Mobile games provide new revenue option

The 20th Century Fox release “Rio” arrived in theaters over the weekend fueled in part by a promotional tie-in with “Angry Birds,” one of the most successful gaming franchises in the Apple store.

But studios are looking to the skyrocketing app market to mine new revenues from their older titles, too. Apps cost users anywhere from 99¢ to $5.99 and more, depending on the platform and game.

Just look at the Weinstein Co., which later this month will release “Angry Pinheads,” a game based on the villain in its “Hellraiser” series. This joins “Screamville,” a game app that accompanies its latest release, “Scream 4.” Or take MGM Studios, which reached into its library last month to commemorate war movies — including “Platoon” — and released app “War Pinball HD.” “Pinball” went as high as No. 10 on the most-downloaded game apps.

At a time when studios are looking for creative ways to counter diminishing returns at the box office and DVD, the high-growth app market makes for an appetizing opportunity. Research firm Markets-andMarkets projects the total app market will be worth $25 billion by 2015.

Curt Marvis, president of digital media at Lionsgate, is reviewing his own gaming options. “Every studio is looking to find ways to further monetize content, both firstrun and catalog, across all existing and emerging digital platforms,” he says. “As growth in the app market continues to surge, we view it as a marketplace to tap into with our intellectual property.”

There are a number of ways studios are structuring licensing deals with game developers for app-friendly IP. Either side can cover the costs of producing the app; whoever gets stuck with the bill typically collects the first revenues that come in until they’ve broken even. From there, a revenue split kicks in.

It’s worked well enough for MGM, which expects to turn a profit on “Pinball” over the next few weeks. There’s another gaming app coming from the studio based on its “Army of Darkness” films.

While that one came at the request of fans of that cult hit who happen to be game designers at Backflip Studios, a movie studio is just as likely to cherrypick from its own library and pitch it to developers in hopes of inspiring them to license an adaptation for an app.

Weinstein Co. went so far as to launch its own gaming division, TWC Games, as a joint venture with Beefy Games last month. TWC’s Dimension Films unit will have plenty of IP to draw from, and the “Halloween” franchise is another likely source for games.

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