When it launched its "Best Buy Movie Mode" mobile app last month, Best Buy and agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky aimed to engage viewers of Universal Pictures' film "Despicable Me" in a live in-theater experience that coincided with the film's end-credits.
They chose the film well. As of Friday, Moviegoers had funneled more than $160 million into "Despicable Me" since it launched on July 9. However the app has hit a few bumps, as some users have complained loudly that the experience doesn't work.
Part of the problem, says CP+B, is that app users have to see the film at a digital 3D theater. (The app helps you find the nearest 3D theater - as well as the nearest Best Buy.) Many users didn't realize that fact, or ignored it. Instead they loaded the app - which comes in versions for iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Windows Mobile devices - in non-3D theaters. As a result, the featured "Minionator" tool - which "translates" the film's small Minion characters' gibberish into English during the 3D end credits - never functioned.
Best Buy declined to provide download figures for the app. For their part, iTunes users seem roughly split between those who love it and those who say it is a waste of time. Out of 395 ratings for the current version, 131 users give it 5 stars and 173 give it only 1 star. Users who rate the app 1-star complain that it does not work properly.
One reviewer who gave it five stars writes, “The instructions are easy to follow, but also easy to mess up.”
As for what Best Buy is doing to address the concerns, spokesperson Erin Bix says, “We’ve updated the application to allow anyone who activates Movie Mode at the beginning of the film to receive the extra bonus content even if they’re unable to complete the entire end credit sequence."
Resistance From Theater Chains
The app also promotes the shocking premise of encouraging users to leave their phones on during the movie. Dan Fox, creative technology director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, says, "We had a lot of discussions with Cinemark, AMC and Regal. They were very concerned about the concept of encouraging people to bring cell phones into the theater."
He says the theaters acquiesced when he learned the app compels users to dim their screens and silence their ringers.
In order to use the app, users merely click, "Enter Movie Mode," before the film begins. At the end of the film, the phone will vibrate and users can pick it up to see the translations.
Best Buy says the app syncs with the film by listening for audio cues in the soundtrack. That's part of the reason users have to start it up before the film. Another is simply so people aren't fooling with their phones during the movie. (There is also an onscreen reminder to turn on the app before the movie begins.)
Best Buy adds, "It is likely that the app will still work if Best Buy Movie Mode is activated any time before the end credits begin, but the experience may be less than optimal."
The company has previously launched a Best Buy app that provides barcode scanning, customer reviews and product information, as well a a Reward Zone app for its loyalty program that allows customers to view their Reward Zone certificates.
The app is available at BestBuyMovieMode.com or by texting "MINION" to 332211. According to Best Buy, additional content is available in the "Extras" section of the app after the credits as well. This includes an exclusive interview with Producer Chris Meledandri as well a $10 credit for digital entertainment service CinemaNow. And Best Buy says there are bigger things in store when the movie comes out on DVD and Blu-ray.
Universal provided the translations for the app. All users see the same translations and have the same experience. (Crispin Porter + Bogusky creative director Steve Babcock says it was a "happy accident" that the Minions are dressed in blue and yellow - coordinating with Best Buy's colors.)
Best Buy declined to comment on whether it was considering similar apps for future movies.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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