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BRITISH CINEMA CHAIN Odeon wants to create a multi-player video gaming experience in its cinemas, and has challenged developers to produce an app that will allow audiences to play against one another via their smartphones projected onto the big screen while they wait for the film to start.
Conjured up along with British film studios Pinewood Studios, the idea - if successful - will encourage audience attendance at cinemas in either the 20 minutes of pre-screening before the film starts or when screens are not being used to show films.
In a brief overview, Odeon has asked developers to create a digital app that supports a game system of "massively multi-player online games" on the mobile web that involves interaction between individuals in the cinema audience and the big screen.
Though it's just a concept, the idea has been put forward as part of the IC Tomorrow's Digital Innovation games contest, a programme launched by the UK Technology Strategy Board that is offering five businesses up to £25,000 each to develop innovative digital applications and meet the objective of five prolific technology companies, including Crytek, Sony and Google.
Speaking at the programme's launch event on Thursday, Odeon Cinemas' digital development manager Gerald Buckle made clear that the idea is just that, and one that needs developing and thinking through before it can come to fruition.
"We are not in the business; we aren't exactly sure what we want to see," Buckle said. "I think there are various elements that could be looked at in more detail in the perspective of: when do the people play these multi-player games; is it during the pre-show, the 20 minute slot that currently has adverts and trailers? Is it an event in its own right - a one hour, two hour, three hour multi-player gaming on the big screen? Does it just involve local cinema, is it national, [or] international?"
While there is a lot is to be worked out, both Odeon and Pinewood are confident that the project should be powered by audiences' smartphones.
Buckle said, "In terms of the interfaces, we like the idea of mobile phones as everybody owns a mobile phone. 70 percent of our audiences have smartphones in their pockets, so [the question is] how are we going to interface with that in a nice simple fashion?"
Buckle added how he envisioned the application working. "With one or two presses of the keypad, you're logged in, playing the game with 190-odd people in the auditorium before the show starts."
Odeon and Pinewood aren't entirely sure if the experience should be specific to the auditorium, or if it can be carried away so audiences can continue playing the game on their phone at home, and then return to the cinema and enjoy the multi-player experience but on the big screen.
"Could it be a paid for experience? Could it be monetised in some shape or form? Is that done offline, or do they have to log in at the cinema? These are issues that need to be addressed to make the experience as seamless and as frictionless as possible for the guests," Buckle added.
Pinewood Studios' managing director of the post production group Giles Farley also spoke at the launch event on behalf of the brief, affirming that the studio will be there to help support the successful developer(s) with expertise, resources, technology, and "a chance to work in our facilities and test and work their ideas".
The successful applicant might also be able to trial its prototype at Odeon cinemas and also in the UK's largest preview theatre, Theatre 7 at Pinewood Studios. µ
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