AMC Theater Features ButtKicker Seat-Moving Technology

The renovated 1921 vaudeville theater that once hosted Charlie Chaplin now offers a “ButtKicking” movie experience.

AMC Theater Features ButtKicker Seat-Moving Technology
Opened in 1921, the building that was once a vaudeville hotbed is now a "technology test bed" for AMC Entertainment.
Tom LeBlanc · April 27, 2009

Why limit yourself to installing gear in home theaters when there are opportunities in AMC Entertainment Theaters?

The Guitammer Company recently outfitted an AMC Entertainment movie theater with its ButtKicker audio transducers, which add a sense of “feel” to the movie experience by moving and shaking seats or floors.

“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.

Guitammer had to design a lot of ButtKickers. 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.

McCaw designed and crafted much of the installation himself, although the wiring was handled by local electricians. He says the installation was pretty simple. “It comes down to bolting [the transducers] down and running a conduit down to each row and fanning it out in the case of bigger theaters.”

Despite the simple installation, Guitammer plans to have audio/video professionals, not electricians, do future ButtKicker installations in theaters. “The more people understand about audio the better it is for us, even though it’s a pretty basic installation,” McCaw says.

The plan is to add ButtKicker technology to AMC theaters throughout the United States, according to McCaw. 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.”

AMC, however, hasn’t committed to rolling out Guitammer products in additional theaters. “We’ll gauge audience reaction and make decisions on a go-forward basis,” says Dan Huerta, AMC’s VP of projection, sound and new technologies.

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.”

Having ButtKicker technology installed in public movie theaters is the ultimate sales tool for CE pros, according to McCaw. He says getting clients to sit in a chair with ButtKicker technology is the company’s No. 1 sales-driver.

ButtKicker technology is also installed in: (Click here for the complete list.)

  • IMAX Theaters in Massachusetts
  • The Lincoln Library and Presidential Museum in Springfield, Ill.
  • The Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Chaplin, Burns and ButtKicker

The clients who visit AMC Mainstreet will experience 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.

  About the Author

Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Tom at [email protected]

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