The rise of movie companion applications

29 May

I’m not quite sure when movie companion apps started to appear, but recently, with the rise in popularity of TV companion and third-party applications, they have become more of a “necessity” when releasing a blockbuster movie it seems. The recent releases of Star Trek Into Darkness, the Smurfs, and Dark Knight Rises have all had movie apps accompany them, in an effort to drive more people to the theaters.

My question is: how much traction are these apps gaining with the general public? Early adopters, like myself, and die hard movie fans would jump on these like spots on a dog.  However, I don’t see the “average” smartphone user gravitating towards these apps – they might not even know they exist.

epicIn the past six months, eleven movies have been released with companion applications.  About half of those movies have been released in the past month and a half (or will be released this weekend), including Epic, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Iron Man 3.  As an avid second-screen and social tv junkie, I didn’t know about half of these applications (and I only saw two of the eleven movies).  If that’s true of myself, what does that say of the general public or late adopters of newer technology?

photo (1)

My sticker from checking into Star Trek Into Darkness opening weekend

In the iTunes store, it’s not that easy to find movie companion applications. Unless you know what you are looking for, or if the app is the featured application on the home screen, I doubt you would even know the app exists.  As a marketing strategy, it doesn’t make much sense to make people work to find your application.  If you know that there is a large audience on a second screen application like GetGlue, why not advertise there? You know people are going to check in when they go see the movie so they get the sticker.

Over half of cell phone owners in the US own a smartphone, according to a 2012 Nielsen study. Seeing as now it’s midway through 2013, I’m sure it’s more than 60% by now.  That being said, the App Store recently passed 50 billion app downloads – including apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod.  In my brief research, I noticed that a few of the movie companion apps that came out in the past few months were iPad only. I don’t know the percentage of people that have iPads, but I can guess that it is much less than the percentage of people that have smartphones, or even iPhones – but more than any other tablet.  (I did look at apps available on droid – not all are available for both platforms).

Some new movie app releases are intended to drive hype for box office hits, while other movie companion apps are released in conjunction with DVD releases to drive in home purchases.  If the purpose is to get the public excited about a movie or DVD release, and willing to pay the $10-$12 to see the movie in theaters (or the $20-$25 for a DVD or Blu-ray release), maybe having a more thought out marketing strategy would help.

I’m looking forward to seeing what upcoming movies will be coming out with companion apps.  I can already tell you that both Man of Steel and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire both have companion apps.  Hopefully, with the proliferation of movie apps, they will grow in popularity, like social TV apps did eventually.  Only time will tell.

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2 Responses to “The rise of movie companion applications”

  1. Roger Baker May 30, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I recall that Rian Johnson created a “director’s commentary” for use in the theater, encouraging fans to see the movie a second time in the theater. This wasn’t presented as an app, but certainly could have been had the studio/exhibitor chosen to climb on-board and make it so.

    Nice post.

    Like

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  1. The Rise of Movie Companion Applications (Shayna Blumenthal Blog) | Richard Kastelein - June 1, 2013

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