Predicting Success: Movio analyzes data to help exhibitors serve audiences better


In today’s globally competitive business world, it’s a never-ending “big data” battle for organizations to effectively identify and target their existing and prospective consumers. The most effective marketers are constantly striving to reach, or at least profile, their exact customers, keeping them happy and coming back for more products and services. With the advent and increasing popularity of social-media platforms, product managers are often involved in a two-way dialogue with their end-users, including brand ambassadors, evangelists and occasional online “haters.”

Cinema exhibition is a somewhat unique ecosystem, with a significant amount of capital at risk amongst key constituents. There is a diverse creative community of producers, closely allied and aligned with multiple studios and distributors across the globe. Collectively, they have often invested significant sweat and real equity (in some cases several hundred million dollars) to produce and promote an individual title.

To add to the pressure and high-stakes nature of the industry, films are often deemed to be an immediate success or failure within the first weekend of their theatrical release, which usually simultaneously takes place in movie houses across the world. Theatrical exhibitors range from large multinational, megaplex circuits to small, independent players. All are doing their best to cater to a prospective cinemagoing population with varying tastes, budgets and geographic access to experience these movies.

With the increasing availability of big data, there is money to be made for value-added businesses that can effectively crunch the numbers in advance to help separate the cinematic successes from the failures. Since its inception approximately seven years ago, a New Zealand-based company has been working diligently to be a leader in predictive theatrical exhibition analytics. According to Movio Cinema’s global president, Matthew Liebmann, his organization distinguishes itself from the competition in several key ways.

Exclusively Devoted to Movie Exhibition

“We only serve the cinema industry,” says Liebmann. “Wehave helped exhibitors, distributors and studios with insights that combine the experience of former cinema industry professionals with the deep knowledge of data scientists. Cinema is in Movio’s DNA and this comes through in the platforms we develop and the consulting guidance we share.”

How do they do it? Primarily through the development of algorithms designed to identify the ideal audience for any movie or targeted promotion. Movio then takes it an important step further by proving its results by integrating with exhibitors’ point-of-sale (POS) systems. “We see transactions wherever they occur and however they are paid for,” Liebmann explains.

The data collected and compiled includes transactions that take place at the cinema, via exhibitors’ online channels or a third party's, whether they are paid for with cash, credit card, gift cards or loyalty points. “This gives the truest profile of cinemagoer activity in the industry. Furthermore, we incorporate statistically significant control groups into targeted campaigns in order to calculate incremental uplift, thereby allowing marketers to confidently assess financial results and continuously improve their activities,” he adds.

Vista Group Synergy

The Movio organization does not seek to own or claim any rights over its clients’ data. The ultimate objective is to connect everyone with their ideal movie so that future generations experience “the magic of cinema.” Its platforms include Movio Cinema for exhibitors and Movio Media for distributors, studios and screen advertisers. Parent company Vista Group International originally forged a strategic alliance with Movio based on their similar devotion to the world of cinema exhibition.

In 2014, Vista acquired Movio outright, in connection with taking the company public, floating its shares on the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges. For clients, a key advantage lies in their ability to secure a single solution, with seamless integration of Movio and Vista providing a rich feature set available for analytics and targeted marketing.

According to Liebmann, however, the benefits extend well beyond functionality. “The diversity of Vista Group businesses—from Vista Cinema’s comprehensive suite of cinema-management software, Numero’s revolutionary box-office insights platform, the creative excellence of Powster, to Cinema Intelligence’s forecasting, planning and scheduling optimization tools—provides different perspectives that challenge each of the businesses to keep a step ahead of our clients’ evolving needs.” It is worth noting that Movio also integrates with other POS technologies, including exhibitors on NCR and Ingresso platforms.

Large and Growing Customer Base

Today, Movio Cinema is utilized by over 60 exhibitors in 35+ countries, helping theatre owners manage their analytics and campaign needs associated with their 39 million cinemagoers. Clients range from the largest players in their markets, to niche players with distinct operations, to major regional players and even a few single-site operators.

