Explore Blog

Finding Moviegoers In The Numbers: Exhibition and Home Entertainment

In the first part of this blog series, we explored the use of big data in the production and distribution stages of the movie value chain. In part two, we examine exhibition and home entertainment.


Exhibitors who truly know their guests and treat them as individuals have the best chance to drive incremental profit. They can achieve this by generating better guest engagement which motivates greater frequency, spend and circuit preference. How does this look in practice? We will showcase this using two examples:

  1. Mopping up the last admissions before a movie finishes its theatrical run.
  2. Encouraging those frequent guests who rarely buy treats to stop at the concessions stand.

‘Last Chance’ Campaigns

Movio’s data science team, led by Dr Bryan Smith, have developed the proprietary Similarity Algorithm which resides in Movio Cinema’s Movie Insights module, as well as within the Movio Media platform. This algorithm allows movie marketers to find the ‘best fit’ audience for a movie by exploring the overlap of audiences between a range of historic titles and the movie in question. By excluding those in the ‘best fit’ audience who have already seen the movie, the exhibitor can then focus on those who should see the movie based on their prior moviegoing habits but who have not done so to date.  

With this information, a series of ‘Last Chance To See’ campaigns can be created and deployed. For those with the greatest propensity to see the movie, it will generally be sufficient to just draw their attention to the fact that the movie is entering its final days. Others may need a targeted offer to motivate them.  

There are a few nuances to ensure you get the best results from these ‘Last Chance’ campaigns:

  • Ensure that those targeted don’t receive regular ‘Last Chance’ campaigns with discounts or offers, or they may simply hold out for them. Instead, extend a balance of offer-based and information-based campaigns to keep people on their toes.
  • Expand the concept to be more based on the guests’ natural purchasing behavior than the movie’s season. For example, if someone who typically sees a movie does so in the first four days of its release, but they haven’t gone by week two of the movie in question, then send them a campaign earlier than someone who doesn’t typically see a movie before week three.
  • Make sure you know if the campaign was successful, especially if it involved an offer, by comparing those who received the offer to an identical group in a statistically-significant control group.
  • And, of course, if the promotion works so well that it warrants keeping the movie on screen, them simply announce “it’s back by popular demand!”.

Last chance email campaign

High Frequency Visitors With A Low Concession Spend

We all know the industry adage that exhibitors break even on the box office and make their profits on the snacks. And whilst a ticket is mandatory to get into a cinema, buying snacks is not. For this reason, being able to identify frequent visitors who typically bypass the concessions stand and reroute them can have a big impact on their per capita spend.

Let me share a case study to illustrate the impact of such an approach. We worked with an exhibitor to build a target comprising their most frequent members, with the lowest per capita spend on concessions. This group averaged just 20c on food and drinks per person – less than 5% of the average spend.  

Most of these members were offered two medium popcorns per day at a cost of $2.00. This was around half of the retail price, but well over the cost of goods and ten times their average spend.  The balance of these members formed a control group and didn’t receive the offer.

The results demonstrated the power of a highly-targeted offer:

  • 15% of recipients redeemed the popcorn offer during the campaign period.
  • 26% of the target group transactions contained candy bar items vs 14% for the control group.
  • The average candy bar spend per redeeming recipient was $6.46, demonstrating that the $2.00 salty popcorn triggered additional purchases – predominantly drinks.

Home Entertainment

While it is happening far less than it did in the past, there is still an opportunity for those in home entertainment to learn from a movie’s theatrical run to optimize its home entertainment release. A key way to do this is to evaluate the theatrical audience in real time to tweak the targeting of home entertainment campaigns. Using theatrical audience data, marketers can see whether their own plans are consistent with those who actually saw the movie in cinemas. By combining transactional data with viewers’ ratings, those in home entertainment can refine their targeting further, not just profiling all who saw the movie but the subset of those who most liked it. And, in a digital world, there is an opportunity to specifically target individuals who should have seen the movie in cinema, but didn’t.  

Although there are ever-increasing ways for people to watch content, the cinema remains the best channel to create an event. It is literally the only way to make that content ‘theatrical’. As a result, we regularly see content made for home entertainment launch on a limited basis in cinemas to create buzz. Warner Bros. Animation recently did this to launch Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman & Harley Quinn. Similarly, the ABC television network launched its forthcoming Marvel series, the Inhumans, on IMAX screens. Due to these releases tending to be in cinemas for a limited season, they need to find their audience right out of the gate and generally have less money to market the movie than a mainstream movie release. Success relies on identifying and informing those people who regularly visit the cinema and are fans of similar movies – in this instance Batman and DC or the Marvel Universe – is the only way to succeed. Data-driven marketing is the most efficient and effective way to achieve this.

In Summary

From the ‘business’ side of ‘show-business’, cinema’s contribution is measured in box office. But box office is simply the result of people spending their hard-earned money and limited time on your movie instead of something else. Once a movie is made, all filmmakers and marketers can do is influence the audience: attract the greatest number of those who should see the movie whilst the clock counts down to the movie leaving theaters. Understanding who the audience is, what they like and what motivates them is essential, as is the ability to reach them with a compelling message. And it all starts with finding moviegoers in the numbers.


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