distribute aromas of blueberry pie and banana taffy during the film. With help from local art houses and the Boston Children's Museum, she plans to bring other films for sniffing to theaters this fall.
"There's been a crazy response to the movement," Dickerson said. "I guess there just aren't enough opportunities for wonder out there, but there's something nostalgic about this art action that makes you feel like a kid again."
Smellovision never quite caught on, though it dates back to the late 1950s, when a signal from a "smell track" on the film activated a tubing system to transmit odors to each seat. Aroma-Rama, a similar application, piped odors into the theater through the ventilator system.
In the 1980s, Odorama made a stale debut with scratch-and-sniff cards, which also briefly made their way into living rooms. Outside of theme parks, scent-themed flicks weren't visited again until last year, when two movie theaters in Japan offered aroma wafts for back-row seats during the Hollywood adventure film "The New World."
Dickerson isn't the only one trying to bring the concept back. In March, Trisenx Holdings started a Web site where, for $17.95 a month, users can sniff out "scent-enabled content" that includes movies, music videos and news.
Equipment for Dickerson's Smellovision projects is donated by the Coolidge Corner Theater and the Brattle Theater, both independent Boston area art-house cinemas where she plans to show movies this fall.
Dickerson, a manager of community programs for the Boston Children's Museum, said she's always been fascinated with the psychology associated with smell, and started to experiment with fragrances through a program with the Sense of Smell Institute at the museum.
She was especially struck by the idea of "scent memories."
"This will inevitably give us a sense of comfort and draw us back to a playful place, and give us flashbacks of things we may have forgotten about," she said, noting that a strawberry-lemon bottled scent in her collection triggers memories of her older brother's hair gel.
Besides the sweet smells of fruit and cotton candy, Dickerson's boxes of bottled scents ordered through the Fragrance Foundation include dirt, condensed milk, fizzy lemonade, grass and sushi.