Building Showmanship: CinemaCon focuses on in-theatre marketing

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Cinemas Features

Anticipating the Thursday morning seminar at CinemaCon hosted by BoxOffice Media and Peter Cane, this month’s edition of “Cinemarketing” takes a special look at how two of the participating exhibitors are “Building Showmanship.”

“I still view showmanship and in-theatre marketing as the lifeblood of our industry,” Mark Mazrimas, marketing manager at Classic Cinemas, says, setting the tone. “We often forget that we are in the entertainment business–a fun business–and that we need to engage our moviegoers so that they keep coming back.”

Or to show up in the first place, we might add. After “Late Night with David Letterman” taped a segment with “Todd the Intern” at Classic Cinemas’ Paramount Theatre in Kankakee, Illinois, it had a tentative air date one week later. “We quickly prepared to present the entire David Letterman show live on our big screen, right where it was filmed,” Mazrimas recalls. “We did not find out until one hour before the March 24 taping that, in fact, the segment was going to air that evening. So we used all our social-media assets–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest–and other media partners to promote coming to view it live at our theatre.”

Sounds like a fast and furious job! “I just love the short-notice opportunities that fall into our laps,” he assures. “I found out two days prior that Fox Morning News 32 Chicago was going to be filming in Woodstock and was able to secure the first live spot from our Woodstock Theatre.” With the mayor and Classic Cinemas president Willis Johnson in attendance, no less. “These type of events always get my marketing adrenaline pumping!”

Another favorite for Mazrimas is the nine-week Wednesday Morning Movie Series (WMMS) during the summer. This community event “encompasses all of the best elements of showmanship, from groups to fun and games, costumed characters and even a t-shirt toss before the movie. It combines all facets of good marketing: social media, print, radio, group mailings and old-fashioned fun at the theatre. I try to go out every Wednesday to one of our WMMS locations to visit, roll up my sleeves and help, and it is always a gratifying experience.”

At National Amusements as well, “we continue to place great emphasis on ‘eventizing’ family movies whenever possible,” relays Amber Stepper, the circuit’s VP, global marketing. “We work to make the theatre a source of great memories for our young patrons and their families. Most recently, we hosted DreamWorks’ Captain Smek from Home prior to the opening of the film to generate excitement and return visits when the movie opened a couple of weeks later. In addition to the great photo ops with the costumed character, we offered movie character face painting and balloon twisting. The event was a huge success with a strong turnout and lots of smiling faces.”

Stepper serves up more food for thought with a delicious twist of lemon. “With such extensive and great food and beverage offerings at many of our theatres,” she notes, “we are working to create a customized, movie-themed food and cocktail menu.” For Fifty Shades of Grey, the decidedly more colorful offerings “attracted media coverage before the film opened, social-media banter, as well as fun options for the many ‘girls’ night’ group rentals. Our custom menus have let our patrons experience the film on another level, including special flavors for international food-based movies like The Hundred Foot Journey.”

Along these same creative lines, Stepper and the National Amusements in-theatre and office teams developed a multi-faceted program for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that included complimentary hairstyles by award-winning local salons. Following “dry styles, such as Katniss’ iconic side braid and Prim’s sought-after wraparound braid,” wet creations were “available for purchase in the lounge and via in-seat dining before, during and after movie showings. Some of our film-inspired cocktails were ‘Prim Rose Martini,’ ‘The Mockingjay Mojito’ and ‘The Tracker Jacker.’” Sounds delicious. It master-mixed Makers Mark, Amaretto and apple juice, Stepper confirms. Mocktails, Mockingjay or otherwise, celebrated “The Victory Tour” and “Gale Fizz,” as specialty small bites such as “Peeta’s Cookies” and “Capitol Grade” mini-macaroons took the hunger out of the showmanship games.

This columnist would also like to point our readers to our additional reporting about “Engaging the Audience," “Rewarding” our moviegoers and otherwise “Enticing” them to come to the cinema in the first place. As the panel proposes, and Film Journal International has noted in the past, it’s all about keeping them “coming back for more.” With the latest interactive screen technologies (at CinemaCon, TimePlay will announce that “interactive cinema has arrived”), and social-media immediacy, guests are more “Integrated” than ever before.

Additional panel participants are Sandro Corsaro, chief creative officer at Fandango; Pat Gonzalez, senior VP of in-theatre marketing at Paramount Pictures; and Liz Jones, executive VP of digital marketing, Relativity Europa Distribution.

Past editions of our “Cinemarketing” series are archived here.