Summer sizzle: Blockbusters heat up the concession stand


Here we are back at the opening of the summer season, 2010. We set a pretty high bar with the 2009 box office—can we compete with last year’s stellar summer? You bet. We have a great lineup of summer movies and a great schedule of concession promotions to follow.

Iron Man 2
kicked off the party on May 7. Paramount has brought back most of its original promotional partners, including Audi, LG Mobile, 7-Eleven, Dr. Pepper, Oracle and Burger King. Dr. Pepper is featuring a large Iron Man graphic on their cans and Hershey is promoting the film with its Reese’s brand products, which will find their way into theatres.

This is a big campaign. 7-Eleven is promoting a “Live Like a Billionaire” sweepstakes around Tony Stark, Iron Man’s alter ego. The total promotional value of the campaign around this film is expected to exceed $100 million. It includes food and beverage products as well as retail items and packaging. Promotional programs are part of any large summer film and Iron Man 2 is going to set the bar this year.

Robin Hood and Shrek Forever After are right behind it on May 14 and May 21, respectively. Robin Hood has some great packaging promotions with cups and bags. Shrek has those too, along with a promotional partner you probably didn’t expect, the Vidalia onion industry. They are using Shrek as a “spokesperson” and promoting the film in grocery stores as well as online. The interactive website is something that continues to grow in popularity, from a promotional standpoint. The time limit on a specially created interactive game or sweepstakes website has become part of any large campaign.

When Toy Story 3 comes out in June, it will have a host of promotional partners, as you would expect. One of those is Kellogg’s, who will have specially marked cereal boxes across all their brands promoting their Toy Story 3 website. There, you can register to play, gain points, and win a $5 concession coupon, plus a movie pass.

The tie-in to the concession stand is sometimes crystal-clear. Toy Story 3 is a larger-than-life movie series that has inspired theme-park rides and countless products, so its ability to drive concession sales is unquestionable.

The promotional partners that Disney and Pixar have chosen to market the film are committed to the overall connection between the consumer, their experience at the theatre, and their takeaway experience at home or other retail venues. This is the heart of the promotional game with big blockbuster films: Make the film infiltrate the consumer’s life outside the theatre. It has become critical to film production funding to produce product sales well beyond the movie’s two-hour running time.

Sometimes it may seem like another cup or bag promo is not really contributing much to a film’s success or concession revenue. But consider the alternative: big films being made without promotional partners. That would mean fewer films and less buzz across the industry. The concession stand is an important force behind the experience. That’s why promotional cups, bags, candy and toys are critical to the moviemaking business.

While on the subject of buzz, it would be remiss of us to write an article about summer promos without talking about Sex and the City 2. The food and beverage business inside the movie theatre may have changed forever with the first Sex and the City movie, as we realized that we can serve large amounts of alcohol to our adult female patrons and keep them coming in packs of four. I had numerous conversations with concession operators around the country who sold out of vodka during that summer run, selling cosmopolitans to many happy customers. Who knew we could set up makeshift bars and step out of the box? A summer promo does not have to mean “kids only.” Enough said.

To be sure, there are many big films this summer that will produce great concession sales. I have not even mentioned Twilight: Eclipse or Despicable Me, both of which have big programs. But there are also many smaller-budget films that have some punch as well, and the many good mid-level films were really what lifted the 2009 box office. 2010 has them as well and they are peppered all along the release schedule. The promos for these films are less abundant, but the above-mentioned Sex and the City phenomenon should keep us ever looking for that quirky surprise that makes us lots of money. It is our busy season, it is our crazy season, and it is our challenge to rotate inventory and up-sell to our customers!

Please send any comments to Anita Watts at