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Disney, 'Little Mermaid' bringing second screen to theaters

Just when you thought you knew the drill: when the theater lights turn off, so do your mobile devices — Disney invites moviegoers to bring their ‘gadgets and gizmos galore’ for a limited theater showing of The Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid: Second Screen Live will have an accompanying iPad app so moviegoers can virtually be a part of her world.

Viewers will be able to sing along and interacting with characters as the movie plays. They’ll also be able to play games against other theatergoers. (Via Disney)

While this may seem like the first foray into the second screen, Disney has actually been embracing the multitasking movie experience for years.

The feature debuted on 2011’s Diamond Edition release of Bambi on Blu-ray. It synced the animated classic to the viewer’s computer or iPad for interactive features.

...which was already pretty similar to Universal’s BD Touch app. Used on the 2009 Fast and Furious Blu-ray, it allowed viewers to control 360-degree models of cars in a virtual garage and provided annotations as the movie played.

This latest second screen experience will only be available for a limited time at select theaters. It’s the company’s first public use of the technology after an overall positive trial run of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas last fall.

“For a family movie likely loaded with kids we can see where this might be more enhancement than distraction and maybe even for certain niche midnight screening-type environments -- but if anyone whips out a slate at Machete Kills, Her, 12 Years A Slave or Gravity we're calling the usher.” (Via Engadget)

And a writer for /Film agrees, calling it a victory for the small yet vocal group who wants theaters to allow phone and tablet use while the movie run — a win he hopes won’t catch on.

“Want to watch a movie like that? Fine, go ahead, as long as (a) I don’t have to look at your stupid glowing screen and (b) people don’t assume they can do it all over the place. Complaint (a) is easy to avoid so long as ‘second screen’ showings are confined to well-designated theaters, but given the high use of cell phones (SIC) in regular theaters, (b) seems like something that will inevitably take hold.”

Starting September 20th, The Little Mermaid: Second Screen Live will be playing nationwide in select theaters. The app is available for free on the App Store.

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