News Column

The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va., Bryan McKenzie column

June 29, 2013


June 29--There are cell phone applications to get you in shape for a 5-kilometer race, to balance your checkbook and even play strip poker with a virtual hottie.

Now there's an application that really matters, an add-on to your device called RunPee that provides opportunities to seek personal comfort and succor in movie theaters without missing excitement and plot twists by telling you when you should get out of your theater seat to answer nature's call.

Obviously, this is a First-World issue we're addressing.

It's also an economic problem. Who among us hasn't ponied up the $15 for a movie ticket and another Jackson for a stupid-sized soda and a popcorn box the size of Neptune to watch the latest "Star Trek" epic only to find herself wishing Khan would take up flower arranging for about five minutes and give her a potty break? Who hasn't found himself wishing he had stayed in the restroom for the majority of the "Twilight" flicks?

Dan Florio, creator of RunPee, feels the pain. When he felt it during the 2005 remake of "King Kong," he decided to do something about it.

Although he avoided drinking excessive amounts of fluids prior to the three-hour movie and visited the little viewer's room during previews, he still found himself doing the seat-squirming gavotte.

"By the end of the movie I was in agony," Mr. Florio said via email. "King Kong is lying in the street, his heart beat slowing, and all I can think is, please die now!"

As he waddled out of the theater toward the men's room, he saw the line waiting to get in for the next showing.

"It occurred to me at that moment that I could really improve their movie experience if I told them, 'hey, right about the middle of the movie there's a scene with some really huge bugs. Believe me, you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it. The scene is plenty long and really gross and doesn't have much to do with the rest of the movie, just that a few ancillary characters die. So do yourself a favor and run and pee during that scene. Then you'll be able to enjoy the end of the movie,'" Mr. Florio recalled.

"Of course, I didn't say that to them. For one thing, I really needed to get to the restroom, and for another, I'm not that gregarious that I'm going to say that to perfect strangers," the Florida resident said.

A web developer, Mr. Florio recognized a good idea when he thought it. He registered the domain and sat on it while working for Microsoft. Later, when he went freelance, he built out the website to pad his portfolio.

Here's how it works: The application is powered by a movie critic, Shanee Edwards, who screens the big movies for content and lagging moments when a quick trip to the comfort station won't result in missing a major plot development.

Ms. Edwards searches for at least one and as many as four action breaks and the app helps fill you in on what you miss while you're missing.

For movies not busting the block at the ticket counter, Mr. Florio says the RunPee family -- OK, that sounds weird -- reviews them as soon as possible upon release.

The app even forewarns of cool post-credit scenes so you don't have to wait for the fourth best-boy credit to roll by.

"To be perfectly honest, I thought the idea was somewhat crazy and stupid," Mr. Florio admitted. "I never, for a moment, expected it to be anything more than a curiosity for me to show potential clients the sort of web apps I could build. But then one thing led to another and here we are today."

Much to our relief.


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