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Relief for moviegoers

August 05, 2009|Associated Press

NEW YORK — The mid-movie dash to the restroom can turn us into calculating Usain Bolt wannabes: Ah, this looks like a lull -- time to dash.

When we return to our seats, we pray the answer to "What did I miss?" isn't "Darth Vader is really Luke's father" or "the girlfriend is really a guy."

The website RunPee.com can help with such anxious guesswork.

The site provides recommended opportunities to race to the restroom. It tells you when the action or romance wanes, and gives you a cue ("Baby O.J. is taken from Bruno") for your exit.

The site tells you how long you've got and even summarizes what you missed. Since early July, RunPee.com is available as an iPhone app too.

Launched last August, RunPee took off earlier this summer. It's been one of the season's runaway hits -- a clever idea that has spawned a lot of word-of-mouth from moviegoers.

"Helping your bladder enjoy going to the movies as much as you do," the site boasts.

It was created by Dan Florio, a 42-year-old Flash developer who got the idea during the three-hour-plus "King Kong" remake in 2005.

Florio, who lives in Orlando, Fla., does everything for the site, though he gets some help from his wife and his mother. He's become a regular opening-day attendee of movies, busily taking notes in the back row.

"I never intended to refocus my energies on this," says Florio. "And I never thought that I'd be seeing every single movie that comes out, either."

The site averages 3,000 to 6,000 visitors a day, Florio says. The iPhone app is available on iTunes for $1. It's not a huge moneymaker (Florio estimates he'll make $800 this month) but is providing him a little extra cash.

He believes that not only do moviegoers benefit from the service, but theater owners do too.

"Lots and lots of people comment: 'Ah! I can get that 64-ounce drink now!' " Florio says.

Florio designed the site to be wiki-based with break times submitted by users, but it's turned out that he's done most of the work. Finding the right moments and recording the correct time is more work than it might sound -- most moviegoers leave their stopwatches at home.

"It's not fun," says Florio. "I would literally have to pay someone to do this."

Generally, the better the movie is, the harder it is to find a break. The 96-minute "Up," for example, is one film where no bathroom break is advisable.

But there are suggested options -- after all, movies that children flock to are the kind where bathroom breaks are often unavoidable.

There are, of course, limits to the usefulness of RunPee. But it's also found friends in cyberspace such as WhereToWee.com, a site in the works that tells you where the nearest restroom is.

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