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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

wtf: new phone app wants you to use your phone during a movie

I attended a press screening recently — one held in a large multiplex, not a small screening room — during which the gaggle of studio employees sitting to my right proceeded to spend the entire movie texting, the nuclear glow of the screens of their smartphones blazing in the darkness of the theater.

I repeat this: A press screening. Organized for the benefit of the press in the hopes that the press will write positive reviews of the film. And employees of this studio went out of their way to ensure that at least one critic, conspicuous with her reporter’s notebook, was distracted and annoyed throughout much of the movie. Even after said critic requested politely that these employees please not text during the movie, because it was distracting.

I’m assuming from the tender ages of these young women, the fact that they were not familiar to me (and, clearly, not I to them either), and the fact that they were the ones zealously guarding the reserved sections of the theater, that they were probably summer interns, not regular employees. But still.

Imagine how that experience enraged me. Then quadruple it:

The free app, Best Buy Movie Mode, is being released in connection with Universal Pictures for the July 9 release of “Despicable Me,” an animated 3-D movie in which an aspiring supervillain named Gru inherits three little girls.

The marquee feature of the app is called the Minionator, which translates the gibberish of Gru’s little yellow henchmen called Minions. In theaters, the Minionator will work only during the closing credits, but when watching a Blu-ray disc, users can translate lines throughout the movie.

Best Buy Movie Mode would seem an anathema to film lovers who think that talking and texting already interfere with the theater experience. “It is disturbing to have people doing things that take people out of the movie,” said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Association of Theater Owners. Many theaters warn patrons to turn off their phones.

“Would seem”? Would seem an anathema?

But in case this isn’t enough to drive discerning moviegoers out of multiplexes, there’s this atrocity, which I had not previously heard of:

Some movie houses already use a technology called MuVChat to let people text comments that are shown on the screen during a film.

Someone tell me where these movies houses are, so I can never ever buy a ticket for one of them.



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  • Funwithheadlines

    muVChat sounds like a way to turn us all into MST3K — you know, without the actual wit.

  • PillowCaseLaw

    In the case of the “Minionator” app, I’ll at least give the developers credit for the fact that the app will only work during the closing credits in cinemas. I do agree that promoting phone usage inside the cinema itself is a disturbing trend, but the app – contrary to your title – doesn’t want you to use it during the movie, unless you count every frame from first to last as “the movie”.

  • I do count every frame from first frame of the film (I don’t count trailers and ads) to the final credits as “the film” because I watch credits. I watch all the credits and I hate when the theater turns up the lights to full before the credits are done (and I complain about it). I understand that not everyone shares my curiosity for the technical parts of film-making and they can leave as long as they do so relatively serenely without a lot of chatter that you can hear over the ear-bleedingly loud music. Low lights is tolerable.

    I’ve demanded and gotten a refund for a film where they stopped the film in the middle of the credits for an ‘interrupted viewing’.

    Texting probably won’t bother me during the credits as long as it is a silent app. But if it beeps, talks, or warbles I may have to resort to administering a horrible beating.

    Frankly the whole point of going out to a movie is a shared experience. If you have something like this that makes it an individual experience, you might as well stay home.

  • Martin

    Please tell me that MuVChat is a joke.

    What possible use is that to anyone? All it’s going to mean is that idiots, morons and anyone that is stupid enough to pay to not actually watch a movie will post stupid, moronic jokes to each other, completely unaware that other people exist. I’ve seen people being kicked out of films for talking during a film (in one case, talking all the way through a movie about which restaurant they are going to go to after the film. Presumably to sit there to not eat) and now this kind of behaviour is encouraged?

    I pay to watch a movie, not some idiot’s half arsed musings on LUE.

  • Jester

    MuVChat is brilliant, and now that I see that it’s coming, I realize that it’s the future of movies.

    And yes, as a member of GenX, I despise the concept and I’m sure every other GenXer does too.

    Know what? Doesn’t matter, and it’s still coming despite the fact that we hate it. And if we “boycott” theaters that do it, they’re not gonna notice a single percentage point drop in their business.

    Know why? ’cause we’re not the movie-buying audience any more. Check the calendar. We just dropped out of the 25-39 demo. Our opinion is no longer valued because by and large, we don’t go to the movies any more.

    The people still in that demo and the demo that’s younger than that will drive massive new increases in theater business. They’ll go to the theater with a bunch of their friends and be able to talk to each other right on the movie screen. Someone will get the bright idea of having an archive of MuVChat comments for any given movie that you can download to your phone mid-movie. Then there will be “best of” showings featuring MuVChat comments that you can vote on on screen while the movie is playing. Then there will be MuVChat dating profiles so that you can hook up with people whose comments you like.

    The possibilities are endless.

    And all of this is going to drive a TON of new business into the theaters, without the need for 3D, IMAX, glasses, or other million-dollar theater upgrades. All you need to participate is a $400 digital projector per screen, and a computer to store all the comments. This is just… fucking… brilliant. Whoever came up with this is a genius, and has discovered the future of movies.

  • Michael

    This is just… fucking… brilliant. Whoever came up with this is a genius, and has discovered the future of movies.

    Okay, I think I’m going to need to throw up. I’d like to have more faith in people younger than my current 35 years to think that most would find such a thing severely annoying.

    Please?

    Someone?

    Restore my faith in humanity?

  • Jester

    OK, read through the guy’s website and it’s not a cause for panic *quite* yet. To date, he’s missed a lot of the possibilities for this technology.

    At the moment, he’s not looking at first-run features. Where he’s going instead is trying to use less-used movie times and unused theaters to replay cult or classic movies. Army of Darkness is called out specifically, as is Office Space, Dodgeball, and Jurassic Park 2.

    For movies where everyone in the audience is already familiar with it and can have their comments ready to go somewhat in advance, I could see how this would be a lot of fun.

    Sooner or later, though, someone’s gonna help him put two and two together. I might do it myself, for a small cut of the profits. ;-)

  • Michael

    Where he’s going instead is trying to use less-used movie times and unused theaters to replay cult or classic movies. Army of Darkness is called out specifically, as is Office Space, Dodgeball, and Jurassic Park 2.

    …Okay, that actually doesn’t sound so bad and could be rather fun, I have to admit. Provided there’s not a wall of text obscuring the whole movie.

    Then again, I suppose it depends on the audience, too. I wonder what might be the rate of flame wars breaking out.

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