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Canada's Cineplex Entertainment Rolls Out Interactive Branded Entertainment in Theaters

Timeplay Still - H 2011

The Canadian-made social media platform could allow major studios to test trailers and movies in cinemas, or insert interactive content into music concert and pro sport broadcasts at the local multiplex.

TORONTO – The Cineplex Entertainment cinema screen is showing no regular new car commercial at a Toronto multiplex.

The 60-second Ford Canada ad instead allows audiences to interact with one another and a giant split screen that features two actors in parallel films.

The first has a young man driving a Ford Focus car, and the second a seductive young woman filling the frame.

The cinema audience then uses a mobile phone app to make split-second decisions to vote on whether they want to see more of the young man or the young woman, in real-time and with 16 possible outcomes.

The Ford Canada spot, marrying mobile and social media, is part of a new partnership between Cineplex and Toronto-based TimePlay Entertainment to create on-screen interactive branded entertainment.

A second Canon Canada spot with gaming elements has audiences using their mobile phones to throw virtual light balls at the cinema screen to win prizes and receive special offers.

Cineplex is featuring the interactive advertising before the coming-soon trailers and a featured movie starts in its theatres.

But TimePlay CEO Jon Hussman says his social media platform could open the way for video gaming in theaters, or even for major studios to focus group trailers or movies.

“They can use it as a testing ground, to set the stage and build anticipation" for upcoming theatrical releases, he said.

Other possibilities include screening interactive trailers and films, adding two-way communication to alternative content, including music concert and sports broadcasts at the local multiplex.

TimePlay also plans to extend its social media platform to Facebook.

The Canadian company is currently developing the interactive content platform with Cineplex as part of a revenue-share arrangement, before rolling the technology out to multiplexes in North America and elsewhere overseas.

TimePlay supplies the interactive hardware and software, and the mobile phone app, while Cineplex contributes the theaters and recruits marketers to develop interactive commercials for its screens and audiences.

The social media experience is available via smart or flip phones after users download a free TimePlay app.

Audiences then compete against one another on a connected platform, and at the end of the branded commercial players receive promotional offers, information or coupons sent by the advertiser to their mobile phones.

Hussman argues TimePlay stands at the crossroads of gaming and film convergence.

“We’re allowing that convergence to come closer, with the creative taking it to where the cinema audience wants it to go,” he explained.

The TimePlay partnership is also part of Cineplex’s continuing diversification away from Hollywood movies, taking the country’s biggest exhibitor into media advertising and alternative entertainment like live opera and theater, concerts and sports.