Expanded Reach: Fandango acquires MovieTickets and plans more consumer innovations

Features
Technology

In mid-October 2017, Fandango announced an agreement to acquire its longtime rival in the cinema ticketing space, MovieTickets.com. The transaction officially closed during the tail end of 2017, further expanding Fandango’s reach to all 40,000 screens across the entire United States.

Several significant new exhibitors were added, including National Amusements and Cineplex, plus a variety of independently owned and operated North American locations. MovieTickets screens also expanded the organization’s Latin American reach and into the U.K. for the first time. 

Merging with MovieTickets

“What most attracted us to the acquisition was our organizational goal of ubiquity,” says Fandango’s president, Paul Yanover. “The strategy has been to have complete and comprehensive coverage and the ability to provide every possible ticket to anyone that wants to attend a movie anywhere in the country.

“MovieTickets created and built a great brand and they covered parts of the country that we did not due to some of their exclusive exhibitor relationships. It all ties to a belief system and our goal that Fandango has of driving attendance and creating win-win situations for the entire industry, including moviegoers and our exhibition partners.” Fandango’s majority owner is NBCUniversal, and Warner Bros. Entertainment holds a minority stake

According to Yanover, prior to the MovieTickets acquisition Fandango successfully capitalized on the opportunity to grow faster through corporate investments in technology and enhanced user experience, including innovation around mobile, social-media platforms, voice applications and related areas. The acquisition seems to be working well so far, with all hands on deck ensuring that full technological and partner integrations are running smoothly.

Complementary Brands

Fandango brands include Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster, Movieclips, Fandango Rewards, FanShop and several other cinema-related assets. “In aggregate, these brands are all centered around ‘movie discovery.’ In order to have a positive impact and sell more tickets, we need to be focused on that process,” Yanover emphasizes.

“There is a consumer journey that one goes through toward building interest in seeing a particular movie. You may have an interest in a franchise, a genre, a style, an actor or director, or even a book you read. We believe the best way to help the entire industry is to be there at that moment of consumer interest, driving a set of capabilities into discovery, planning and purchase. The goal is really to take an intention to see a film and turn it into the action of ticket-buying.”

At the time of Fandango’s Flixster acquisition, it was more intertwined with the Rotten Tomatoes brand. Management has been adamant that the two should be separated and run as very important but independent supporting properties of the corporate entity. Rotten Tomatoes is a core brand for the organization, centered around discovery. It also happens to be very popular in the U.K., an international market Fandango recently added courtesy of MovieTickets. Flixster, on the other hand, is being operated with more of a focus on ticketing.

Fandango has learned that the number-one way people plan movie outings today is through some type of negotiation via group text messages. That can be through actual texting or take place on some type of organized social-networking platform. As a result, the company has put a lot of thought and effort into how to successfully and seamlessly embed Fandango into mobile movie planning environments.

“We have been very tactical about our implementations that accomplish this,” states Yanover. “For example, our ticketing is integrated into Apple’s Messages and Facebook’s Messenger platforms. By design, when people are in a group planning a movie outing, they can access Fandango without leaving their text-messaging conversation. Users can access our app via Facebook or iMessage with only a few clicks, where they find movie trailers, posters and a PayPal option for purchase and reimbursement.”

Fandango has also been joining forces with other payment platforms including Apple Pay, Google Pay and others. “We are 100-percent aligned with all of our trade partners,” Yanover emphasizes proudly.

International Expansion  

Particularly in Latin America, the company has been growing proactively via acquisition in recent years. It purchased Brazil-based Ingresso in late 2015 and approximately a year later added Peruvian ticketing company Cinepapaya to the family. “In many ways, Ingresso reminds us of ourselves and the early days of Fandango,” says Yanover.

The marketplace isn’t as developed in Brazil yet, but Ingresso is market leader and Fandango has capitalized by bringing its technological knowhow, talented team and a recognizable brand to the region. The company is presently utilizing Peru as home base and headquarters for further overseas expansion, which to date includes approximately a dozen countries across Latin America, including Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay and Mexico.

Positive trends that bode well for Fandango in Latin America include long-term economic growth, expansion of the middle class and active mobile-phone usage. There is a large population that enjoys attending movies and the company is capitalizing on its wealth of technology partnerships to further facilitate ongoing overseas momentum.

Truth and Myth

Historically, the perception was that during opening weekend and the early days of a theatrical release, Fandango ticket purchasers were driven by a sense of urgency to buy advance admissions for popular tentpole titles in major cities when demand runs high and showings often sell out ahead of time.

According to Yanover, “Although there is some truth to that, I think that the products and services we have created, along with current consumer behavior, have really habituated people to the desire to use us for their everyday movie ticket purchases. As an example, our share of non-opening weekend tickets is more than 50 percent of our total tickets sold. This is spreading across more and more markets and we see it happening all over the country.”

Fandango’s Future

Fandango is a big believer in the future of voice-driven AI technology, both on your phone and in the home. The company is already integrated with Amazon Alexa and the Echo Dot device. Consumers can ask Alexa about buying movie tickets and purchase them by voice command.

The company is also exploring how moviegoers can pick their actual seats by voice and have Alexa remember where you sat the last time you visited a particular theatre, among other features. The end game is to make available information more useful.

“I think we are still in the early to middle days of mobile,” Yanover observes, “and there are some really exciting technologies that will find themselves into the total journey on the way to the theatre and there is a lot more to unlock. We are very interested in augmented reality, for instance, and other experiences of moviegoing related to AR on one’s phone.

“If we do our job well, we make it a better experience for the consumer by removing all of the friction from the ticket-buying process, ultimately driving more people to take their interest and turn it into a purchase to attend a movie and create incremental attendance.”