Holiday cheer: Movie promotions brighten the season

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It’s time to look at the upcoming fourth quarter and review the gems that will help our 2014 box office. The holiday roster, starting in early November, includes films that are accompanied by marketing programs and promotions to boost both attendance and concession sales. This is an important partnership. The marketing programs that flow between retail venues, theatres and product to support a film also serve the purpose of elevating the experience in the theatre. Feeling like you are part of something bigger than yourself is the attraction of social interaction. Manifesting this relationship in the form of marketing partnerships is a critical part of blockbuster success through theatre attendance.

The line-up kicks off with Big Hero 6 from Disney and Interstellar from Paramount. Big Hero 6 is a grand Disney animation feature and is gaining buzz as one of the bigger pictures of the year. It fits nicely into the space that supports lots of marketing programs for kids and parents. Concession containers and cup toppers are out for this one, as well as a full character toy line. This is Disney’s first-ever animated story from the Marvel universe and it is supporting it in all corners. Interstellar is also supported with marketing promos with AT&T and interviews posted on Fandango with stars Matthew McConaughey and John Lithgow about working on this latest project from Dark Knight and Inception director Christopher Nolan.

Mid-November brings us Dumb and Dumber To from Universal and, of course, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 from Lionsgate. At the end of November, we have Horrible Bosses 2 from Warner Bros. and The Penguins of Madagascar from 20th Century Fox. Both The Hunger Games and Penguins have large concession promos with cups, tubs and bags and they also have action character toys and large sweepstakes for premiere tickets—and set tickets in the case of The Hunger Games. Both of these films are expected to carry November, but the other films of the month should help push it along as well. The Penguins have their own action figures coming out just in time for Christmas.

Dumb and Dumber developed a cult following on DVD and it remains to be seen how well this will translate at the box office for the second release, which is so long after the first. The movie supported a sweepstakes contest for applicants to produce their own dumb and dumber videos to win cameo roles in the movie. This is social-media involvement at its best. You can watch contestants’ videos on Vine.

December gets going with The Pyramid and Exodus from Fox. Exodus, a highly anticipated film from director Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale, is being heavily promoted through social media. Another highly anticipated December release is The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies from Warner Bros., followed by Annie from Sony and Paddington from The Weinstein Company. The Hobbit ran another grand sweepstakes for this third installment, offering a trip to New Zealand and a private screening with director Peter Jackson. It is also accompanied by concession promo material, as are Annie and Paddington. All three films should prove to be great snacking movies, especially The Hobbit at two hours and 30 minutes—who couldn’t eat and drink during that time frame? Operators, get ready to actually fill those refills on this one.

If we ever needed a few big films to help us finish out the year, this would be a good time for The Hunger Games, The Penguins and The Hobbit to bring it. We need all three of them to perform well at the box office, and well-executed marketing programs are key. We need to drive the consumer to be in the experience, to want to be a part of the event. There are not a lot of smaller promos in the theatres this season; they really just surround the big films. Sometimes we have had too much promo material competing for moviegoers’ attention, but that will not be the case this year.

What we do have will help sell concessions and help us round out a year that will not go down as one of our record years but has been successful nonetheless. We forget sometimes that every year cannot continue to break records. What we have focused on is keeping the experience in the theatre a viable one to keep consumers coming in even when the product lineup is not the strongest. We have succeeded in doing that this year, and keeping marketing promotions alive and well is an important reason why.