Marketers should get smarter with digital to get people back to the big screen

Consumers may have fallen out of love with going to the cinema but they still have a passion for movies so marketers need to find smarter ways to win customers back.

lucy tesseras

According to Yahoo, the average person now visits the cinema 2.8 times a year, with the main barrier for 52 per cent of non-cinemagoers being price.

Considering the average cost of a cinema ticket in central London is now around £15 – and that’s before you add on extras like popcorn or pick and mix – it’s no longer a cheap night out, which is reflected in the fact box office takings fell by the largest amount for almost 20 years in 2013, according to research company Rentrak.

When you consider a monthly subscription to Netflix starts from just £5.99, the value for money argument becomes even more feeble.

Of course, the rise of online movie streaming services like Netflix (which now has more than 50 million users worldwide) means the way people consume movies has evolved, but it also creates new opportunities for marketers to reach audiences through digital channels – especially considering people that stream movies are 14 per cent more likely to go to the movies, according to Yahoo.

While the purchase journey for cinemagoers still tends to be offline – two thirds of people still buy tickets in person – when it comes to research, digital channels are powering through.

Almost three quarters of people surveyed in the UK search for film information on mobile devices, whether that’s reviews, trailers or social content.

The trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, became the most viewed of 2014 in just one week and has now racked up more than 100 million views, according to the movie’s studio Universal, making it the most watched online trailer of all time, which considering the movie isn’t released until next February is quite an achievement.

But racking up views is fairly meaningless if it doesn’t translate to ticket sales so the industry needs to get better at using this content to its advantage.

On the day Star Trek Into Darkness was released Paramount Pictures sold 11,000 tickets just through social media as it enabled followers to link directly to their local cinema and buy tickets.

The studio’s UK head of digital Katie Khan admits it is still quite a long-winded process though as they have to manually scrape all cinemas to find out show times but regardless she believes it is a “no brainer” because when they do it and get it right it has such a massive impact.

Yahoo has also teamed up with film database site FindAnyFilm to give its users the chance to buy cinema tickets or download legitimate content directly from its news and reviews, which is another example of how brands can shorten the purchase journey.

Elsewhere social media is also being used to inform above-the-line and make it as relevant as possible to the target market.

When prepping the TV trailer for Anchorman 2, for example, Khan scoured Twitter to find out which lines from the movie people were quoting most frequently and it was these that were then used by the marketing director in the TV spot for the movie.

Of course, this isn’t the only factor. People do want value for money and as mentioned ticket prices remain a huge barrier to entry for many. But if studios could combine techniques like this while providing additional value by turning a cinema trip into a more interactive experience with cast Q&As, for example, or by offering tickets that include a DVD or download copy when it is released (as some studios now do in the US) there is scope to get numbers up.

I’m ashamed to admit that I fall below average when it comes to my cinema attendance having only been to the movies once in 2014 so far but I do use Netflix several times a week, so if more studios were to employ techniques like the ones mentioned above to make content more easily accessible and timely I’m sure I could be persuaded to swap my sofa for the big screen more frequently.

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