Lord of Ringtones

by Hilary Potkewitz

Movie theaters are dragging people in by their cell phones.

Twentieth Century Fox and Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. have added free wireless downloads through Bluetooth wireless stations at the movies. People with Bluetooth-enabled cell phones can download ringtones, wallpaper and movie trailers for free at Loews.

The studio wants viewers to take these images and show them to their friends--a way to spread the advertising buck. The service is in a two-month test at Loews Universal Citywalk Theater, and at two other theaters in San Francisco and L.A.

A Loews spokesman said the stations have processed several hundred downloads per week for Fox films "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Fantastic Four." Loews is in talks to get other studios involved and to bring the program out of the test phase in L.A. with upcoming movies.

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless signal, originally developed by Telefon AB LM Ericsson. Enabled cell phones can pick up the signal within 30 feet of the station.

The download stations are placed in the lobby of the theaters, not in the seating area, according to Krista Van Lewen of WideRay Corp., the San Francisco-based company that built the stations. "We don't want to be encouraging people to be playing with their cell phones while the movie's going on," Lewen said.