National Cinemedia offers first in-theater AR game for a movie

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Screenshot of the AR game on a smartphone.

Screenshot of the AR game on a smartphone.

Last month, cinema ad network National Cinemedia launched a Halloween-themed short augmented reality (AR) game for moviegoers, part of a series of theater-based AR experiences it began about six months ago.

On Friday, the company is releasing what it says is the first movie theater AR game for a new movie release.

Sequel to ‘Wreck-It Ralph.’ The game ties in with “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” a Disney sequel to its 2012 “Wreck-It Ralph” release that rolls out to US theaters on November 21.

Moviegoers watch the pre-show presentations from Cinemedia, which includes short films and commercials that are followed by an on-screen invitation to participate in an AR game experience.

Then, a static screen shows Wreck-It Ralph, a character in the movie, standing at a counter in the Pancake Milkshake Café.

Moviegoers, who have downloaded National Cinemedia’s free Noovie Arcade app (iOS and Android), open the app and point their smartphone at the image on the movie screen.

Feeding Bunny and Kitty. A hidden visual trigger in the image starts the AR game, which involves tapping virtual buttons on the phone’s screen to feed pancakes to the Bunny and milkshakes to the Kitty, as fast as possible. (Seriously.)

Here’s the trailer for the movie itself, which includes a scene where Ralph replicates a game in the movie to give pancakes to Bunny and milkshakes to Kitty:

The image on the movie theater’s screen provides the visual backdrop for the app’s in-phone gameplay. While gameplayers score points, they won’t see others’ points in this incarnation, although Digital Ad Sales VP Jerry Canning told me a shared scoreboard is in the works for future Noovie Arcade movie theater games.

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The game itself lasts for only 30 seconds, plus an intro and an outro of a few seconds. Afterwards, there is a “Ralph Breaks the Internet” logo and release date, and, Canning assured me, there is a reminder on the movie screen to turn off phones during the movie.

This AR game will be available through December 6 in the 1700 theaters where National Cinemedia presents its pre-show, representing more than 21,100 screens, including ones that are not showing “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”

Why this matters to marketers. As a new kind of movie marketing, the Ralph game employs AR to promote the new Disney flick and to get moviegoers engaging with the characters.

In-theater AR games that exploit the presence of a large movie screen and a captive audience with AR-ready smartphones seem like a natural combo, especially as tie-ins to the marketing of new movies. Or they could represent AR/movie experiences that are standalone entertainment or marketing in themselves.

In any case, as movie theaters try to present experiences that compel people to leave their high-def TVs at home, these kinds of experiences could represent the vanguard of how AR can become as standard as, say, movie trailers.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.

About The Author

Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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