Interactive Movie Posters Make Debut

Movie posters that talk. Movie posters where the film stars wink and gesture at passersby. Movie posters of star actors who act our their roles in motion to stereo music that emanates from the poster. No, you are not dreaming or imaging these concepts. A company known as Thinking Pictures has been working on the interactive concept for movie posters over the past five years. Founded by Stephan Fitch, Thinking Pictures has been pitching these ideas to the motion picture studios as the 'ultimate' in film advertising. Fitch's displays not only present the viewer with film entertainment and information, they record how often readers walk up to them, how long viewers look at the posters and how close in proximity viewers were at the time. Eventually, these poster displays may contain "smart cards" that request personal information from moviegoers and then tailor the information accordingly for that viewer.

Dream Works Studio's head of Creative Advertising, David Sameth, said that interactive movie posters, as a concept, have a number of advantages. For one thing, the people who are looking at them are cinema fans, or they wouldn't be at the theatre. Sameth cautions, however, that once too many signs are noisy and visually distracting, "we will suffer from overload" and tune out the distractions, including the visuals and sounds of the moving posters.

Not everyone is thrilled at the idea of being "watched back" by a movie poster or to provide personal information to a movie poster. In "Minority Report," Steven Spielberg's futuristic science fiction film, the store advertisements are holographic and scan the viewer's eyes for personal identification, then speak to them personally. In the film, a model in a Gap store ad asks the character Tom Cruise plays if he wants to purchase sweaters from Gap.

Thinking Pictures' displays are inside a panel that mounts inside the theatre poster frame. There is a circular motion detector on the front of the movie poster display. Each display is linked by broadband to the theatre's server, which is connected to Thinking Pictures' network server in Manhattan. The content from the display is then digitally developed and distributed by Thinking Pictures. Fitch has approximately 30 displays operating in theatres in the Midwest and East coast theatres, and makes revenue from the displays by leasing them. One of the producers of "Minority Report," Bonnie Curtis, was not aware of Fitch's Thinking Pictures interactive posters at the time the sci fi film was made. Ms. Curtis called the interactive posters "fantastic" and suggested that the posters should have film directors' voices that would call out to moviegoers. "When I hear him [the voice of Steve Spielberg say, 'Hey, Bonnie, I like that blouse. Why haven't you come to see my movie?' " Ms. Curtis said, "then I'd say we are getting very close."

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