Movio Media has the deepest and broadest database of cinemagoers in the United States, according to the company.

It provides distributors, studios, other theatrical content providers, screen advertisers and other industry participants with aggregate audience profiles on a “per movie” basis, with data going back more than five years. It also incorporates Movio’s proprietary Similarity Algorithm (more on this below), which generates the ideal audience for any movie based on the prior movie-watching behavior of millions of active cinemagoers. Once the ideal audience is identified, Movio Media allows users to directly connect with these most avid moviegoers by using rich media e-mail campaigns or by activating audiences via social, website and addressable TV advertising.

“Movio Media clients can also obtain moviegoers’ opinions via online surveys and combine these findings with respondents' behavioral profiles for unique, unrivaled insight,” Liebmann points out. “All of this is done whilst preserving exhibitor anonymity, never disclosing moviegoer personal information or siphoning off the ownership rights of our clients.”

Audience Similarity Algorithm

The Movie Cluster Map is the visualization of Movio’s proprietary Audience Similarity algorithm, which analyzes 100 million unique box-office admissions and hundreds of movies each year in order to measure the similarity of the audience for each title. 

The algorithm builds comp audiences by starting with the movies rather than attendee demographics. It doesn’t matter if you're a 15-year-old that loves Victoria & Abdul or an 80-year-old that likes Sausage Party. It’s how a moviegoer spends their time and money that counts when targeting and communicating. This tends to result in a broader list of comp movies because, in reality, moviegoers don’t just see movies across the same genre, with the same content, or starring the same actors.

Liebmann further explains, “Let’s take Sausage Party. If you were to comp up an audience for this using the traditional 'movie first' approach, you would build a list of other R-rated, gross-out comedies. However, the most similar movies based on audience similarity are, in order, Don’t BreatheNeighbors 2Suicide SquadDeadpool and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Not only does this prove that moviegoers like different types of movies, this data would drive a different targeting and communication strategy.”

Additional Audience Insights

We asked Liebmann for some recent learnings that he and his team have uncovered in crunching audience analytics. “I would say that the importance of older and female cinemagoers is not as widely recognized by the industry as it should be. Also, horror titles continue to attract Millennials at an average production cost that is a fraction of that of most blockbusters. Below are four recent factoids…

1.     Wonder Woman’s audience comprised 37% more infrequent moviegoers (those that visit the cinema less than four times annually) than the average superhero movie, proving there is pent-up demand for female heroes.

2.     Stereotypically male titles often receive a material box-office boost from women. Women aged 60+ represented 14% of the audience of Dunkirk, compared to 9% for the average movie. Infrequent female moviegoers aged 50+ represented 28% of the movie’s audience, compared to 17% for the average movie.

3.     Older moviegoers continue to be a vibrant and valuable segment, attending the cinema 6.8 times per annum compared to the MPAA’s statistic of 5.3 annual tickets per moviegoer.

4.     Horror movies accounted for one in six cinema visits by Millennials. This was no doubt helped by the diversity and quality of titles within the horror genre, such as ItGet OutSplit and Annabelle: Creation, among others.

Looking Ahead

“We see a couple of big trends which will drive Movio’s focus in 2018,” predicts Liebmann. The first is propensity, which looks at the likelihood of someone watching a movie. The decision to see a movie isn’t a binary ‘yes’ or no.’ Understanding how motivated someone is likely to see a movie influences who you target, when you target them and the type of message or offer extended to them.

“Another key trend is marketing automation. The brilliant thing about rich analytics platforms like Movio is just how many actionable insights they surface. The challenge is actually actioning those insights without increasing headcount. Movio will continue to empower our clients to efficiently and effectively address this challenge in a cinema-specific manner by addressing the key work flow, events and guest touch points that are specific to cinema. This will allow end-users to create experiences that span online and in-cinema, as well as freeing up valuable time to refine marketing strategies and test new theories.”