Going to the movies is a weird hybrid of communal entertainment and social insulation. We usually have no intention of connecting with any of the few hundred-odd strangers sharing the experience. Attempts to engage are met with a harsh “shush.” Inability to converse has made first dates at the theatre a faux pas.
Cineplex TimePlay uses social media to get movie audiences to play together on the big screen. The gaming app launched in Toronto on select screens and has already racked up some half a million users. Now it’s ready to expand. Vancouver’s downtown Scotiabank Theatre launched TimePlay capability last week and I was there to see it in action.
At TimePlay-enabled Cineplex screens, audiences are encouraged to download the app before previews begin. Connect to the TimePlay Wi-Fi network, choose a handle and battle it out with the rest of the audience. Gameplay consists of about three minutes of competitive movie-themed quizzes, arcade-style action games and even voting on ad content — all in real-time. My heavily male group was treated to a car commercial which prompted viewers to vote on seeing more of either an attractive man or woman cavort seductively in a red Ford (let’s just say we didn’t see much of the dude).
All participants get rewarded just for playing and winners claim prizes, though the stakes aren’t exactly high as of yet. The winning media member at our private showing was eligible for a free large drink with another concession stand purchase, plus double entries in a draw to win a new smartphone. But the potential is there for Cineplex to add plenty of cool promotions.
If you’re competitive like me (and it turns out you suck at the surprise games), it’s a little embarrassing to come in last place when the top-ranking participants’ names are displayed on the big screen. But it’s good fun — and a smart move for Cineplex. Forget downloading or stream the latest movies online, I want to get back into the theatre and practice.