Mobile Marketing: How theatres can benefit from the rise of the smartphone


The current buzz surrounding the dominance of smartphones has made mobile marketing a hot topic in the theatre industry. This year it’s estimated that 70% of moviegoers use a smartphone*, 82% are classed as heavy Internet users* and 73% of frequent moviegoers in North America own at least four different technology devices, with smartphones coming in as the most predominantly owned device**.

For years, engaging with moviegoers through their mobile phones has slowly gained more prominence on the agenda of theatre owners. Who can forget the original mobile marketing success for theatres in the U.K., Orange Wednesdays? However, the advancements in mobile technology this year alone have opened up a whole universe of possibilities for theatre brands and film distributors to reach and engage with moviegoers through strategic app-based campaigns, geo-targeted advertising and more! 

Today’s Mobile Marketing Landscape

Forward-thinking brands have already seen the power of using smartphone technology to reach their target market and send brand messages directly to their phones. Smartphones are becoming rapidly more advanced; gone are the days when brands were limited to simple text messages and indecipherable, pixelated images. Rich media, interactive apps and personalized messaging are just some of the tools that switched-on theatre brands are utilizing to increase their ROI.

Utilizing Popular Apps

The ability to turn popular apps that already have a large reach into a marketing tool has not gone unnoticed by the marketing teams behind some of this year’s most successful film marketing campaigns. The minds behind the pre-launch campaign for Ex Machina created a fake Tinder profile for the film’s lead character to interact with unsuspecting matches and lead them onto a promotional Instagram account.

This tactic won’t suit all brands, and you have to be clever about venturing into a space that’s expected to be “brand-free.” However, clever content that’s delivered in a strategic manner can be well-received and make your brand stand out from the crowd.

Bespoke Apps

Some brands are taking this one step further by developing their own apps. Theatre brands have realized that bespoke apps can be beneficial to their bottom line ROI, as two out of three moviegoers have said they would use an app to check film times and book tickets***. Knowing this allows theatre brands to create apps which make it easy for their customers to research films and book their tickets in one session.

Interactive Ads

Advertisers are also harnessing the interactive capability of mobile devices to encourage moviegoers to activity engage with their ads and provoke a direct response—in stark contrast to passively watching trailers. For example, large American theatre chains like Regency Theatres recently ran interactive ads in their foyers. Moviegoers were redirected to shopping sites to purchase film-related goods after using their mobiles to scan interactive ads. Just think how theatres could use this to increase mobile ticket bookings—instead of linking to an online shop, the ad could link to a ticket-booking page and monetize the time customers spend waiting in the lobby.

The Future of Mobile Marketing for Theatres

Mobile technology is continuing to develop at a rapid pace and theatre brands that capitalize on the opportunities this offers them can gain a competitive advantage and maximize their revenue by increasing reach, engagement and personalization.

What does the future of mobile marketing for theatre brands look like? We see a highly advantageous and lucrative partnership between smartphone technology and theatre brands. In particular, here are the trends that are set to take off in the near future.

Highly Personalized Mobile Loyalty Schemes

Capgemini recently reported that brands’ loyalty schemes would be more effective if the rewards on offer were easy to redeem on smartphones. Brands’ ability to gather personalized information using online platforms like Peach Cinemas which can combine data from all online customer touch points including Point of Sale systems, combined with moviegoers’ desire for convenience, means that mobile-friendly, highly targeted loyalty schemes are set to soar in popularity. Not only will this encourage the uptake of loyalty programs, it will allow brands to gain further insights into their customers’ behavior, which can fuel future marketing campaigns.

Advanced, Highly Tailored Apps

Moviegoers’ increasing willingness to book tickets through an app (as mentioned above) means that more theatre brands will incorporate apps into their marketing mix. However, instead of creating apps that have a plethora of features (many of which will go unused), theatre brands will create apps that are tailored to their customers’ needs and make it easy for users to find exactly what they’re looking for in just a few simple steps. This type of app will encourage uptake, increase user satisfaction and, more importantly, encourage customers to complete a booking.

Real-time Streaming Apps to Promote Events

Apps such as Periscope which allow customers to gain behind-the-scenes access are perfect for generating buzz in the lead-up to theatre-hosted events such as themed showings like those organized by Secret Theatre, or backstage glimpses into Q&A sessions with directors. As these apps gain popularity, more theatre brands will strategically harness their capability to engage with their customers and build hype in the lead-up to events.

Widespread Adoption of Location-based Targeting

As location-based marketing campaigns gain popularity, so will the uptake of beacons in theatres such as those by Vision Media Management and apps which, once downloaded, can send users marketing messages and discount codes once they have entered the theatre.

Location-based campaigns allow brands to reach a highly relevant and already engaged audience in order to increase the value of each customer. For example, theatres can encourage customers to visit the concession stand or complete their night with a trip to the venue’s restaurant.

Fiona Kirkcaldy is the social media and content manager at Peach. Monetize your online presence with Peach Cinemas, a hub for exhibitors’ online activity and the theatre industry’s only Point of Sale (POS) integrated and fully responsive website platform.


*Digital Theatre Media

**Motion Picture Association of America