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Apple investigating iPhone app to coordinate movie times with other plans

post #1 of 17
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Apple has shown interest in creating its own iPhone application that would present users with movie showtimes that would fit into their personal calendar and schedule of plans.

The iPhone software, revealed in a patent application discovered by AppleInsider this week, would link with the calendar data stored on a user's iPhone, as well as location-based data for nearby theaters. The proposed invention was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in a patent application entitled "Systems and Methods for Providing Context-Based Movie Information."

Apple's solution would obtain showtimes from multiple theaters, but would take care not to inundate the user with too many showtimes. Instead, movie times would be presented in time slots, and user would be presented with a series of time intervals that fit their schedule and location.

Even if a user were to manually select an unavailable time slot, the movie application could prompt the user to view information associated with a scheduled calendar event. From there, users could be presented with the option to cancel the event listed on their calendar, and the application would adjust accordingly, presenting new available showtimes.

In addition to showtimes and calendar conflicts, movie times and locations could also be recommended based on current traffic conditions. With this, users could determine which theater and showtime would be ideal after a scheduled event, like dinner at a restaurant.



Apple's proposed iPhone software also has social elements integrated. The movie application could access a user's list of contacts, and shared contacts would be able to see when and where their friends are seeing a movie.

Users could also choose to actively send their movie plans to friends. For example, if a calendar entry were to include the names and contact information of dinner participants, once tickets are ordered the appropriate information could be sent to those contacts.



The movie application could also include links to purchase tickets, as well as movie trailers. Apple already offers a similar set of features on its website, with movie locations and showtimes provided in an iOS-friendly HTML5 site.



Apple's patent application, made public this week, was first filed with the USPTO in December of 2009. The proposed invention is credited to John Louch and Todd Ditchendorf.
post #2 of 17
Brilliant! (as usual for Apple!)

Suggestion: Setup a "Geo-Fence" of the GPS location of the movie theatre to automatically "silence" the iPhone when two conditions are met. 1. Ticket bought for a certain time and, 2. GPS location of theatre.

This could be an "yes-no" option at set-up.

post #3 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post

Brilliant! (as usual for Apple!)

Suggestion: Setup a "Geo-Fence" of the GPS location of the movie theatre to automatically "silence" the iPhone when two conditions are met. 1. Ticket bought for a certain time and, 2. GPS location of theatre.

This could be an "yes-no" option at set-up.


That would be sweet. Have it silence the phone and turn off all notifications, say, 5 minutes before showtime and then turn it all back on when the film ends, based on the film's duration.

PS: I'd like the "geofence" for Reminders in iOS 5.0 to have an option for scaling the size of the fence and choosing larger and smaller fences from a list. I submitted to Apple so we'll see if they listen.
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post #4 of 17
I'd also love to see them (or any developer) integrate my location with my movie wish list.
That obscure movie that just got reviewed on NPR or is at Cannes? Tell me when it pops up on cable or in a theatre.
post #5 of 17
How about building an app that shows where there is a movie theater that charges sensible pricing of admission, as well as, reasonable pricing at their concession stand! That would be an app I'd purchase.

I don't need to worry about fitting movie times in my schedule. I rarely see movies. What comes out of Hollywood most times doesn't warrant the money I know I'd be spending.

During the Depression area, going to the movies was an affordable escape from the realities of the day. Sadly you can't say the same about today and the economically challenging times being faced.
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post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple has shown interest in creating its own iPhone application that would present users with movie showtimes that would fit into their personal calendar and schedule of plans. ...

Luckily for me, there hasn't been a movie for at least ten years that's been worth braving the expensive, distasteful horror that "going to the movies" has become.

I've gotten used to simply waiting for the DVD/BluRay release. There simply isn't anything that's so good that I can't wait a few months to see it in the comfort of my own home.
post #7 of 17
Sounds like an awesome idea.

I would like to see Apple include functionality to silence all phone calls and messages based on location/calendar except those on an inclusion list. For those on an inclusion list, allow the user to set parameters such as play a message applicable to the caller and take a message, allow the call to go through, etc.
post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Luckily for me, there hasn't been a movie for at least ten years that's been worth braving the expensive, distasteful horror that "going to the movies" has become.

I've gotten used to simply waiting for the DVD/BluRay release. There simply isn't anything that's so good that I can't wait a few months to see it in the comfort of my own home.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post

How about building an app that shows where there is a movie theater that charges sensible pricing of admission, as well as, reasonable pricing at their concession stand! That would be an app I'd purchase.

I don't need to worry about fitting movie times in my schedule. I rarely see movies. What comes out of Hollywood most times doesn't warrant the money I know I'd be spending.

