Fox making DVDs more interactive

New app offers extra content via iPhones, Facebook, Twitter

Fox is hoping to boost the value of some upcoming DVD releases by putting a new spin on interactivity, including harnessing the power of social networking.

Dubbed FoxPop, it makes its debut with the Dec. 1 Blu-ray and DVD release of "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian."

With a free downloadable computer application for Mac, PC or iPhone, users get a constant barrage of facts, photos, games and trivia questions related to the movie they are watching. Importantly, because the content is delivered to a separate screen, users are free to ignore it if they choose.

So when a T. rex appears on the screen, for example, the user's iPhone would vibrate and ask how many bones that particular dino has. It will also tell what percentage answered the query correctly. (For the record, a T. rex has about 200 bones, about as many as a human.)

Users also can use Facebook and Twitter to add their own comments and whatnot that their friends who use FoxPop will be able to see whenever or wherever they watch the movie.

FoxPop comes through a partnership with Spot411, a recently founded interactive entertainment company. It works by "listening" to the audio and, within a few seconds, syncing to the exact moment in a movie.

Spot411 CEO Ajay Shah said 80% of DVD watchers tend to research something about a movie they have watched by going to the Internet afterward or will pause the movie and hit the Web for instant gratification.

"People feel they have a right to know something about a movie the moment they want to know it," said Randy Shiozaki, Spot411 chief experience officer.

Fox has engaged the Cimarron Group to design the FoxPop pages and write the text. Cimarron introduced Spot411 to Fox specifically to pitch the technology for the "Night at the Museum" sequel, but Fox decided to take it further.

So FoxPop will be featured for that release as well as for "(500) Days of Summer," scheduled for Dec. 22 and "Jennifer's Body" on Dec. 29. Several other DVDs will be "FoxPopized" next year.

FoxPop comes at a time when the DVD is losing luster, with Redbox renting them for a buck and WalMart oftentimes selling them for less than $10 apiece.

Fox isn't charging extra for FoxPopized movies, but it is hoping consumers will consider them a more valuable experience. Plus, there could be money to be made via e-commerce and marketing opportunities.

For "(500) Days," for example, an iTunes purchase function is included. When users hear a song they like while watching the movie, they can buy it with a button-click.

Fox has an exclusive home entertainment deal with Spot411 through next April, but Spot411 said it already has built an archive of 500 films from various studios. Those experiences aren't nearly as rich as FoxPop, and because no copyrights are infringed, Spot411 didn't need to seek permission from the studios.

Spot411 also intends for its technology to work with live TV -- a possibility that intrigues Fox as well, though no initiatives in that regard are under way.