Google Blogoscoped has unearthed a new YouTube feature that's pretty neat. Called "theater view," when clicked it both darkens the screen and increases the size of the player, centering it on the page and adding red curtains. For a leaned back viewing experience it's certainly not as useful as hitting the full-screen button, but I'd consider it a nice alternative--especially if you don't want to watch larger version of a grainy video just to cut out distracting page elements.
Hulu launched with a similar feature called "lower lights," which could be toggled on and off, something that YouTube has provided that simply darkens the rest of the screen.
So far the theater view option appears only on a small percentage on long-form content from specific providers, meaning the three-minute clip you shot of your dog on the trampoline will not have it. Going forward I'm thinking it could only be an option on educational segments, since it temporarily hides advertisements, which could mean a drop in ad clicks.
It could also be the groundwork for a more advanced YouTube viewing experience. The curtains on the player make for a neat decoration, but could also be placeholders for a more advanced 16:9 player that takes advantage of the increasing number of clips uploaded from shiny new HD video cameras.
I couldn't find any theater view-compatible content to try this theory out with, but the extra width on the player is a good sign. As is the huge mass of content that's been uploaded in 16:9 HD, only to be squished into the service's 4:3 player. Last week's 1GB upload limit increase is a good sign, too.
What do you think?