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From app to big screen: Angry Birds catapult into Hollywood

Smartphone game firm poaches man who made hit movies out of Marvel Comics heroes

With 50 million app downloads and David Cameron among its addicts, it was just a matter of time before the idea of Angry Birds: The Movie triggered hopes of trilling cash registers in Hollywood.

This weekend, Rovio, the Finland-based digital production house that launched the game in 2009, is celebrating its success in poaching David Maisel, who has already converted Marvel Comics characters such as Iron Man and Thor into hit movies.

The brains behind Angry Birds have not been slow to capitalise on the bizarre popularity of the frankly disturbing game, which involves catapulting fat, helpless, cross-eyed birds into buildings. There are already stuffed toys, Halloween costumes and even an Israeli sketch show that turns it into an Arab-Israeli-style peace conference between birds and pigs. In total, the game notches up 200 million minutes of play every day. Rovio has snared more than £43m so far from Angry Birds, which will be launched on a Facebook platform and other consoles later this year.

But a Hollywood film takes it to a new level. Cynical observers might suggest that with studios bereft of ideas, the "app franchise" movie is just the first of a new wave of marketers exploiting audiences already craving the brand. Some of this year's biggest films so far have been inspired by a Marvel Comics character, a Disney theme park ride and toy cars. Between them, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and Transformers have destroyed the opposition.

Steven Hess of the digital agency Weapon7, said: "In the past we saw movies become games, but now it is working in reverse. The popularity of iPhone apps will see a whole new flow of intellectual property from one to another. The easier cost of entry to create apps is resulting in new opportunities for building audiences that never existed before."

Mikael Hed, Rovio's chief executive, said Mr Maisel would "help build the company's entertainment strategy and transition Rovio to new areas in the entertainment business".

But big-screen appearances can be the kiss of death. Doubters should look no further than StreetFighter, the 1990s martial arts game that captured the imagination of a generation of teenagers. Then came a biblically awful movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme which, instead of building new audiences, heralded the beginning of the end.