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Howie Mandel and his Alevy Productions are introducing a new cinema system with the ability to bring live and interactive content to theaters in real time, such as CG character Bobby from his Emmy-nominated kids series Bobby’s World.
As part of the launch, private demonstrations will be presented in Las Vegas, where CinemaCon is being staged. The system, dubbed Magic Screen — a joint venture between Alevy and interactive firm Super 78 Studios, whose technology was initially launched for theme parks — will be presented for use in cinemas, in partnership with cinema tech startup MetaMedia.
MetaMedia, which introduced a cloud-based system for distributing movies and other cinema content to theaters in 2020, plans to launch the first wave of Magic Screen cinema entertainment in major U.S. and Canadian cities this winter.
Magic Screen intends to work with studios and content creators to develop interactive content like live comedy shows, game shows and branded content (including content for private events). The rollout will include an interactive version of Bobby’s World.
“I was fascinated with the technology in that it had, as far as being able to do real-time animation, the ability [for the character] to comment on pop culture in real time,” says Mandel.
He also found the technology attractive as a live performer whose options have been limited due to the pandemic. “It’s one thing to have a live performance, which already exists in the theater setting. I’ve gone to those live events,” he says, noting Magic Screen would allow him “to move that one step further and not only are the people in the theater enjoying it, but we’re interacting with them. As a comedian, I love it.”
Driving the content will be Geppetto, Super 78’s proprietary live-character animation and show-control system, which runs on real-time game engine Unity and incorporates use of the Microsoft Azure cloud and NVIDIA GPUs (a graphics processing unit). In addition to the newly created content, theaters may also tap into Geppetto-based experiences developed for theme parks, which can be adapted for theaters, according to Super 78 founder and CEO Dina Benadon.
“Following the introduction of digital cinema, 3D and immersive audio, we view Magic Screen as the next leap forward for cinemas by providing audiences direct access to their favorite characters and celebrities and allowing them to interact alongside other fellow fans,” says MetaMedia CEO Jason Brenek.
The MetaMedia Entertainment Network, which operates on tech partner Microsoft Azure’s cloud, is the exclusive platform for Magic Screen. It’s operating in about 150 locations, representing about 1,000 screens in the U.S. and Canada. These customers include Cinépolis, Emagine Entertainment, Landmark Cinema and Independent Cinema Alliance.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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