Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Tablets get a seat at the movies (+video)

Second screens have long been de rigeur for TV viewing, but programs like Disney's 'Little Mermaid' tablet activities are bringing them to movie theaters as well.

By Staff Writer / October 15, 2013

iPad screenshot

Enlarge

For many Americans, using one screen at a time is not enough. More than two-thirds of smart-phone and tablet owners use their devices while watching TV multiple times a week, according to a June survey from the research firm Nielsen. Nearly half of them do so every day. 

Skip to next paragraph
Disney is re-releasing 'The Little Mermaid' in movie theaters and this time, viewers are asked to bring an iPad. During the screenings, the audience is encouraged to download an app, that will allow them to play games and sing along with the 1989 classic film.

While TV networks have capitalized on this “second screen” trend by showing fan messages from Twitter during live broadcasts, Disney has taken the idea out of the living room and into theaters. Realizing that its target audience – the touch-screen generation (see story, page 26) – increasingly uses digital devices, the company has designed applications for moviegoers.

With the theatrical rereleases of “The Little Mermaid” in September and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on Oct. 18, Disney launched companion apps for the iPad. Audiences can download the apps at home and then bring their tablets with them to the theater.

These special screenings make films like Ariel’s under-the-sea adventure feel a bit like a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” revival for 6-year-olds. When King Triton makes his royal entrance, the app tells audiences to “Cheer!” The lyrics to each song pop up on the tablet, encouraging people to sing along. And interactive games pit viewers against each other to see who can rack up the most points.

Kim Tracey Prince of Agoura Hills, Calif., says that before learning about Disney’s Second Screen Live app, her two sons had no interest in seeing “The Little Mermaid.” They considered it a “girl movie.” But she says that the iPad app lured them in. While Brady, age 6, got swept up in the story and quickly lost interest in the app, Kyle, 8, manned the tablet throughout the movie – nudging his mom occasionally for answers to the pop-up trivia questions.

“It was a huge hit and I’m glad we did it,” says Ms. Prince. “At the end, [Kyle] called it the ‘best movie ever,’ which is a rare attribute for him.”

As far as she could tell, they were the only family in the theater with an iPad, which led to some confusion. The screening stopped at certain points, giving players time to complete a task on their tablets. Unsure about what was happening, several people left the theater to complain that the projector seemed to be broken, Prince says.

These free apps work at home, as well. Second Screen Live can sync up with tapes, DVDs, or even clips on YouTube. But Disney designed these apps to experiment with live events, potentially making a night at the movies – pardon us, Aladdin – a whole new world.

Permissions

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!