It’s about midway through the latest 2½-hour blockbuster. That large soda you bought at the concession stand is passing through your body like rain through a downspout. Like it or not, you’re going to need a break — and soon.
Then your phone vibrates. Your RunPee app says it’s OK to head to the facilities.
RunPee, the brainchild of 48-year-old software developer Dan Florio, tells you where in current major movies it’s all right to take off for three or four minutes to ease your discomfort.
In some cases, those breaks are in slow cinematic patches where nothing significant is going to happen. Others may continue the plot but are summarized on the app or recapped in the movie after you’re back in your theater seat. And still others are “emergency pee times” put in place just because there hasn’t been a break for about 30 minutes.
You can either read up on the break points on the app before seeing a movie, or use the app’s timer to vibrate your phone at the proper point during the show. (If you take that approach, Florio recommends you set your phone in airplane mode so you don’t also get vibed by unrelated incoming texts and save your battery.) The app also tells you if there’s anything you want to see during the credits at the end of the movie, such as a bonus scene or one of those Marvel teasers for another upcoming film.
For example, the app tells you that during “Jurassic World,” there’s a good, four-minute break at 39 minutes when “Claire says, very slowly, ‘Everyone, remain, calm.'” Another comes at 1 hour and 1 minute where “you won’t miss any action,” and a third at 1 hour, 25 minutes, “your last chance for a break before the action goes full-throttle to the end.” For each, the app includes a dialogue cue and a summary of what you’ll miss.
Although Florio started the website in 2008 and the app a year later, it’s become more noticeable in the last year thanks to cross-marketing by Myrbetriq, an overactive-bladder medication. Florio said the deal with Myrbetriq is good enough that he can offer the app for free; it used to cost 99 cents. It’s available for Apple and Android devices.
The app has proved successful, Florio said in a recent interview. There have been about 1 million downloads and he estimates around 500,000 people are active users.
Movie companies have not been in touch, he said, “but a lot of actors are fans.” Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway is a fan and reportedly introduced it to Hugh Jackman, who has called it “hilarious” and even looked up his own movies on it.
As someone who has had his share of when-can-I-leave moments in movies, I think it’s a brilliant idea.
By telephone from his home outside of Asheville, N.C., Florio said the possibility came to him while sitting through Peter Jackson’s 2005 version of “King Kong.” It ran more than three hours and “I was really in agony by the end of the movie.”
“But I was not going to leave before the final scene. It was opening night, and there were people queued up to see the next show. I thought, I should tell them they should go pee during that scene with the big bugs — it’s long and it’s gross.”
Still, going up to people to tell them when to pee did not strike Florio as the best idea. Instead, he began thinking about an app, and especially how it might be a good way to try out some new software technologies. “I never thought it would make any kind of money,” he said. “I never thought there was anywhere near this number of people that were interested in it.”
At first, he set up a website that would rely on user contributions for breaks. (And, yes, he called it a wiki-pee-dia). “That didn’t work at all,” he said. “You’ve got to watch the movie, you’ve got to take notes, you’ve got know precisely when pee times start, precisely what happens.” Besides, too many contributors snarked about movies being so bad they should be one long pee time.
Instead, Florio, his sister, Christene Johnson, and his mother, Ginger Gardner, do the movie viewing, concentrating on wide-release films they can see in either Asheville or in Orlando, Fla., where Johnson and Gardner live. There are also a couple of professional movie critics who can contribute reports from preview screenings of the bigger movies, so fans going on opening night still have RunPee info.
Watchers sit in a back corner of a theater to avoid distracting others. They have a stopwatch, a pad and pen, taking notes. “The first thing we have to look for are good cues. You need something memorable and noteworthy. Then we just start taking notes — what happens, what happens.” If the scene goes three or, ideally, four minutes without a big event, “we’ve got a decent pee time.”
And that info is collected from a single showing. “The only movie I remember ever having to see more than once was ‘Inception.’ That was too complicated to figure out what was important by seeing it once. I had to see that three times to make really good suggestions for pee times.”