New Horror Film 'App' Encourages Cell Phone Interaction in Theaters
We've written extensively in the past about how it's generally not cool to talk or text while watching movies, but a new Dutch horror film called App is looking to challenge conventional wisdom when it comes to interacting with your phone in a theater. Variety has a story about the newest film from director Bobby Boermans, which encourages the audience to download a free app before the film starts to enhances the storyline as the movie plays. Utilizing technology found in the Shazam and Soundhound apps, a sound inaudible to the human ear triggers the app and sends messages to the audience in real time. More below!
Here's the trailer for App, found via director Bobby Boermans' official website:
As you can see, the movie is being touted as "the first film with 2nd screen," and the success or failure of this project has some interesting implications for the film industry. Part of the reason it's not OK to talk or text during a film is because as soon as you sit down in a theater, you've entered a social contract with the rest of the audience that you're all going to respect each other's movie-going experience. In a specific case like this, when the entire audience is aware that everyone can interact with their phones to gain more insight into the movie, then it's a different story and totally acceptable. The parameters of the social contract have changed.
Still, I can't help but think that receiving text messages at the same time as the protagonist or reading information about the characters will only distract from the film itself. While Future Cinema's live events try to recreate a film's location and immerse the viewer into a full-blown experience, the viewing of the movie itself is still uninterrupted. There's something to be said for the theater as one of the few places we can go these days where it's possible to turn off your phone and relax for a couple of hours to escape from outside life, but this new strategy with App just seems to be capitalizing on the fact that people love to be on their phones all the time. And what happens when someone calls you during the film? Or someone else texts you? Does the app shut down all of your phone's other functions while you're watching the movie?
2CFilm, who produced the movie and developed the app, say that "the story feeds the app and the app feeds the story," but make it clear that the movie will stand alone for those without smartphones. So that raises the question: if the movie will stand alone without it, why use your phone at all? Is the interactive element really that integral to the experience, or is this more of a gimmick than anything else? The movie is set for release sometime this month in the Netherlands, so I doubt American audiences will get a chance to see this one any time soon. But if it's a smash hit, perhaps Hollywood execs will see an opportunity to bring this tech stateside and integrate it into some of their own movies. Thoughts?