Did you know that automatic doors appeared on TV before they existed? In the sixties, when only a few doors had been installed in the whole world, the majority of people were unable to imagine the possibility that doors might open without pushing them. Only a few thought of such thing as possible. However, a very few considered it was an interesting concept for a science-fiction series. In particular, for the widely known TV show Star Trek.

The series displayed doors that opened by themselves, with nobody touching them. It was the first appearance of automatic doors in the television and film industry. However, the appearance was somehow fake, since the Enterprise doors worked due to the manual effort of the series technicians.

From then on, automatic doors have been involved in many scenes, in films as well as on TV. And there is almost no genre where they have not been present. Would you like to remember the most significant ones?

  • Star Wars. The films of this saga would not be the same without these automatic doors being opened ‘by using the Force’, so that Darth Vader could cross them. Science-fiction is one of the genres that has made best use of this opening type for their spaceships, laboratories and other spaces. Such concept is to be found in literature, since the renowned science-fiction writer H.G. Wells depicted an automatic door in his book ‘When the sleeper wakes’ (1899).

Back to the film and TV topic, we only have to recall a few titles to realise the important role this type of doors has played in films and science-fiction series scenes such as Battlestar Galactica, Futurama, 2001: A Space Odyssey or any of the science-fiction B movies, so common during the sixties and seventies, where the pasteboard automatic doors looked as kitsch as the movie itself.

  • Another cult film saga where science-fiction and horror blend together. The spaceship MedLab (laboratory) closes with an automatic door and oddly enough, its sound is the same as the ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Pod bay door.
  • Resident Evil. If science-fiction has made the most of automatic doors with a view to create futuristic environments, horror movies have also managed to take advantage of them. In Resident Evil, hermetically sealed automatic doors cannot put up with viruses, or they create nerve-shatteringly tense scenes because they do not open when the main characters most need it.
  • Fargo Season 3. In this TV series, which carries on with the Coen brothers’ film style, the detective that investigates the crimes has a huge problem with automatic doors. She is not detected by them, it seems she does not exist for them or anything equipped with sensors, creating very humorous moments.
  • The main character of this French film suffers from the same issue as Fargo’s, automatic doors do not detect her presence. In the film, it is a recurrent scene which works as a metaphor for the invisibility of middle-aged women in today’s society.
  • Shanghai Knights. In this Jackie Chan movie, one of the most difficult-to-film scenes takes place in an all-glass revolving door. Oddly enough, the scene was shot at the Ritz Hotel in New York, which was used to reproduce an old health resort close to Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic). Since the Ritz doors were neither automatic nor revolving, they had to install them on purpose so that the scene could be shot.
  • Get Smart. Each episode of this series started with an endless number of automatic doors opening and closing with the passage of the main character as he reached the secret service offices.
  • The Simpsons. Any moment with them can be the origin of weird situations, but if automatic doors are involved, you can be sure that problems will come up. Either because they do not open, or they do not close at the nuclear power plant, or the car gets stuck in them…
  • Medical television series. Grey’s anatomy, ER, Hospital Central (Central Hospital)… When the automatic doors of the emergency department of these series open, you know something is going to happen, either a medical case or a love story.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles. This series follows the exploits of an elite division of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and has a control centre which is accessed through automatic doors with the shape of Venetian blinds. It is the meeting place for the team, and where the leading technology does a service to the main characters.
  • Love Actually. We could not end this review without recalling the final scene of this film. When the automatic doors of the airport arrivals area open and all main characters start coming out, one after another, in order to meet up with their loved ones. A very touching and romantic ending.

We could go on and on. Doors, either automatic, with codes, traditional… have been in many occasions a symbolic figure aimed to instil any emotion, idea or allegory of something that is about to occur and will be important for the storytelling. Such connection has lasted for a long time creating unforgettable scenes.

Manusa Automatic Doors