Joy Redmond spoke to Oliver Fegan and Catherine Downes about their app, usherU, which encourages people into the cinema by connecting audiences with the films they love. usherU launches on 14th March
usherU, the brainchild of Oliver Fegan and Catherine Downes, will be launching shortly in Ireland after much beta testing in London, and hopes to get people offline and back inside the cinema. Brother of Alex Fegan, the filmmaker behind The Irish Pub and Older Than Ireland, Oliver’s first start-up Tempster which helped restaurants fill empty tables was ranked in Europe’s Top 12 and he’s hoping to bring the same magic to the cinema industry.
Few would argue that the cinema is the superior movie viewing experience, yet life has that knack of getting in the way. Too often when we’re just about to book those tickets we get deflated to learn the movie has moved on or we hear about one-off events and festivals after their run. Not anymore because usherU will be the pocket PA for the movie buff.
Oliver and Catherine promise usherU will be so much more than your common or garden cinema app because it has the geeky weird science element that basic push apps lack. Currently working with UCD insights centre on a data mining algorithm, your smart usherU app will learn about your preference and notify you about films it thinks you might like in your area, remind you when their run is coming to a close and tell you about one-off screenings, documentaries and niche film festivals before it’s too late.
Their extensive research in the UK with the three elements of the movie business – the filmmakers, the cinemas and the audiences – revealed the biggest problem: the best intentions don’t always convert into ticket sales so usherU are hoping that their app will improve conversions by nudging the passive consumer to get out more.
Established in October/November 2014, winning the UK innovation agency’s IC Tomorrow / British Film Institute competition gave them the funds to bring their ideas into fruition and now with 20,000 downloads and an even busier website with Point-of-Sale integration with varied cinema partners, it seems their perseverance is starting to pay off.
The great news of course is that usherU will be launching in Ireland very soon when the final POS integration tests and checks have been done with enough cinemas locally. The even better news is that is not all just for their own selfish gains with initiatives such as FilmHack where they brought the money people such as Creative England in to talk to film makers to tell them about micro funding and how to sell internationally. Following on from its success, they regularly run free Friday morning sessions for anyone in the film industry wanting to share tips and/or war stories.
Free events for the film industry in Ireland is something they would like to get off the ground here to help build the community and also to get them to think more about audiences. “We have the big picture view – one of the most motivating parts of what we’re trying to do is to help get better films made, have a better industry. Firsthand, I have seen how the film business is very hard, very top heavy. We want to help get more exposure for more niche audiences, it’s mainly for them in the end,” concludes Fegan.
Also available to download.