Give the People What They Want: With movie pre-shows, it pays to listen to audiences

Cinemas Features

There’s an old Hollywood adage that says, “Give the people what they want, and they’ll come!” As it turns out, that’s not only true for movies, but for movie pre-shows as well. Cinema advertising has come a long way since newsreels and slide carousels, and for exhibitors and advertisers alike, today’s pre-shows should be all about audience engagement with great content and interactivity.

Great Content

We know that audiences come to the theatre to see a movie, so of course it makes sense that their favorite pre-show content is all about films and filmmaking. According to National CineMedia’s “Behind The Screens” audience panel of 5,000 frequent moviegoers, the Top 10 List of most requested pre-show content by moviegoers includes hot trailers, movie trivia, alternate or deleted movie scenes, behind-the-scenes footage or cast/crew interviews, original stories that influenced films, Hollywood history, movie studio news, theatre technology news, celebrity news and Hollywood "deal" news.  

Fun content that features movie backstories and making-of scenes regularly scores highest in audience likeability surveys. It is also interesting to note that, when asked, audiences thought the current industry standard video length of one to three minutes was most appropriate for pre-show content, so it’s good to know we’re getting it right!  But the message is clear: The more that cinema advertising companies and Hollywood studios can work together to create great content for audiences, the better.


It should also come as no surprise to anyone following the Millennial generation that today’s younger moviegoers are looking for interactivity and ways to truly immerse themselves in the moviegoing experience even further.

According to the Behind The Screens audience panel, 70% say they’d prefer an interactive pre-show, and the more often people go to the movies, the more they say they’d like to interact with the big screen to keep their moviegoing experience fresh.

While interactivity at the movies is not a new idea (theatres have featured everything from sing-along musicals and midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to pre-show trivia slides and even early attempts at motion-activated gaming over the years), what is new is the ideal technology for making it happen. Audiences are now essentially carrying around little super-computers in their pockets, and are using their smartphones to interact with the world around them in exciting new ways, including at the movies. Modern movie fans’ top picks on their wish list for pre-show mobile in-theatre interactivity include trivia, gaming, live polling, and really any type of contest that incorporates prizing—especially movie-related prizes such as concessions or memorabilia.

In fact, 78% of audiences said they would enjoy using their mobile phone to play an interactive game during the pre-show, which has certainly proven to be true as hundreds of thousands of moviegoers are now playing big-screen interactive augmented reality (AR) games on their mobile phones with Noovie ARcade, the new companion app for NCM’s Noovie pre-show. Noovie ARcade launched nationwide two months ago with shooting and catching games like Cinevaders and Emoji Escape, and will soon be rolling out new games including a driving game and other games geared toward specific movies throughout the year. Other interactive opportunities such as “Name That Movie” trivia and “Fantasy Movie League” box-office prediction game play are also proving to be a big hit with movie audiences, and we’re just beginning to explore the possibilities of digital interactivity both in theatres and beyond.

The really great news in cinema advertising is that people—especially younger generations—still love going to the movies. Two-thirds of the general population has never watched a full-length movie on a smartphone, tablet or computer, according to our research, and it’s our job to help exhibitors keep it that way. The first and best way for cinema-advertising companies to be great exhibition partners is to “give the people what they want” in the pre-show, and we at NCM know firsthand that it can really pay off. Since launching Noovie, 68% of NCM’s audience says that they’re coming to the theatre early to find out what’s next in entertainment—that’s good for audiences, brands and exhibitors alike!