The Air In Movie Theaters Actually Changes From Scene To Scene

Thanks to audiences breathing

Audience

Audience

Scientists can measure how the chemicals audiences exhale while watching a movie change the composition of the surrounding air.Flickr user Steven Lilley under CC BY-SA 2.0

Your body can't even contain all the heart-pounding excitement you feel while watching Captain America: Civil War. You and your fellow audience members can actually change the chemical composition of the air around you while you're watching a movie, indicates a study published May 10 in Scientific Reports.

When we exhale, our breath carries hundreds of different chemicals. A few of them can be used to track chemical changes within the body. “If films elicit strong emotional responses then volatile products from the internal biochemical response (cardiovascular, skeletomuscular, neuroendocrine, and autonomic nervous system) may be vented shortly afterwards,” the scientists speculated.

To find out of this was the case, they gathered air flowing from the ceiling vents of a theater in Mainz, Germany. All in all, 108 screenings of 16 different films (ranging from Walking With Dinosaurs to Machete Kills), and 9,500 moviegoers, were involved.

Many of the chemicals wafting from viewers’ bodies into the air varied distinctively as the films wore on. Suspense and comedy scenes seemed to have the strongest effect. If other people can pick up on them, these might be possible “alert/stand-down” signals, the researchers think. “The chemical accompaniment generated by the audience has the potential to alter the viewer’s perception of a film,” they concluded.