Ask the Audience: Attendance

Ask the Audience

Ask the Audience is a monthly feature from Film Journal International and National CineMedia (NCM) that allows you to ask an audience of 5,000 frequent moviegoers, known as NCM’s Behind the Screens panel, the pressing questions of our industry.

We all fall victim to our customers leading busy lives, and heading to the movies isn’t always at the top of their priority lists. It’s impossible to measure how much potential ticket and concession revenue has been lost to an “Eh, I don’t really feel like going to the movies anymore” mentality. But what causes people to change their minds? Have advanced ticket sales helped to combat this conundrum? That’s what one of our readers asked us to explore. Time to ask the audience.

36% of the Behind the Screens panelists responded that they will always follow through with seeing a movie once they’ve decided they’re interested in watching it, and another 52% will usually make sure they make it to the theatre. Only 6% said that they would back out if they had purchased their ticket in advance. And the good news is that the panelists frequently buy their ticket ahead of time. For theatres with reserved seating, 50% bought their ticket at least a day in advance. That number was much smaller for those without reserved seating, with only 18% leaving at least 24 hours between the purchase and the movie. Logically, if there’s no reserved seating, the customers are going to get to the theatre earlier to get a good seat, so they can just grab their ticket at the box office. To get the best seats in a reserved seating auditorium, it makes sense that the customers would want to get their tickets as early as possible. In fact, 78% said the reason they purchase tickets ahead of time is to get a good seat.

Blockbusters are the other big driver for advanced ticket sales. 50% of the panelists buy tickets for blockbusters at least a day in advance, including 20% who make the purchase at least a week ahead of the big premiere. And 65% say their main incentive for an advance purchase is to grab a ticket before they sell out.

When asked what the main deterrent was if they planned to go to the movies but didn’t end up making it, 68% said that something more important comes up, and 29% said they lose interest in the movie. For example, they were perhaps intrigued by the trailer, but were dissuaded by negative reviews closer to the release date. 22% added that when the time comes, they don’t have the energy to head out to the theatre – they’d prefer to relax at home. When we asked the Behind the Screens panel what their local theatre could do to convince them to attend when they’re on the fence, the answer was clear – deals and discounts. 57% wanted more ticket deals, 48% asked for concessions discounts, and 45% requested reward perks.

It's impossible to always get customers to follow through on their moviegoing plans, but by incentivizing advanced ticket purchases, as well as offering competitive promotions that make the customer feel like they’re getting a good value at your theatre, we can do our best to counteract the disregard of even the best laid plans.

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To submit a question, email with your name, company, contact information, and what you would like to ask the Behind the Screens panel.