What do college football and the movies have in common? Food completes the fun

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Fall is here, bringing cool mornings, colored leaves, Halloween and the ever-popular college football. Fall is a season in the movie industry that usually means smaller box office and a lack of blockbuster films.

The blockbusters come out for the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving. So college football, for many of us, provides the blockbuster entertainment in the fall. The ups and downs, the rivalries and the major upsets make each week exciting. But these two diversions have a lot in common. They each provide a main stage of entertainment and a side experience to accompany it: consumption.

We offer the consumer the same basic package—a major form of entertainment and a sidebar of prior, present and post food and beverages to accompany the show. This has become a recipe for economic success for both the movie industry and the stadium industry, as eating is a natural complement to the main event. The offerings are astonishingly similar, giving the consumer that comfort level that proves so valuable.

The pre-movie is dominated by the bars or cafés or restaurants that have become so widespread in theatres across the country. The pre-game is dominated by the almighty tailgate. The fare is the same, easy meals that taste great, from the grill or the oven. Movie theatres have even begun to offer spirits, braving the sometimes difficult alcohol laws to do so. In both venues, the consumer is making the event last longer by showing up early. Tailgating has grown so significantly that stadiums have to control their parking lots to allow for barbeque pits. It might sound crazy, but it’s socialization. Socialization is key to entertainment venues, and this is the first common ground that is so important.

There is no question that the movie or the game dominates the mind while in progress. It is the main event, the reason for being there, the adventure. But it is also greatly enjoyed with some nachos or a hot dog, both readily available in both venues. The menus at the stadium or the concession stand are strikingly similar, including nachos, hot dogs, pizza, popcorn, ice cream, soda, water and candy. The stadium offers peanuts, which you do not typically see at the theatre, but otherwise both venues sell the same items. The prices are close, the theatre offering slightly larger servings and with slightly higher prices. But the stadium makes up for this in the longer time period to serve, and is rewarded with the consumer actually making more than one trip to the concession stand.

The post event is for the people who still haven’t had enough and want to mingle around and talk about what just happened while enjoying the dessert bar, the gelato bar, or just the bar. At the football game, it’s back to the tailgate for most people, to finish what they started before the game. But for a select few, stadiums have begun to cater to this process as well, with suites that do not close with the game, but stay open for a little while afterwards.

The theatre environment has only recently begun to cater to the possibility of the consumer staying after the movie. A cinema with only a traditional concession stand is not conducive to lounging after the movie. The seating, décor, and specialty food and beverage items are changing this reality. The statistics on this behavior conducted by various companies such as OTX and Coca-Cola suggest that it is still a small percentage of moviegoers who stay afterwards, but the number is growing as the essence of the theatre has become more inviting.

While there are some people who come to the show or game for the sidebar activities, such as tailgating, eating, socializing or simply to “be seen,” the majority of the crowd does come simply to see the movie or watch the game. But it is easy to enjoy the entertainment as well as the whole experience by buying food, beverages or retail items. This is what matters most and what both venues do well. By approaching the main event as the starting point, not the end game, they create revenue that supports the entire operation.

While fall is dominated by football, with college football as a popular Saturday night entertainment activity, moviegoers come back strong when the holidays arrive. Since the stadium is promoting the same idea of how to enjoy your entertainment, it’s not all bad for the consumer to be spending time there. At least the same philosophy reigns: “Come, stay a while, have a bite to eat…”

Please send comments to Anita Watts at anita@reactornet.com.