Secret Cinema · 2013–2014

Through colleagues at POKE I got involved in helping Secret Cinema build excitement and anticipation around three huge cinema events in London. Secret Cinema invites its guests to join the pre-narrative for each secretive production by signing up on a companion site, building a character or identity and accessing intriguing preview material in advance of their visit and the show’s big reveal. I collaborated with The Flippers to build three such sites for productions of Saturday Night Fever, Miller’s Crossing and Back To The Future.

Each production had similar requirements: support the registration of thousands of guests, often in large simultaneous volumes, and give each of them a generated persona and ID documentation for them to use in pre-screening interactions with actors around the performance locations. Each website’s visual design was themed for the production and often involved extensive use of media. In the case of Back To The Future, we even collaborated with another colleague to integrate a Twilio-based telephone exchange system so that each guest’s “character” could leave voice messages for their friends and even receive messages from characters in the film, voiced by Secret Cinema actors.

The projects were wildly successful and it was amazing to watch guests at the screenings using the materials and personas we had generated for them. We also had a lot of fun making the most of Heroku’s scaling abilities and performing database and other optimisations to ensure the sites could cope with the demand unleashed by Secret Cinema’s promotional mailshots, or the release of tickets.