Spanish-speaking moviegoers will have more options for listening to films en Español in cinemas, under multiyear pacts that app startup MyLingo has reached with Disney, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Current and upcoming releases covered under the pacts include Disney’s “Moana” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Paramount’s “Office Christmas Party” and Sony-Village Roadshow’s “Passengers.” Using MyLingo, moviegoers can download studio-recorded Spanish audio tracks for $1.99 that sync to the English-language film on screen — and listen in real-time using their own headphones. Currently, MyLingo is available only for Apple’s iOS devices.
In addition to the studio deals, MyLingo has secured partnerships with Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Theaters, two of the top three largest exhibitors in the U.S., under which the chains will promote the app. MyLingo shares a portion of its revenue with the studios and and exhibitors.
“Partnering with MyLingo allows us to further invest in our audiences by offering this unique amenity to Spanish-speaking guests,” Greg Dunn, president and COO of Regal Entertainment Group, said in a statement.
According to Nielsen, Hispanic moviegoers spent $2.3 billion at the U.S. box office in 2015. But MyLingo CEO Olenka Polak said the company’s research shows that nearly half of all Spanish-speaking Americans avoid going to the movies because films aren’t shown in Spanish. “We see exhibitors as an unbelievable force to get the word out,” she said.
MyLingo began testing the app this summer with films including “Finding Dory” and “Ghostbusters,” followed by “Doctor Strange” and “Inferno.” Polak said the company has seen heavier usage in border towns in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, as well as in other areas with large Hispanic populations including L.A., New York and Florida.
Santa Monica-based MyLingo has 12 employees. The company has raised $4.1 million to date from Dolby Laboratories and individual investors. MyLingo’s board of directors includes Joe Peixoto, former president of worldwide cinema at RealD, and Chris Cookson, ex-CTO of Warner Bros. and former president of Sony Pictures Technologies.
Down the road, Polak said MyLingo would like to offer all the studio dubs for their movies, in multiple languages. But for now, she said, the company is focusing on Spanish because “we want a clear marketing message.” MyLingo plans to increase marketing spending in December, increasing “in a meaningful way” in January 2017, Polak added.
The MyLingo app uses an iPhone’s microphone to “listen” to a film’s audio soundtrack once the movie has begun, identifying the movie through a proprietary algorithm (similar to how Shazam works). The audio tracks are studio-sanctioned Spanish versions of the film originally developed for international release. Once the movie is over, the app deletes the file from the user’s phone.
MyLingo was founded in 2012 by Olenka Polak and her brother, Adam Polak, who grew up in Greenwich, Conn., in a predominantly Polish-speaking household. The siblings’ frustration in being forced to see movies in English led to the formation of the technology behind the company.