Hello Domeng and thank you for your interesting question.
The American film industry pioneered olfactory entertainment in the
late 1950s with "Aroma-Rama" and "Smell-O-Vision," pumping smells
through theatre vents or releasing them from beneath audience seats.
Smell-O-Vision was a process invented by a Swiss chemist who combined
smell with vision. His objective was to stimulate the audience with
the sense of the smell, as well as the visual representation.
Here is a timeline of the films that made use of this kind of
During a newsreel of a Pasadena Rose Bowl game, a Family Theater in
Forest City, Pennsylvania dipped cotton wool in a rose essence and
placed it in front of an electric fan.
For the film Lilac Time, a theater in Boston put lilac scent in the
ventilating system for the opening credits of the film.
When Broadway Melody premiered in New York, an orange blossom perfume
was sprayed from the ceiling
On December 2, 1959, in New York, Aroma-Rama was introduced in the
film "Behind the Great Wall" a travelogue about China with 52 smells.
Mike Todd, Movie Producer and Elizabeth Taylor's husband, premiered
"The Scent of Mystery" with Smell-O-Vision in Chicago on January 12,
1960. Thirty smells were included. Some scents included garlic, paint,
boot polish, ocean ozone, bread, coffee and perfume. They were piped
in to each seat and spread by a special smell track on the film.
Odorama scratch-and-sniff cards were created by John Water's "Smelling
Odorama was used for the film "Polyester". Movie goers were given a
scratch pad with 10 places. When a number appeared on the screen, the
audience would scratch that part with a coin to release the smells.
Golden Harvest Pictures, China, scheduled a UFO film scented movie
Article by Richard von Busack at Metro Publishing Website
Take a whiff of smelly movies July 2000 - by Winnie Chung
April 2001 interview by Cindy Ahuna with David Libby, Director of
Public Relations at DigiScents
Time Online Edition Website
Hans Laube, a Swiss professor of osmics (the study of smells)
discovered how to reproduce odors in a movie theater in the 1950s. The
invention was known as Smell-O-Vision and was introduced in the 1960
film Scent of Mystery.
How did smell-o-vision work?
It worked like this: tiny plastic hidden tubes under your seat pumped
out smells like garlic, pipe smoke, and shoe-shine wax from a
centralized "smell brain."
Source: Retrofuture Website
According to the Weird Science Fact File # 1415, In the 1950's,
Swiss professor Hans Laube invented Smell-O-Vision, a machine
installed in movie theatres that emitted puffs of specific odors in
synchronization with the action on the screen. These aromas were
pumped into the theatre through a network of hidden plastic tubes
attached underneath each seat.
Source: First Science Website
In 1959 , Hollywood, still having trouble with the menacing medium of
television, introduces Aroma-Rama, a scenting system that is developed
by inventor Charles Weiss to add a sense of smell to the documentary
film Behind the Great Wall by filtering Oriental scents into the
auditorium trough the air-conditioning system. It competes with
Smell-O-Vision, which pipes odors into the individual seats.
Source: Thinkquest Library
Eric Lefcowitz esplains the workings of Aroma-Rama.
Like Smell-O-Vision, AromaRama used a "scent track" to trigger the
film's odors. But there was a crucial difference: AromaRama spread its
odors through the theater's air conditioning system with Freon gas
used to diffuse the smells. Unfortunately, it didn't diffuse all that
wellpungent aromas often hung malodorously in the air in a
Source: Archived version of the Retrofuture Website
How do "scratch-'n'-sniff" cards work?
3M Company invented the S&S, Scratch and Sniff process, also called
Micro-Fragrance Coatings. It was developed to spray daffodils and
buttercups scents. 3M emulsified the liquid and mixed it up with oil
and water. The end product was suspended in a liquid form. The bubbles
are transmitted into glue, which were applied to paper. The end
product was the scratch and sniff books. When you press down with your
pen, the bubbles are released.
You may see a magnification of a scratch and sniff paper here:
Why olfactory entertainment failed:
One reason for the failure of Smell-o-vision was the problem getting
the smells out of the theater after each showing.
Todd's Smell-o-vision and the others barely lasted past their
premieres. None worked well, and there was a problem getting the
smells out of the theater after each showing. Todd's Scent of Mystery
was released in most theaters as Holiday in Spain minus the smells.
Source: Take a whiff of smelly movies July 2000 - by Winnie Chung
Some people were aleregic or got nauseous from the smells.
These experimental systems were mainly novelties and not very
successful, with reactions from the audiences reaching from allergic
reactions to nausea.
Source: Smelly interfaces - A brief review of the application of smell
in user interfaces by Kari Hamnes
Date: 20. February 2002
Another reason for failure was the implementation of the scratch and
In 1981, filmmaker John Waters launched his movie ''Polyester'' with
a scratch-and-sniff card dubbed ``Odorama.'' But American noses
remained aloof to the idea that smell could be part of a fun evening
out. One of the big problems with the past has been implementation,
Smith said. If you are asking someone to do scratch and sniff, it is
not going to be as compelling as if it is automated.
Source: Wired News article 1999
The critics said the following about smell-o-vision:
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times dismissed the "novel
stimulation" as "bunk." Time magazine warned: "Customers will probably
agree that the smell they liked best was the one they got during
intermission: fresh air."
Source: Retrofuture Archives Website
Charles Weiss Aroma-Rama
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