Interactive PSAs part of $500,000
Theatre League promotion

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Visitors to Chicago who want to attend a Chicago theatre production can simply place a finger on a computer touch screen. It will display the venue of their choice, indicate ticket availability for that night, how to get there, what restaurants are nearby and by, the way, the latest news and weather.

The screen is not on a kiosk–but in the back seat of a Yellow Cab. The mobile computer utilizes 3-G wireless communications transmitted onto a 12.1-inch HD screen, with near-field imaging. If passengers leave the screen untouched, advertising messages run continuously and change in standard lengths of 10, 15 and 30 seconds.

Currently showing are Chicago actors George Wendt of “Cheers” fame and Meshach Taylor of “Designing Women” in stylishly humorous PSAs produced for the League of Chicago Theatres by the local production community.

The PSAs will air on Ch. 5 starting this month, Ch. 7 in March, and later on cable and the League’s Web site. In June, they will play on eight video monitors stationed throughout Midway Airport’s new baggage claim area, sponsored by the Dept. of Aviation.

The $500,000 project?mobile interactive technology showing theatre databases coupled with two PSAs?had a final price tag of $20,000.

The near-field imaging even responds to a gloved finger, said Corey Gottlieb, CEO of Global Vision Interactive, the patent owner of the system. GVI donated the first Chicago Interactive Taxi (IT) to the league for its on-going “From the Streets to the Seats” campaign.

Gottlieb demonstrated the technology in a Yellow Cab parked at the Chicago Police Department Headquarters at the Feb. 6 kickoff, before the Yellow set off to find the first high-tech fare. So far, only one Chicago cab is IT-equipped. But if successful, more computer screens will be installed later.

GVI technology chief Marco Pici said in-cab advertising content is monitored in New York at the central control site, which is also the central nervous system for 40 New York cabs with systems featuring New York venues.

Any computer can be used to input changes in the listings found in the system. “Because of the screen size, and near-field imaging, that’s almost like an infrared layer of about an eighth-of-an- inch off the tempered glass. It recognizes the location where you break the feeds,” said Pici.

“We have in essence created a mobile information kiosk that can withstand a tremendous beating,” Pici said. “The tempered glass is virtually indestructible. The only thing that can really do damage to the screen is a bullet and it still won’t penetrate.”

The equipment accepts broadcast-quality television commercials and Flash animation as well as static images and, Pici noted, advertisers can use existing spots.

The League’s two promotional spots were filmed in an alley behind the Schubert Theatre last November. Wendt plays a tried-and-true Chicago cop, who walks down a wet, dark alley while mulling over crimes. Taylor is an all-knowing cabbie.

A series of quick cuts of local theatres end with a tag by Steppenwolf actress Amy Morton: “With over 200 theatres across the Chicago area, you’re bound to see just about anything. It’s out there. Go find it.”

The bargain price of $20,000 for so much technology and talent was achieved by assistance and in-kind donations from more than 60 individuals and public institutions. Directors’ rep Tracy Bernard facilitated the director with the contribution of award-winning director Charles Wittenmeier of L.A.-based Form (Nissan, Bud Light, Little Caesar’s).

Other contributors included production consultant Marea Brichta, CD Barry Vusko, John Linesch and Ferida Doherty of RainCommunications, talent agent Paula Muzik, Form producer Salli Zilles, DP Jordan Valenti, Spank! Music & Sound Design, Avenue Audio sound designer Mark DeVos, Somersault Flame artist Robert Bial, representatives of large and small theatre companies, Reel Wheels, SAG/AFTRA, the Dept. of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Film Office..

Wendt said he wished to donate his time but SAG insisted on him being paid scale.

“For people who work on film, it was an every day thing. But for me it was pretty amazing,” Halperin said of the experience?of creating the spots. The production took about a year, from conception to final picture.

GVI’s Gottlieb said he wants every Chicago theatre to be listed, and hopes movie houses will eventually do the same, perhaps by showing film trailers.?Penny Layne

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