Info & Answers
AMC Theater Features ButtKicker Seat-Moving Technology
The renovated 1921 vaudeville theater that once hosted Charlie Chaplin now offers a “ButtKicking” movie experience.
Opened in 1921, the building that was once a vaudeville hotbed is now a “technology test bed” for AMC Entertainment. 
April 29, 2009 by Tom LeBlanc

Movie goers tend not to expect much from their chairs. They hope it doesn’t have gum stuck to it and that it’s not soaked with Pepsi, but that’s about it.

Now, however, AMC Entertainment has raised the seating bar by including seat-moving audio transducers in a six-theater cinema. The Guitammer Company’s ButtKicker technology adds a sense of “feel” to the movie experience by moving and shaking the seats at appropriate points in the movie.

“It’s probably the state-of-the-art movie theater in the world right now,” Ken McCaw, director of product development for Guitammer, says about AMC Mainstreet, which is located in AMC’s hometown of Kansas City, Mo.

The three upstairs theaters at AMC Mainstreet have small capacities of 68, 23 and 23 and feature home theater-style recliners by Continental Seating instead of typical movie theater seats. The three downstairs theaters are more conventional with capacities of 283, 74 and 74. Each seat is equipped with the ButtKicker technology.

It’s possible that seat-moving technology could become the norm in movie theaters throughout the country. The Kansas City theater serves as a “technology test bed” for AMC, according to Dan Huerta, VP of projection, sound and new technologies. He adds that no decisions have been made about rolling ButtKicker out to other theaters, but “we’ll gauge audience reaction and make decisions on a go-forward basis.”

The popularity of home theaters, meanwhile, has created a climate by which movie theaters need to raise the bar and offer consumers incentive to go to the cinema, McCaw points out. He says AMC has “set a new standard with movie theaters [with this installation]. If they don’t roll it out [throughout the country], somebody else will because it’s pretty impressive.”

If ButtKicker ends up in theaters throughout the country, it will spur Guitammer’s residential product business as well, according to McCaw. He says the “No. 1 sales driver” for ButtKickers is people actually experiencing how it complements a movie. He expects that more people experiencing the ButtKicker in public places, the more products Guitammer will sell to residential customers. 

Movies that Move You
Although the grand opening of AMC Mainstreet is May 1, it’s already open for business. McCaw has watched films there, saying the experience is incredible. McCaw says AMC wants to “really pick their spots” and use the seat-shaking as a special effect, perhaps during a climactic car crash scene.

“It’s adding a third sense to the movie experience, not just adding a tactile subwoofer, he says. “When they go off, it’s very intense.”

“It’s not overdone. It’s done just right,” adds Huerta. “I think people are really just going to love it.”

AMC Mainstreet also offers consumers a mix of new technology and entertainment nostalgia. The theaters are in a historic building that once hosted vaudeville acts, including those of Charlie Chaplin and George Burns.

AMC Mainstreet reflects a $25 million renovation of the 14th Street theater, which opened in 1921. It cost 50 cents to watch live performances of the era’s vaudeville stars, including Chaplin and Burns, according to the Kansas City Star.

The theater was renamed the RKO Missouri in 1949, then the Empire Theater in 1960 before closing in 1985. Neglect led to deterioration and necessitated a gut-renovation that was pretty much like new construction, according to McCaw.

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