VANCOUVER, BC — Researchers at University of British Columbia have confirmed the theory that watching an in-flight movie from four rows behind makes it 10x better.
“It’s an age-old question that hasn’t been answered for years,” says Dr. Claudia Ho. “Our original hypothesis was that either the altitude had an effect on the viewing experience, or that the consumption of bland airplane food and tiny portions of alcohol created a chemical reaction in the brain that increased the enjoyment of a hard to see screen.
In the experiment portion of the study, 10,000 participants were shown a specific movie, had their memory of it wiped, then were shown the same movie, but on a long-haul flight, and on a tiny 12-inch screen four rows down without any audio.
Participants, like most who watched the movie, found Fantastic Four (2015) dull, boring, and unengaging. When watched on a mini screen that kept getting paused at every pilot announcement, participants found the movie a cinematic masterclass, and the best comic book film adaption ever made.
In their report as part of the study, one participant wrote “Fantastic Four was the best movie I’ve ever watched. I can’t believe Michael B. Jordan was actually set on fire for the role. That rock guy—where’d they find him? Man, the silence of the experience was truly deafening.”
To test if the results translated to a universally-acclaimed film, one group of participants were shown Academy Award-winning film Encanto (2021). The results were astounding. Observations of this group during the plane setting included being overwhelmed with emotion, acute ecstasy, and even sexual orgasm.
“My life is so dull after experiencing such a high as watching Encanto on a middle-aged woman’s miniscule in-flight entertainment screen,” wrote one participant in their post-experiment report. “The fact that the subtitles were off, and she seemed to have fallen asleep made the experience even better. The mere thought of the endless possibilities of what songs Lin-Manuel Miranda penned for these animated characters makes my heart skip a beat. For the rest of my life I will be chasing this unattainable high.”
Through hours of meticulous interviews with participants, the research team arrived at two conclusions. Firstly, being trapped on an airplane for hours on end severely increased the attractiveness of a movie that a person would never give any mind to in any other setting. Secondly, the proximity to the in-flight entertainment screen created an insatiable allure of a full movie viewing experience the given flight passenger could never have—something of a mental striptease.
Film studios have already begun to take this new discovery seriously. The Hollywood Reporter reports Disney is considering releasing future films to airlines before theatrical runs and making them available to stream on Disney+.
The UBC research team is hoping to continue their research by studying levels of enjoyment when reading the book the person beside you on a train is reading, and studying levels of enjoyment when hearing music through the bathroom door of a bar.