Rovio Entertainment Ltd. is encouraging moviegoers to pull out their smartphones during next month’s “Angry Birds” film.
Don’t cringe yet. The stunt, which involves a new “Angry Birds” app launching Thursday, doesn’t take place until the closing credits.
“Angry Birds Action,” an arcade-style pinball game, is one of several tie-ins to Rovio’s animated film due in U.S. theaters May 20. During the closing credits, an image will appear on screen and unlock a new level and other content for people who have the app open.
Rovio’s marketing push, which includes deals with McDonald’s Corp. MCD 0.46 % , Lego A/S and the fashion retailer H&M, HMB -2.93 % is key to generating excitement for a movie based on a franchise waning in popularity.
While the original “Angry Birds” app in 2009 was a huge hit, more than a dozen spinoffs and a sequel since haven’t reached the same heights.
Rovio has staked much on the movie’s success: Earlier this month, the company reported an operating loss of $ 14.78 million for 2015, blaming in part costs tied to the movie.
If Rovio’s marketing can’t move Lego sets, then “Angry Birds” is in trouble, said independent New York game analyst Tero Kuittinen.
Miika Tams, vice president of games for Rovio, is confident the movie—which features the voices of Hollywood stars such as Peter Dinklage and Jason Sudeikis—and its licensing tie-ins will be a hit with consumers.
Integrating an app with a movie based on a game “makes sense”—as long as it doesn’t interfere with the action on the screen, said analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities.
“There’s a direct correlation,” he said. “Every person in the movie theater has a phone.”
The planned movie tie-in comes as cinema chains grapple with how to deal with a smartphone-toting public filling the seats. AMC Entertainment Holding Inc. AMC 2.15 % recently scrapped a plan to let moviegoers text at select theaters following a storm of criticism on social media.
The app isn’t “a distraction for the movie-viewing experience,” Mr. Tams said. It is a treat for “super fans” of the “Angry Birds” brand, he said.
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at [email protected]