The Most Powerful Screen in the Media: Screenvision's John Partilla proposes growth and partnerships

Cinemas Features

“The continued marketplace fragmentation and resulting ratings decline have cast a very big spotlight on the powerful attributes of cinema.” As a direct result, John Partilla, chief executive officer of Screenvision, confirms that cinema advertising “has enjoyed a very robust year” and “made great progress as prime video audience replacement to provide brands and agencies a high-impact solution to garner the audiences that they are missing. The cinema-advertising sector has risen and outperformed the overall advertising marketplace, and we have very much participated in this growth.”

As everybody in this industry knows as well as Partilla, the attributes of a movie theatre are powerful indeed. So powerful that he has declared cinema advertising to be on “The Most Powerful Screen in the Media,” adding, “The premier content, immersive and captivating environment, 100% viewable and un-skippable platform in front of the most coveted audience in media have increasingly become essential elements of media plans. As a result, we are seeing growth in big TV categories, such as auto, entertainment, finance, consumer electronics and alcohol. Some bigger advertisers include Geico, Google, Apple, Netflix, Ford, Famous Footwear and Dell.” All of them and others too, he finds, are showing “a growing appreciation for the relative scale and stability of moviegoers, which has created more demand throughout the year.” In other words, there is “a little less focus on big tentpoles and a little more emphasis on the impact every month.”

While that is encouraging news–and likely, at least in part, the result of films being released on a broader year-round calendar–Partilla has also observed “an increased desire to extend the unrivaled impact of cinema advertising.” To serve that need, “we have renamed the company Screenvision Media, as a very overt signal that we are moving beyond a distribution platform to run ads adjacent to movies. Instead, we will broaden and complement our core with content, data and technology to bring our partners a more complete and compelling offering.”

By way of example, “we are exploring the integration of mobile and other technologies such as beacons, geo-fences, interactive movie screens and other ways to connect brands to moviegoers.” On that wider road, partnerships are leading the way. “Our enhanced and elevated lobby network continues to grow with Christie and Cinema Scene. We have also created branded content with some new alliances, such as Penske Media Corp and Bitesize TV.”

Of course, there are his tried-and-true, popcorn-and-butter partners too. “Our exhibitor network is the most stable that it has ever been. We have a terrific team who really focus on creating incremental value for exhibitors. We feel that our offering is compelling and we always look forward to speaking to exhibitors that want to be part of our network.”

Partilla very much likes how that network is shaping up. “Exhibitors do a great job in responding to the marketplace as they continue to add to the entertainment experience. Whether it be the reclining lounge chairs, expanded concession items, alternative content, now event cinema, as well as testing with interactive cinema–they very much set the stage for creating our wonderful environment. As exhibitors seek additional revenue streams from off-peak times, we hope that our recent KAOS announcement will provide an accelerant.”

Back to technology, Partilla mentions a pilot initiative with a proximity-based marketing company, Mobiquity, for beacons as one way to integrate new and emerging technology that collects data to learn more about moviegoers. “Technology has a great opportunity to extend and augment our onscreen impact. Beacons are one component we are testing as we try to bring brands further into the journey of a moviegoer…before, during and after. The real win will be when the technology helps brands tell their story, rather than just serving impressions. We are very excited about the prospects.”

Good stories matter even more when it comes to content, of course. “We see advertisers really recognizing the power of storytelling, and acknowledging that cinema is the ultimate canvas to showcase their amazing creative campaigns.” On their end, Partilla and the team are doing their share of strengthening the cinema-advertising platform. “The company has done a great job in elevating the preshow over the years,” he finds, “and the current ‘Front & Center’ preshow has really focused on enhancing the experience for moviegoers and brands. That said, we do think that there are more opportunities, and look forward to developing preshow programming that moviegoers would show up earlier for.”

According to the plan laid out when Partilla joined Screenvision Media, that includes creating tentpole programs for brands. “When I refer to tentpoles,” he explains, “it is really about the marketing and promotional programs that we can bring to the brands. With the alliances that we have in place on the content and technology side, along with our ‘40 Foot Solutions’ team, there are lots of opportunities.” Speaking of the people in place, Partilla has high praise. “Screenvision has a great team, and one of its greatest strengths is its culture. Our team is very passionate about the business and collaborating to create new opportunities. As I reviewed the team, I wanted to focus on placing and directing our resources where we can have the most impact.”

As someone who spent his career impacting the buyer’s side of the media mix, how does it feel to be selling, in his own words, “the most coveted audience in media” now? “I really have been fortunate in my career to have been able to sit on the agency, media publisher and digital sides of the table, at varying times.” Screenvision affords him “the opportunity to uniquely leverage the diverse experiences,” Partilla feels. “This is my third chapter on the media publishing side, following stints at TimeWarner and Clear Channel [now iHeart]. No matter what side of the table I am on, I work hard to listen, and work with clients to help solve some of their business challenges. With Screenvision Media, I like to think that we are taking the same approach. Plus, a 40-foot screen and advertising adjacent to the great content of the movies–it hardly feels like selling… I truly believe in the power of cinema, and I speak with a great deal of passion about its amazing attributes.”

With such passionate talk, it might seem redundant to ask Partilla whether he actually likes movies in theatres. “I definitely enjoy the movies, and they have always been a part of my life. There’s nothing like the cinema experience‎ to engage in a dynamic storytelling experience. I also love experiencing movies with the kids, and seeing if I can’t help a life message resonate a bit more fully. Call it supplemental parenting.” Partilla seems to have taken a page from his own parents’ guide. “My first movie was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at a drive-in theatre in Alabama, at age seven,” he recalls. A few years later, “I loved seeing Jaws with a couple of buddies. I was about 12 and it was a pretty intense experience.” Today, he enjoys Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas on 23rd Street in Manhattan as much as he likes a licorice snack during the show. Partilla’s favorite movies are The Godfather Parts 1 and 2, the original Rocky, and Moneyball.

“I am very bullish on the movies,” he reassures us in closing. “My confidence is underscored when looking at the stability of attendance against the backdrop of unprecedented technological change. I see technological advances creating more immersive screens, moviegoers coming early and playing games, and most of all I trust Hollywood will keep elevating the wonderful stories. Cinema is a medium that is intuitively understood by all. It’s a great canvas for messages and stories to connect to audiences.”

Recent Screenvision Campaigns

Chevy’s recent campaign took ownership of one of the most coveted positions within Screenvision’s “Front & Center” preshow and created a showcase position for their new car launches, including the Malibu. In addition, working with famed director Sam Raimi, they created a faux horror-film trailer to create an unexpected, attention-grabbing way to tell their story.

Vaseline’s campaign showcased the power of the Vaseline Healing Project through a celebrity-interview studio executed at Sundance Film Festival with Penske Media Group. Screenvision’s 40 Foot Solutions Team worked with Penske to develop branded content that married the studio with the powerful storytelling of the Vaseline Healing Project.

H&M partnered with Bitesize TV and Screenvision’s 40 Foot Solutions team to craft a holiday gift guide showcasing some of the hottest items for the season.