Best Buy launches cell-phone app for toon

Best Buy is going mobile, launching a free cellphone application for Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me” that not only will help the studio promote the toon but could turn the electronics giant into a key marketing partner for Hollywood beyond hyping traditional homevideo releases.

This week, the company is bowing Best Buy Movie Mode with “The Minionator,” a free download that will enable audiences of “Despicable Me” to understand what the mischievous yellow creatures in the film are saying, as the end credits play, through a trans-lation that appears on their cell-phone screens. Pic unspools July 9.

Once the DVD and Blu-ray are released later this year, auds will be able to get a translation of the Minions’ special language as the entire movie unspools.

Application also identifies theaters showing “Despicable Me” and local Best Buy stores, and will unlock exclusive free digital content for the pic.

The app can be downloaded online or via a text message, and used on various smart-phone platforms, including Blackberry, Apple’s iPhone, the Android and Windows Mobile systems.

The translation starts when the app is activated through a sound cue after the film starts playing.

Best Buy developed the new app as part of its overall promotional partnership with Universal to push the pic through traditional ads.

But the company had also been looking for a way to launch something that would make Best Buy more relevant to consumers as an entertainment provider outside of its stores.

The cell-phone app was produced together with Chris Meledandri, whose “Despicable Me” is the first 3D toon for Universal, through his Illumination Entertainment shingle.

“We looked at a number of different ideas, but landed collectively on the Best Buy Movie Mode experience because we wanted to take people’s cell phones, one of the most indispensable pieces of technology and make it part of the moviegoing experience that’s unique,” said Chris Homeister, senior VP and general manager of the home entertainment group at Best Buy.

Best Buy and Meledandri also wanted to make sure it wouldn’t disrupt the viewing experience for others. As a result, a phone in Best Buy Movie Mode automatically dims the mobile screen, silences the ringer and discourages texting.

Best Buy is now talking to other studios on how to adapt the its mobile app for future film releases, as well as the launch of TV shows, videogames and music. It sees film tie-ins as a way to bolster its brand image with customers as it faces new threats from expanded electronics sections within Walmart and Target stores, for example.

Best Buy’s promo efforts around “Despicable Me” represent its largest film tie-in to date. And it hopes to land more film properties, as well as other media deals, as Best Buy Movie Mode proves itself with the toon.

“We’re looking at a number of other uses for it,” Homeister said. “We look at this as the first launch event and are excited about what else we might be able to do with other entertainment partners.”

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