Playing Those Weird Movie Theater AR Games That Appear Before Films

Illustration for article titled Playing Those Weird Movie Theater AR Games That Appear Before Films

Over the last year or two, you might have noticed something strange when you show up to see a movie at a theater. Before the movie starts, before the trailers even, something called “Noovie ARcade” is advertised and then a static screen appears for 60 seconds. What is going on? Folks are playing video games on their phones, that’s what’s going on.

Noovie is a show that appears before many films and trailers in theaters across the country. This was originally called “First Look”, but the company that creates these pre-show segments rebranded them as Noovie around two years ago. With the rebrand came new features and segments. The most interesting being a series of AR games that are played on the big screen of the theater.

My girlfriend and I see a lot of movies, we both have AMC A-List memberships that allow us to see multiple movies a month for $20 a month. Before that, we had Moviepass, which was a similar subscription service for seeing movies. Each time we arrived early, we saw ads for these Nooive Arcade games and wondered what was going on. Finally, we downloaded the free app to try out these games.

The first and biggest issue with these games is the app itself. In short, it sucks. It crashes, freezes up and takes way too long to load, meaning that you will need to keep it open well before the game starts so you can play. You only get 60 to 30 seconds to play each game and the app can sometimes take upwards of 15 seconds to fully load. Noovie seems to be aware of this, as they give everyone a 2-minute heads up before the game starts. Well, they usually do. Sometimes they don’t, which is annoying and means you lose valuable gaming time.

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Once you’ve downloaded the app, got it to work and finally got it open and ready to go, you can start playing some games. Unfortunately, these games aren’t amazing. Finding a fool list of games seems near impossible and there isn’t much of a community around these games, so I only have a partial list of games I’ve experienced. But what I’ve played hasn’t impressed me all that much.

Illustration for article titled Playing Those Weird Movie Theater AR Games That Appear Before Films

My favorite Noovie Arcade title by far is a game about blasting alien ships. I wish I could tell you the name, but I can’t find it. I think it might be called AR Blasters. There aren’t any fan wikis about these games online and the games don’t even say their names after playing. This makes it hard to even figure out what I’m playing.

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Anyways, the blaster game is simple, but of all the games I’ve played, it runs the best on my phone. You point your phone at the screen and use two virtual buttons to shoot endlessly spawning ships. You can also shoot powerups, giving you laser beams and slowing down time. This isn’t some amazing video game, but as a free little thing that helps kill time before the film ain’t bad.

I also enjoy Kernel Canon, I only know this game’s name because you can actually find it on the official Noovie site. This is similar to alien blasting game, but instead of shooting lasers, you shoot arching popcorn kernels into moving popcorn containers that are various sizes. Bigger ones are worth fewer points and smaller tubs are worth more. This game runs fine on my phone, but older phones might struggle. The weird thing is I’ve never played this game in a theater. I can only find it on the Noovie Arcade site.

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The other games are bad. The worst might be a driving game that has players racing a car to a theater to make it in time for a Hollywood premiere. This game actually has a bit of narrative and even a short ending cutscene. But everything else about this game is awful. Controlling the car feels bad and tilting your phone while trying to keep your camera pointed at the screen is annoying. It also runs terribly, even on my girlfriend’s new Pixel 3 and made our phones get really hot like we had been playing something for hours.

A zombie game and a Wreck-It Ralph game have also been available in the past, but these games are no longer playable using the app and no longer are shown at theaters. When I played them back when you could, I remember not being very impressed. They are shooting galleries, with the zombie game actually running worse than the driving game.

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The numerous times my girlfriend and I have played these games in theaters, we are usually the only ones. One time an older couple next to us watched and seemed confused. Another time a kid behind me saw us playing and I heard him ask his mom what we were playing and how he could play. They downloaded the app and tried to play the next game, but it sounded like the app didn’t launch in time.

Sorry kid. This app really sucks.

This might work, here is the screen for a game.

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If you are curious about playing these games but don’t want to travel to a theater there are ways to play these AR games at home. You can visit the Noovie site where they have a game available. All you do is load up the image on your TV or monitor, open the app on your phone and point the camera at your monitor. Suddenly, your screen will be an AR video game experience! Amazing.

If you want to play other things beyond the one game on the official site, you’ll have to find YouTube videos people have uploaded of the other game screens. I found a good one if you want to play that alien blasting game. Don’t bother trying to play that driving game. Sadly, it seems the Wreck-It Ralph game has been removed from the app or at least my phone wouldn’t recognize the screen.

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As video games become more and more popular, it is interesting to see companies try to leverage games as a way to get more folks to show up early for movies or present folks with more ads. Maybe one day, people will find games hanging off toilets at restaurants or small games attached to books? Maybe that will get more people interested in reading?

Regardless, if you are looking for something to do while you wait for the trailers and movie to start, download the Noovie Arcade app and start shooting aliens while folks around you stare strangely at you.

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