During the Depression area, going to the movies was an affordable escape from the realities of the day. Sadly you can't say the same about today and the economically challenging times being faced.
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To the point of the post, some excellent suggestions, especially the movie list link one!

To the points of the above, I think you are both missing out on a lot of what life has to offer. And Rot'n is sounding like a curmudgeon: "Get off my lawn--what's the matter with kids these days."

First, there are lots of good movies coming out of Hollywood. You just have to be selective to find them. "Grand Torino" comes to mind--saw it last night on TV after having seen it originally in a movie theatre. I rarely see a movie twice. Not a great movie, but a worthy one. I do prefer Indy and foreign films, but Hollywood still can get the job done once in a while. Heck, I even saw Hangover II two nights ago and had some good laughs. Not great art, but still fun. Not every quaff has to be vintage wine, sometimes a cold Bud is just what you need.

Second, movie going is a social event. Experiencing anything as a part of a group is different qualitatively than watching it home alone. Humans are social animals. That's why we crave communal experiences that are emotional: church, sporting events, live concerts, etc. There is something deeply satisfying in having an experience where you "feel things together."

This is not a putdown--sometimes I feel the way you do. But you are missing out on some worthwhile experiences when you cut yourself off from popular culture categorically.

Also, never pay full price. Most theatres have discounts and cheap nights. Another benefit: the assholes that ruin a typical night at the movies don't show up for the films I like! They go to the car crash, body count, and deafening soundtrack ones. ;-)
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post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

I'd also love to see them (or any developer) integrate my location with my movie wish list.
That obscure movie that just got reviewed on NPR or is at Cannes? Tell me when it pops up on cable or in a theatre.

This is brilliant. I would pay for an app even if it only did that. Developers, are you listening?
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post #10 of 17
I'm surprised by the positive reaction. To me, it sounds like a solution in search of a problem. Theatre apps/sites already show the next available showtime and most movies start around the same time anyway. I realize this gives suggestions around your current schedule, etc., but I wonder how meaningful or practical that is in the real world. I'd be just as likely to move dinner around the movie time as I would be to move the movie time around the dinner.

One interesting thing about the patent application is that the examples are all actual New York City movie theatres. You wouldn't think that an engineer in (presumably) Cupertino would be thinking in those terms.

But NYC is one of the only places where an app like this would make sense because it's the only place where there are a large number of movie theatres within short distances of each other, so there are viable alternatives. In Los Angeles, only in a few places is there a concentration of movie theatres (like in Westwood), so one would have to plan in advance anyway because if one theatre's showtimes weren't viable, you might have to drive for an hour to get to another one. And today, most multiplexes play exactly the same set of movies as another multiplex anyway.

And over time, except in the most highly trafficked markets, movie theatres will disappear. Theatrical windows are disappearing and that's going to kill most movie theatres. They'll always be a few in each region, just as most cities still have small legitimate theatre districts, but it will be a shadow of today, which is a shadow of decades ago - the peak year for movie attendance was 1946! In recent times, theatres are a lousy business anyway - they are basically snack stands that happen to show movies because in the opening weeks of a film, the theatre generally gets only 5% (except in NY and Los Angeles where their 'nut" is usually guaranteed by the distributors.)

So maybe I'm a curmudgeon also, but I don't see the need.
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

That would be sweet. Have it silence the phone and turn off all notifications, say, 5 minutes before showtime and then turn it all back on when the film ends, based on the film's duration.

PS: I'd like the "geofence" for Reminders in iOS 5.0 to have an option for scaling the size of the fence and choosing larger and smaller fences from a list. I submitted to Apple so we'll see if they listen.

Geofencing is in iOS 4. And the API does allow you to set the radius. Some apps already use this. Reminders in iOS 5 is not really new except that its now part of the OS, but its using feature from iOS 4. Nothing new for iOS 5.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph L View Post

The rise of convenience over quality (maybe combined with a pride in ignorance? (this is "just as good")) is one reason why this country is going downhill.

I agree, but one of the biggest promoters of convenience over quality is Apple. iTunes is the largest distributor of compressed music and iPhones/iPods put out something under a quarter watt of sound. And the quality of Apple's video isn't any great shakes either. But most people (except perhaps for Blu-ray fans) don't seem to have a problem with it and consumers also don't seem to have a problem watching feature films on a 3" screen. Why? It's convenient.

And while it wasn't Apple's fault, one of the ramifications of digital downloads is singles once again having dominance over albums, as it did (at least for rock and R&B) in the pre-Beatles 60's. More than anything, this is what is killing the music industry, which is now at about 48% of its 1999 peak (not adjusting for inflation, which would make it worse).
post #13 of 17
There are a million possible patents in the offing that would take advantage of this location-based data combined with pre-set macros. New business ideas abound!

