- Universal Pictures and Dreamworks Pictures created a mobile app to promote the Dec. 21 premiere of the film "Welcome to Marwen," according to an announcement.
- The app includes an augmented reality (AR) feature that lets users recreate a scene from the film in 3D, the first-ever use of AR for that purpose, per the announcement. The free app, which is available on Apple's App Store and Google Play, was created with content studio The Mill.
- The movie, starring Steve Carrell and directed by Robert Zemeckis, is based on the true story of an illustrator who loses his memory after being brutally attacked by five men. Part of his attempts to rebuild his life, he constructs a miniature Belgian town called Marwen that's populated by life-like dolls and action figures. The app recreates a scene in Marwen and lets people meet the movie characters and explore the town. Users can take photos inside the town to share on social media and access photo galleries and behind-the-scenes film content.
An AR experience is well-suited for a mobile app tie-in to "Welcome to Marwen," given the movie's subject matter about a parallel reality imagined by an artist. The film mixes narratives about the main character's life with stop-motion animated sequences that take place in the tiny world he created in his backyard garden. The "Welcome to Marwen" AR app combines a computer-generated reality with a smartphone user's real surroundings to dramatize the movie's themes and introduce key characters to movie fans ahead of the December premiere.
The app lets viewers see scenes from different angles and pause the action to take snapshots in two aspect ratios, as Carrell's character does in the movie. Smartphone users can share the snapshots as a digital postcard on social media, which boosts the possibility that Universal's campaign could go viral as other moviegoers download the app or see the movie in theaters. The app also includes an exclusive video introduction from Zemeckis, who also directed "Forrest Gump" and the "Back to the Future" trilogy.
AR has been a key element in movie promotions and video game tie-ins this year, especially after Apple and Google built software tools to help developers more easily create immersive experiences for smartphone users. Younger audiences have increasingly shifted their viewing habits to smartphones, making mobile platforms essential to movie promotions as traditional trailers fall to the wayside. Along with its "Jurassic World Alive" AR game, Universal created an AR promotion for the DVD release of "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" on Facebook. Similarly, Sony Pictures this week began promoting the release of the animated movie "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" with a mobile web AR experience that doesn't require an app download, further removing friction from the experience and allowing more people to participate.