It was only a matter of time before a major studio started exploiting the iDevice App Store for more than just gimmicky after-thought tie-in games. A few indie films have put their films into the app store as a gimmick before, but now the big boys are getting involved. Warner Brothers has decided to use the heat of the app store to sell a few more copies of their mega-hits Inception and The Dark Knight. Nolan’s hits will be the first of many films to receive the “App Edition” treatment that will put an App on your phone dedicated to the film, with exclusive special features attached to the feature length film.

How does it work?

Essentially you download a free base app that lets you watch the first 5 minutes of the film, along with a taste of the special features. An in-app purchase (10 bucks for TDK, 11 for Inception) will give you access to the full film, along with the full collection of special features. These special features include behind-the-scenes featurettes, photos, video, Facebook/Twitter connectivity with some other cool stuff. There’s over three hours of new extra material for The Dark Knight, and as much for Inception (including three new tracks from Zimmer’s score), which sounds like a sincere effort towards making these apps major releases.

While this is obviously not a model that can be applied to more than certain select films, it’s an aggressive move from WB that lets them side-step the standard crowded iTunes movie store, and ride the popularity of iphone/pad applications. There’s also the added benefit for WB of maintaining control of the presentation, and how special features are implemented. It’s another of WB’s commendably far-seeing moves into creating content for the digital realm.

I downloaded the App for The Dark Knight, and while it didn’t play nice with multi-tasking, the app was cleanly laid out and sharp. The streaming video preview was shockingly pristine and uncompressed, even though there is an option to download the preview as well (at 2.2 gigs). I was disappointed in the quality of some of the special features streams* though (the terrible compressed audio was particularly noticeable in a featurette about the Joker’s theme). That said, this app seems smartly geared towards consuming these features in chunks (competing with your Angry Birds time), and a full quality featurette isn’t necessarily conducive to a quickly-loaded VFX reel to watch on the john.

The Dark Knight app is available through iTunes right here, and Inception right here. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is worth it if it’s your triple or quadruple dip on either of these movies, but it might be worth switching out your standard digital version if you’ve got some upcoming toilet times to kill. Check out the free previews and decided for yourself if it’s worth dropping another 10 bucks on these films to have them live on your phone, attached with new extra goodies.

DISCUSS THIS on the CHUD Message Board,

…and give it a Facebook “like” if you dig the piece.

*I won’t discount the possibility that the quality is based on your connection, and mine was just crappy at the time.