TORONTO — Cineplex is calling time on TimePlay.
The country's largest theatre chain says after nearly a decade it has parted ways with the technology company that operates the movie trivia app. The changes took effect at the end of 2020.
TimePlay gave Cineplex moviegoers an opportunity to test their cinematic knowledge while earning Scene points and interacting with advertisements on the big screen.
The concept was novel when TimePlay launched beta tests in 2011. For years, audiences had been encouraged to keep their phones stored away.
The idea was developed after the cinema ad market plummeted in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
Automotive companies, and other major ad buyers, had pulled back on spending for pre-show ads, leaving exhibitors to consider innovative ways to draw back their marketing dollars.
When it launched, TimePlay was a minor sensation that, for a time, caught the attention of U.S. movie chains.
Over the years, Cineplex expanded TimePlay to 56 of its more than 160 theatres across Canada.
However, since the start of the pandemic, Cineplex's financial model has been pummelled as provincial leaders closed movie theatres and Hollywood delayed the release of many anticipated blockbusters.
Owners of TimePlay began looking for alternate routes to users during the shutdown, launching an at-home trivia night through the phone app on Thursdays.
A representative for TimePlay did not respond to questions.
Sarah Van Lange, a representative for Cineplex, said ending the business partnership with TimePlay came as the exhibitor made "some really tough decisions since the pandemic began to stabilize our financial position."
One of those calls was reflecting on business partnerships, she added.
In December, Cineplex announced it would shore up $57 million by selling its Toronto headquarters and using that money to repay debt.
A separate $60-million agreement extended its Scene loyalty partnership with Scotiabank to offer new reward redemption options.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2020.
David Friend, The Canadian Press