PreShow

Do you want to go to the movies for free? Well, soon you’ll be able to, via an app called PreShow. Sound too good to be true? It might be. The service will enable theater-goers to nab free movie tickets by sitting through “15-20 minute ‘preshow’ comprised of entertaining branded content.” Piece of cake, right? Well, not so fast. To ensure you’re definitely watching the ads, the PreShow app will track your eye movements. If you stop looking at the ads for too long, they’ll pause, and won’t start up again until your gaze returns.

If this sounds a bit like a Black Mirror episode, that’s because it is. The same sort of premise was used for the season one episode “Fifteen Million Merits.”

Stacy Spikes, the founder of MoviePass, has a new film-related venture that you’ll either love or hate – PreShow. Here’s how it works, straight from the horse’s mouth:

PreShow members download the app and will have an opportunity to watch a 15-20 minute “preshow” comprised of entertaining branded content. Think of it like the product placement that you see in the movies, except now brands can provide engaging content and calls to action to targeted individuals. After watching the PreShow (we use proprietary facial recognition tech to ensure the person is watching), the individual receive credits to attend a movie for free to any theater of their choice with their virtual credit card. Watch, earn, and go. It’s that simple.

That sounds pretty cut and dry, doesn’t it? Besides, moviegoers are used to ads by now. Nearly every theater (except the Alamo Drafthouse) plays a truckload of ads before about a half-hour’s worth of trailers start. So what’s the big deal? Endgaget has more details on PreShow, and here’s the bit of info that gives me pause:

The company has developed a way to track your gaze to make sure you’re actually looking at the PreShow commercial. The app also places a green border around the edges of your screen to confirm that it sees you. If you look away for too long, or leave your seat, the ad automatically pauses and you’ll get a red border around your screen. You can later continue watching whenever you like. While Spikes demoed the app, it could easily tell when he was glancing away. And when he looked at the screen again, the ad restarted almost instantly.

I don’t like this, folks. It might sound relatively harmless, but there’s something distinctly Orwellian about it. Or Black Mirror-ish, if you will. In the Black Mirror episode “Fifteen Million Merits”, residents of a dystopian society are forced to sit through footage while riding exercise bikes in order to earn currency. In their homes, they’re subjected to ads that pause when they look away. But hey, if none of this bothers you, that’s fine! Free movies! PreShow is launching via KickStarter, and you can learn more about it here.

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