Idea: Watching movies with commentary tracks in cinemas

The BBC currently provide a a commentary track for the current edition of Doctor Who. Imagine if these were available for new movies.

A recent patent filing by Apple proposes public very local networks for iPhones and iPod Touches.

The idea is that shops, public buildings and restaurants set up location-specific applications that appear on iPhones when customers wander into the area of their wireless networks. Restaurants could provide custom menus (for those with food intolerances or on restricted diets), museums and art galleries could provide extra information. Shops could provide customer-specific offers.

If this works, why not provide commentary tracks for moviegoers? If you’ve see the film before, yet want to go and see it with friends, you can turn up and download an alternate soundtrack. You are more likely to see the film a second time in a short period of time. The cinemas sell more tickets.

You could even have alternate language soundtracks or an audio description track for the visually impaired. Imagine if the audio playing software on your iPhone could be triggered by a wireless signal to sync with the film when it starts (or even whenever the person arrives to watch the film).

The software could also ask permission to deny incoming texts and telephone calls until the film is over!

  1. That is a very interesting idea. The hurdles I see that would need to be overcome would be:

    1. Getting theaters to shell out the money for the wi-fi and whatever else is needed. They aren’t making at much as it is, and so even getting them to purchase digital projects is tough (though, I saw Iron Man in digital… and I like digital projection a lot).

    2. Getting the commentary tracks put together by release of the film. The lag between theater release and DVD is not just due to trying to bleed more money from the stone that is theatrical release… or is it?

    Just a couple thoughts.


  2. Rob said:

    This was done by Kevin Smith & friends for Clerks 2. It was scheduled to come out slightly after the release in order to send fans back to the theaters for a 2nd or 5th time. Theaters would have no part of it. Apparently the concern was something along the lines of how disruptive and upsetting regular viewers would find commentary-listening viewers, who might – for example – laugh out of sync with the general audience.

    Exhibitors threatened to pull the flick if the commentary were released, so it was saved as an extra DVD feature instead.

  3. Alex said:

    Rob, I think that exhibitors will change their minds when extra tickets are sold in screens that provide the service. ‘Out of sync’ reactions are common abroad. When I see English-language films in France and Spain, I see that the audience reacts in two stages to dialogue: the first group are those that understand English. The second group react once they read the subtitles.

  4. Paul said:

    Great idea; but you don’t need the wifi. Too complicated. Studios should have a free MP3 available for download and market to the tech-savvy movie geeks first. Slowly the concept will enter the mainstream. A simple “play when the movie begins” instruction will do.

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