DOWNTOWN—With fears about swine flu and other airborne diseases on the rise, Mann Theatre’s The Criterion 6 in Santa Monica is moving one step closer to providing patrons with a healthier movie-going experience.

SANYO North America Corp., a subsidiary of SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. and Mann Theatres announced Thursday that they have partnered for the first-ever U.S. installation of SANYO’s duct-type air purification system in a public movie theater.

“It has always been our desire to provide our customers with the highest quality cinema operations,” Peter Dobson, CEO of Mann Theatres said. “Mann Theatres is excited to offer this as another way for movie-goers to enjoy movies while knowing they are in a clean and comfortable cinema.”

The largest auditorium in Santa Monica’s The Criterion 6 has already been equipped with the new rooftop purification system for the trial run. Over the course of the next year, the theater will observe and survey patrons to see how they react to the new system. The installation is particularly timely as the holidays drawn near.

“With the holiday season being the peak time for watching movies, it’s a way to make the whole movie experience more enjoyable,” Rachel Neppes, a representative from BERKMAN PR, which represents SANYO, said.

Dobson said he chose Santa Monica because the city and its residents are particularly conscious about air quality.

“I thought ‘Well, this is something maybe we should really look at especially in light of health being on every news item at the moment, whether it be bad health … or the cost of getting insurance,” Dobson said.

SANYO’s system was tested in Japan, the company’s home country and a place notorious for cleanliness. After a successful trial run in Japanese theaters, it has now been installed in a number of theaters across the country. The ducts are unique in that they use electrolyzed water to draw out airborne impurities such as bacteria, pollen and odors. So far, SANYO is the only company utilizing this technology in this manner.

“Electrolyzed water is a completely new technology when applied to air purification,” Deepak Mistry, an environmental division leader for SANYO’s North America Corporation said. “SANYO was the first to make that leap and bring it to air pollution.”

This innovative approach differs from other previous purification systems in both its speed and efficiency. The rooftop duct system has the ability to eliminate 99 percent of bacteria and other contaminates in the air within just five minutes, SANYO officials said.

“Because it’s eliminating the contaminates, you can infer that there’s going to be less of a chance of different types of bacteria and infections throughout the air,” Mistry said.

Additionally, the new system should help to freshen typically recycled theater air, as well as benefit people with allergies.

“The biggest benefit is it does feel fresh — it’s not perfumed,” Dobson said. “It’s a much nicer environment to actually sit and watch a movie.”

Though it will be a matter of opinion whether patrons like the new system, Mistry said the main hope is that they notice the difference.

“We seldom have products that you can tell when it’s working,” Mistry said. “With this, when you turn it on, you can immediately feel that it’s working.”

SANYO, which is committed to being a “leading company for energy and environment” is looking to make electrolyzed water purification systems available for consumer and commercial use within the next year. If the trial at The Criterion 6 is successful, the company hopes to install the system in more of Mann’s 11 theaters with 71 screens across Southern California.

“We’re doing this with the intent to have the system installed not just in the Mann Theatres, but in other theaters in order to create a cleaner, safer environment for the customers,” Aaron Fowles, a specialist for SANYO’s North America Corporation said.

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