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Can Mobile Phones Be A Boon To Movie-Goers?

Can “Shazamable” interactive content make mobile devices acceptable in the movie theater?

Coming today to a theater near you: Shazam and National CineMedia’s (NCM) FirstLook movie pre-show.

The two companies are rolling out the fruit of their exclusive deal on over 20,000 movie screens across the U.S. in effort to help make the waiting time before the feature film “Shazamable” for millions.

For the uninitiated, London-based Shazam is a popular music recognition and sharing app that’s been downloaded to more than 500 million mobile devices and has over 100 million monthly active users, growing at a rate of more than 13 million new users each month. Shazam’s expanded beyond music to include television, advertising radio, and even recognition of bird calls.

You may not have heard of National CineMedia either, but if you’ve been to the movies at a Regal, AMC or other leading theater, you’ve been among the over 710 million moviegoers who were served up FirstLook programming that precedes the previews. One part film or television show promo and one part behind the scenes content, a recent example of FirstLook has been popping up in theaters to showcase Sony Pictures “The Equalizer” featuring an interview with its star Denzel Washington explaining the inner workings of his character’s mind.

If you haven’t been particularly aware, it may be because you were too busy scanning Facebook or playing Candy Crush. But NCM is betting that audiences with mobile in hand are just itching to make the connection between their device and what’s happening on screen. “Research shows that movie audiences are very interested in interacting with our FirstLook pre-show, which means that brands should be very interested in this powerful two-way cinema communications tool as well,” Cliff Marks, NCM’s president of sales and marketing, said in a statement.

That’s where Shazam comes in. NCM created campaigns from national advertisers includes spots from AEG Live as well as a new RadioShack holiday ad featuring Weird Al Yankovic. The two companies also enlisted E!’s Maria Menounos to urge movie goers to download the Shazam app and get access to extended content and exclusive offers. The cue for this bonus material will come when the Shazam logo appears on the screen.

Shazam’s made moves in the movie arena last year in partnership with Screenvision which offered, among other spots, one for the Toyota Corolla that gave audiences a Shazamable way to enter to win a new car via their app.

Will the pre-preview content be a hit with fidgety audiences –especially when the full focus is supposed to be on the main screen and not the one in their hands? Indeed, the Motion Picture Association of America recently updated their policy (zero tolerance) on mobile phone use during films. And there are plenty of critics whinging about the decline in movie manners across the country.

Right now, FirstLook content is buffered by actual previews, and in some theaters, reminders to turn off phones. If nothing else, the interactive content may have a hidden benefit: it might just keep fingers out of the popcorn so it won’t be finished before the show even starts.

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