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It was dark when the machines came for us. Fortified behind sandbags, and armed to the teeth, we stood and fought Skynet’s armies with weapons in hand and our battle cries filling the air. We pushed our way to the gates alongside John Connor himself, and once we got to the work camp concealing the Time Displacement Machine, we were met with heavy resistance. Then, after we’d beaten our robotic foes and won the day, we realized that the Purple team was the highest scoring shooters.
Relax guys, it’s not Judgment Day just yet… but what I saw in the Terminator Genisys fan screening last night is a sign of an ever-interactive future at the movies. As we’d reported last night, the marketing wizards behind Terminator Genisys have developed an ambitious in theater game that encourages users to grab their phones and defend humanity. Originally, we thought that this experience was going to be something that took place during the actual film itself, but upon experiencing it first hand at the preview screening, attended by Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, I got to see exactly what they have in mind with this app, and it’s impressive.
Upon getting settled in the theater, we were given cards prompting us to log into the WiFi connection provided by the Paramount Pictures event staff. It was hard to miss it, as it was the connection that was named "Terminator" – though it would have been even more awesome if they named it "Skynet" and wove in some backstory about hacking their defenses. Minor quibble aside, we logged onto the wifi connection and were greeted with a prompt to wait for the game to start. Sure enough, the lights went dark, and the screen began to prompt any late comers and lollygaggers to join the fight in 2029 Los Angeles. After being sorted into teams, and being given the customary 3 second countdown, we were in the thick of combat.
The Terminator Genisys game consists of the main game taking place on the theater screen itself, with the audience being divided into four teams of different color designations. During the game, there are four avatars engaging in action by shooting the robotic hordes that are advancing on them. All the while, the cursors of the team’s colors are circulating their targets on the screen. All we had to do was wait for the cursor to line up with the target, and fire away. After three or four boards of increasing difficulty, we finished up with a ranking screen showing us where each of our teams stood, and then the movie started.
While the Terminator Genisys in-theater game experience sounded like something that would detract from the film itself, experiencing the reality of the event is something much more interesting, and fun. It felt like the audience bonded over a fun game before the film they were about to experience, and judging by the reaction of the crowd during the game, I’m not the only one who enjoyed it. The only real complaint is that the game isn’t as interactive as a die hard gamer would expect, which might lead to frustration with some participants. Other than that, a cool commemorative poster is up for grabs, and it’s a great primer for the film the audience has already paid their money to see.
If this is what the movie industry has in mind when it plans on making films a more interactive experience, then theaters just might have a way to keep themselves in the game of theatrical exhibition yet. If you’re interested in the Terminator Genisys in theater game experience, you’ll have to locate an AMC IMAX theater in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Boston that is hosting the experience. It will run from July 1st through July 3rd, but as we’ve speculated before, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is expanded later in the film’s run to maximize box office clout.