How cinemas go beyond studio marketing to win back moviegoers

The Regal Cinemas stands at night on 42nd Street in New York, USA on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

Amir Hamja | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“If you build it, they will come.”

Universal’s president of domestic distribution borrowed the iconic phrase from Field of Dreams during the studio’s presentation at CinemaCon on Wednesday to describe how moviegoers are returning to theaters now that there’s a steady stream of content available.

Domestic ticket sales for the first four months of the year could be down by about 44% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, but cinemas are seeing strong growth compared to last year.

Blockbusters like Warner Bros.’s Batman, Paramount’s Sonic 2, and Marvel-Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home saw a 338% increase in ticket sales compared to 2021, reaching 1. 95 billion dollars. Comcor data.

Operators are excited about the new films, and the studios assured them during CinemaCon last week that they will continue to receive a large number of cinema exclusives going forward.

For the most part, the daily pandemic experiment is over, and the studios have used their time at the annual convention held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to advertise their biggest and boldest tents, as well as showcase a variety of content.

Exhibitors, however, are not going to rely solely on studios to bring consumers to cinemas. The lack of a product during the pandemic and the slow start to 2022 has forced theater owners to be more aggressive in their marketing strategies, more innovative with food and drink, and more flexible in the type of content they put on the big screen. .

A Bold Reminder for Movie Fans

AMC has gone as far as last September to launch its first-ever advertising campaign featuring Nicole Kidman under the slogan “we make movies better.” The company invested about $25 million in the campaign.

“We wanted to make a bold and direct statement to remind moviegoers of this immersive, collaborative, multi-sensory experience that can only be had by watching a movie in a theater,” said Alicia Cook, advertising director at AMC Theatres, during the presentation. CinemaCon panel hosted by CNBC on Tuesday.

Traditionally, theater owners have relied on studios to promote films and attract audiences to their local theaters. During the ad launch, AMC CEO Adam Aron said the company will no longer depend on “what has always worked before,” noting that the pandemic has pushed the industry into “uncharted waters.”

“We do crazy things”

Smaller chains with less access to larger amounts of capital are still investing in the theatrical experience by upgrading venues, projectors and sound equipment, but they are more active in digital and social advertising for their local communities.

“We are more nimble than larger organizations,” said Rich Dotridge, president and CEO of Warehouse Cinemas, during a panel on Tuesday. “I think our superpower is creating events and also creating those experiences associated with going to the movies. So we do crazy things.”

Dothridge said the promotions ranged from offering margaritas with movie tickets to special “daddy-daughter” evening performances. In the midst of the pandemic, Warehouse Cinemas capitalized on the release of Solstice Studio’s “Unhinged” by staging a car accident during the film’s fifth week in theaters.

Ticket buyers could have swung at the old car, he said, resulting in a 2% increase in ticket sales compared to projections of what the film would have done had the Warehouse not hosted the event.

According to Ben Dayton, general manager of cinema chain marketing, events at Reading Cinemas in Australia and New Zealand are a bit more modest. A surprisingly popular event at one of his cinemas is the knitting circle.

“We’ve just started knitting…and the knitting clubs are coming in and watching the movie and knitting,” he said during a panel on Tuesday, noting that the idea came from a local patron.

Starting this month, Cinepolis launched a program called Self Care Sunday, which offers golden eye patches and a small popcorn to guests with any ticket purchase.

“Over the years, we have naturally noticed that people come to our theaters and take care of themselves,” said Anneliese Holyoke, senior national director of marketing and loyalty at Cinepolis, during a panel on Tuesday.

Each screening also includes a 10-minute mindfulness meditation to relax consumers before they enjoy the movie.

“I think as marketers we tend to say, ‘This movie is coming,’ ‘This movie is coming,'” Dothridge said. do… I think the messages we’re trying to make to create that interaction are more about why going to the movies makes sense, not just what movie is on.”

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