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GOA

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post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

I'm surprised by the positive reaction. To me, it sounds like a solution in search of a problem. Theatre apps/sites already show the next available showtime and most movies start around the same time anyway. I realize this gives suggestions around your current schedule, etc., but I wonder how meaningful or practical that is in the real world. I'd be just as likely to move dinner around the movie time as I would be to move the movie time around the dinner.

One interesting thing about the patent application is that the examples are all actual New York City movie theatres. You wouldn't think that an engineer in (presumably) Cupertino would be thinking in those terms.

But NYC is one of the only places where an app like this would make sense because it's the only place where there are a large number of movie theatres within short distances of each other, so there are viable alternatives. In Los Angeles, only in a few places is there a concentration of movie theatres (like in Westwood), so one would have to plan in advance anyway because if one theatre's showtimes weren't viable, you might have to drive for an hour to get to another one. And today, most multiplexes play exactly the same set of movies as another multiplex anyway.

And over time, except in the most highly trafficked markets, movie theatres will disappear. Theatrical windows are disappearing and that's going to kill most movie theatres. They'll always be a few in each region, just as most cities still have small legitimate theatre districts, but it will be a shadow of today, which is a shadow of decades ago - the peak year for movie attendance was 1946! In recent times, theatres are a lousy business anyway - they are basically snack stands that happen to show movies because in the opening weeks of a film, the theatre generally gets only 5% (except in NY and Los Angeles where their 'nut" is usually guaranteed by the distributors.)

So maybe I'm a curmudgeon also, but I don't see the need.

Much of what you say is probably true. But I don't think there'll be as few as you seem to think. Think of live sports. Why hasn't it disappeared or seriously shrunk in light of HD big screens at home? There are more teams and sports than ever before.
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post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by jr_b View Post

Sounds like an awesome idea.

I would like to see Apple include functionality to silence all phone calls and messages based on location/calendar except those on an inclusion list. For those on an inclusion list, allow the user to set parameters such as play a message applicable to the caller and take a message, allow the call to go through, etc.

Or how about being able to lock the phone with the screen off if a user is in a theatre after Showtime. No more jerks texting etc in the middle of the movie

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post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Or how about being able to lock the phone with the screen off if a user is in a theatre after Showtime. No more jerks texting etc in the middle of the movie

I thought Americans had guns to resolve situations like that.
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Much of what you say is probably true. But I don't think there'll be as few as you seem to think. Think of live sports. Why hasn't it disappeared or seriously shrunk in light of HD big screens at home? There are more teams and sports than ever before.

We're getting a bit off-topic, but.....

Sports is different because the economic model for sports is entirely different than that for movie theatres. Sports team owners are more like the movie studios in that they "own" their players and they're able to get revenue directly from ancillary sales to TV, cable, website advertising, etc. And they get a share of licensing revenue from merchandise, which for most sports is handled by the leagues or parent organization and then split with the teams. One of the reasons why cable/satellite costs so much is because the basic cable sports networks demand ever increasing fees (currently around $3 per subscriber per network, regardless of whether the subscriber actually watches the network.)

Movie theatres have no rights to the content they show and in the opening weeks of a film, most get only 5% (plus the junk food revenue). When the theatrical window was long (when home video first started, it was a year), there wasn't much of a problem. But with the theatrical windows getting shorter and shorter and with some studios clamoring for theatrical and home video release on the same day (although the theatre owners are threatening not to play such films), there's less of a reason for many people to go to the movies. Retail is generally evaluated on sales per square foot, which is quite low for movie theatres, since they comprise much space and only operate part of the day. The fact is that lousy real-estate values are keeping many theatres alive because the land/buildings can't be sold.

Evaluated either by admissions or by constant dollars, domestic boxoffice has been in decline for decades anyway and the competition for leisure time in general and other methods of distribution for movies only exacerbates the situation.

Domestic boxoffice revenue actually peaked in 1946, with 86 million weekly admissions on a U.S. population of 141 million (61%) resulting in $1.692 billion ($19.2 billion in current dollars).

In 2010, boxoffice comprised 25.4 million weekly admissions on a U.S. population of 308 million (8.24%) resulting in $10.45 billion.

There's lots of other factors such as the introduction of TV (although boxoffice fell over 30% even before TV had substantial penetration), the "consent decree", which forced the studios to spin-off the theatres, the competition for leisure time which I noted above, etc.

So I maintain my position that while movie theatres will always exist to some extent, there will be far fewer of them. And I say that as someone who has always loved going to the movies and appreciates high-quality theatre experiences and who will not watch a movie on a 3" screen.
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