Heating up summer: Blockbuster movies feed concession biz


The year has started off well with a stellar first quarter that is higher in both box office and attendance compared to 2013. But last year enjoyed a strong box office, and we will still need to struggle to keep up over the next three quarters. The summer season is upon us and it’s time to review what the slate looks like and which movies have interesting promotions to accompany them. Box office directly affects concession sales, and the promotional plan for any movie can help drive those sales. There are some highly anticipated movies for this summer, so let’s dive in.

May always kicks off our high season and this year begins with the wide release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from Sony Pictures. There are concession cups, bags, and trays for this movie already moving into circulation as well as kid figurines. But in addition to the traditional promos, this movie has a unique sweepstakes program that Sony has been running since November 2013 for fans to wins all sorts of prizes, including a trip to the premiere. Some theatre chains have joined in; for example, Harkins Theatres has been running its own sweepstakes for two tickets to the premiere.

The other highly anticipated films coming in May include Godzilla 3D from Warner Bros., X-Men Days of Future Past from 20th Century Fox, Maleficent from Disney, and two comedies from Universal, Neighbors and A Million Ways to Die in the West. All of these films look promising at the box office and they are all accompanied by promotions. Strong graphic depictions on cups, bags and trays will be in full force, but there’s more. Godzilla 3D is a reboot of the Japanese classic and has its own special Snickers promotion that fits in very nicely with Snickers’ “Feed the beast” campaign commercials.

Social media and retail crossover have become a large part of these promotions. Facebook and Twitter are the primary tools to deliver content. Rio 2 opened in April and was heavily promoted through Twitter campaigns to win premiere tickets, but also to buy tickets online and receive $5 off at Target. The dependence on box-office success to sell DVDs at retail outlets for blockbuster movies is an easy incentive for retailers to participate. It also shows consumer awareness and involvement, which are the name of the game in brand marketing.

Disney has played this game very well over the years and they have put their marketing into many areas for their May movie, Maleficent. All the usual concession promos, along with actual Disneyland and Disneyworld promotions, are in play. But it was recently announced that Stella McCartney has teamed up with Disney for a collaborative collection, “Maleficent by Stella McCartney Kids,” to celebrate the release of the upcoming film. The line includes children’s costumes for both girls and boys, based on the characters of the film. The trailers for the Angelina Jolie starrer have become increasingly interesting and it should be a great concession stand draw.

Moving into June, we hit the ground running with Edge of Tomorrow from Warner Bros., 22 Jump Street from Sony/Columbia, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 from 20th Century Fox. This first installment of this last film was wildly successful both at the box office and in home release. It has been heavily promoted with concession tie-ins as well as a full line of toy figurines and games. This film has launched an entire line of dragon action figures that are available in retail stores, not just as fast-food kids’ meal toys. It has also inspired videogames and a live show version of the film. Playing to win tickets to the movie, and to the premiere, is all part of its social-media campaign.

July also has a healthy slate of movies, and two of the most highly anticipated releases are Dawn of the Planet of the Apes from Fox and Hercules from Paramount. Both movies also have the traditional concession promos and a few more goodies. Dawn is a sequel and the scenes screened at CinemaCon were described as “haunting” and “awesome.” It is enjoying great online buzz and will also spur action figures and videogames.

Hercules is actually the second movie in 2014 featuring the Greek god. However, this Dwayne Johnson starring vehicle is being heavily marketed. Traditional concession promos, figurines and videogames all accompany the movie, as do tweets by The Rock himself with his Hercules diet and workout pics.

There are many other films rounding out the summer release schedule, including comedies and horror pictures that will hopefully produce great box-office results as well as concession sales. Promotions through social media, retail outlets, food products and concession packaging are all a part of selling a film, and thus bringing customers to the concession stand. Summer 2014 has a broad mix of film and although it is up against a very successful prior year in terms of comparison, it has a strong slate of movies nonetheless. Be ready with the right mix of marketing and promotions to capitalize on it.