This article is re-printed by kind permission from the author Richard Mitchell, VP Global Marketing & Commercial Development at Harkness Screens, from his original LinkedIn post. It is an insightful piece of analysis about why Cinime’s promise of smartphone interaction with the big screen was not fulfilled.
A recent email update from Celluloid Junkie made reference to Shaw Cinemas in Singapore dropping the second-screen interactive Cinime app from their pre-show line-up which to many in the industry signalled a warning sign something was amiss with Cinime. A further quick search via social media revealed that UK exhibitor Cineworld by its own admission appeared to be backing away from the technology too just a month ago.
However in researching today, the Cinime app no longer shows up as a download in the Apple App Store, the UK company appears to have gone into Administration just a few days ago (according to Companies House) and the cinime website has vanished (replaced by TasteTripper). So it could be construed that this might possibly be the end of the road for Cinime.
For something a little ahead of its time and destined to be a huge success providing commercial opportunities to advertisers and exhibitors, why does it appear to have been a failure? One only has to look at consumer feedback to understand where it might have started to go wrong.
As a developer of apps that have become de facto tools for the cinema industry (in terms of auditorium design and equipment specification), good content and ideas are vital but at Harkness, we’re forever conscious of two essential factors which affect the way our apps are perceived by our users, User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). In essence, make the tools accessible, consistent, functional and intuitive enough that the experience of the user is a positive one.
And that’s where, in my opinion Cinime partly fell down. Having tried to use the app on many occasions I never managed to get it to work, much to my disappointment. I really never understood if I needed to point the phone at part of the screen or the whole screen, whether I needed to hold the phone upright or on its side and if I held the phone correctly whichever way up to ensure that the microphone wasn’t obstructed. An unclear UI resulted in a disappointing and unfulfilled UX.
The other key factor might well have been the technology behind it and the variables created by it.
Cinime drew its interactive capability by image recognition and audio watermarking (listening to the sound track) and maybe that’s where it fell down. Two variables at play make it hard to control the outcome although one could argue it doubles the chance of success. However, think about the variables of presentation in a cinema environment and the issues this may have created. From a visual perspective, can the phone recognise the image if it’s too close to the screen or if it’s skewed because the phone is not central to the seating area and can the phone hear the audio watermarking if the fader is set at the wrong level or if a channel is not working properly or if it’s not directly in front of the centre channels? Maybe none of those mattered or all of those did, but I’m guessing they must have had an impact at some level on the ability of the phone to interact with the big screen.
If as I suspect these auditorium variables could affect the app’s performance, Cinime was always destined to be a problem child especially without the right monitoring tools to ensure that presentation quality was suitable for the app to work.
One only has to look at the way in which the newer second screen cinema apps such as TimePlay have taken advantage of advances in mobile handset technology and the deployment of the likes of Bluetooth beacons to eliminate what may have been some of those troublesome auditorium variables that seemingly plagued Cinime.
Although it could be argued that Cinime was a failed project, the intention was good, in some respects groundbreaking and maybe just a little ahead of its time. Exhibitors shouldn’t lose sight of what Cinime tried to achieve or dismiss the notion of second-screen technology in the auditorium as gimmicky or “not for us”.
As Adam Aron CEO of AMC cinemas recently said: “You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.”
He’s correct, you can’t, but you can take advantage of their phones being on to engage them, get them involved in an interactive pre-show which differentiates from other movie experiences and generate incremental advertising revenue. Who knows, there may even be the potential to educate them to turn their phones off when the movie starts.
The industry is abuzz with the notion of virtual reality in cinema at the moment, but that’s a long way off still. We shouldn’t lose sight of Augmented Reality and the benefits it might bring and we shouldn’t dismiss what Cinime set out to achieve or the legacy it may leave for future app technology.