What's New at the Pre-Show: New initiatives thrive in cinema-advertising space

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Cinemas Features

Film Journal International asked three leading cinema-advertising companies to tell us about their latest innovations and initiatives. Creativity is alive and well at the increasingly compelling pre-show.

National CineMedia (NCM)

Here are some of the partnership highlights from the past year of National CineMedia’s “FirstLook” pre-show:

Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, took its “Live There” campaign to theatres last June, in a whole new way. Airbnb’s “Double Feature” cinema experience allowed moviegoers to see two alternative travel experiences simultaneously by using specialized bifocal glasses that employ adapted 3D technology. An onscreen message in NCM’s “FirstLook” pre-show prompted the audience to put on their special Airbnb glasses and instructed them to simply tilt up or down to change experiences. The Airbnb film asked, “How do you want to see Paris? How would you visit L.A.? How about Tokyo? Who do you want to spend time with? And when it’s all over, what would you want to remember?” as moviegoers experienced different versions of the same trip depending on their personal perspective.

In addition, NCM featured 2D Airbnb commercials from the “Live There” campaign in their pre-show nationwide, and also reached moviegoers digitally on mobile devices and online through NCM’s Cinema Accelerator.

AT&T worked exclusively with NCM to launch AT&T Ticket Twosdays with AMC Theatres, Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark to reward customers with a free movie ticket when they buy one at full price through AT&T THANKSSM. The program currently includes more than 17,000 screens in more than 1,280 theatres.

In addition to the millions of AT&T postpaid wireless customers now eligible to participate in Ticket Twosdays, they've extended the program to more than 38 million DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse TV and AT&T Internet customers who can now take advantage of Ticket Twosdays.

AT&T Ticket Twosdays are promoted on the big screen in the “FirstLook” pre-show program in participating theatres, including a special AT&T “FirstLook” "takeover" on Tuesdays with AT&T branding throughout the show. AT&T Ticket Twosdays are also promoted on NCM's Lobby Entertainment Network and on concessions products.

Twitter and Disney partnered with NCM in December to feature Rogue One trailer assets and fan Tweets on NCM's Lobby Entertainment Network of screens strategically located near the box office and other high-traffic lobby locations in select movie theatres—the show before the pre-show.

Many people look to Twitter to discover something new, and a large percentage of Millennial moviegoers go to the theatre undecided about what to see. This was an opportunity to bring what people were Tweeting about Rogue One directly to the box-office line to connect these moviegoers with other fans.

The Samsung Gear VR campaign featured advanced lobby activations, increasing awareness, interest, consumer trial and social engagement over a two-week period in May and June in the top markets across the country—New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The lobby experience offered two ways to sample the VR technology: exploring the Milk VR mobile app or experiencing a Six Flags roller coaster using 4D VR equipment. While wearing specialized headsets, four movie patrons at a time could ride a virtual coaster while sitting in custom 4D chairs that pivoted in all directions. Once the experience was over, customers were encouraged to share a photo via e-mail or social-media post.

Amazon entered a new multi-year relationship with NCM to bring original content from Amazon Prime Video’s programming to the big screen.
 “Moviegoers are the most engaged and enthusiastic audiences out there, so of course the perfect place for Amazon to reach new fans is at the movie theatre,” said Cliff Marks, president of sales and marketing for NCM.

Kia Motors’ music-loving hamsters returned in May in a new campaign for the Soul urban passenger vehicle with an upbeat message and a catchy tune that transformed the classic “Dueling Banjos” into an internationally inspired anthem. The 60-second “Soul Jam” spot opens on an idyllic park setting with musician Nathaniel Rateliff trading guitar licks with a banjo-playing hamster who arrives on the scene in a Soul. As additional hamsters join the fray, what begins as a friendly game of musical one-upmanship morphs into a world-music inspired jam session and dance party.

Screenvision Media

Screenvision Media has continued to evolve its pre-feature cinema entertainment program, Front + Center, this year by increasing the scope of its editorial focus. The show has always put a spotlight on what’s current, from Main Street to Hollywood, but more recently the programming has been accelerated to include topics and content from relevant creators, as well as original segments to entertain record numbers of moviegoers. The company works with studios, influencers and its in-house 40 Foot Solutions team to ensure moviegoers receive the latest and greatest in cinematic content, from behind-the-scenes, entertainment news, red-carpet coverage and trivia. Front + Center provides an additive, entertaining pre-show that sets the stage for advertisers to receive focused attention from and engagement with moviegoers, creating high impact for brands.

Screenvision Media highlights over the past year include:

* A more holistic approach to programming, with the company placing just as much attention on earlier Community segments as they historically have placed on the later portion of the show where national advertisers live. This gives a more natural flow to the show, as Front + Center trends from Main Street to Hollywood.

* Further developed original programming that provides more entertainment segments throughout the show, including the recently debuted “Reel Lifestyle” programming with home, fitness and cooking mini-shows. Screenvision Media has produced eight “Reel Lifestyle” segments to date, with the breakout cooking segment “Reel Food” featuring celebrity chef Chadwick Boyd—which caught the attention of Whole Foods Markets and triggered an integrated campaign for the holidays. This style of programming has been appealing to exhibitors as they regionalize many of these segments, connecting them to both movies and the communities they serve. These segments are created by Screenvision Media’s in-house brand studio, 40 Foot Solutions. 

* Focused content efforts that support community and small-business initiatives: The company recently launched Corner Stories (also produced in-house with 40 Foot Solutions), a short-form docuseries that highlights local merchants who are helping revitalize Main Street. This content showcases community businesses in a very cinematic fashion, further connecting the theatres to their surrounding neighborhoods.

* Programming alliances: Screenvision Media has also been reaching out to select content creators to establish programming alliances, which allow for the discovery of emerging voices and increased depth and breadth of what the company brings to the screen. Examples include Who Say, Studio 71, Jamie Kaler’s “Dads In Parks,” Josh Seftel’s “My Mom on Movies,” Screenprism, 60 Second Docs and a handful of others that are regularly contributing to the entertainment moviegoers can expect in Front + Center.

* An expanded network built by Screenvision Media’s sales, marketing and creative teams that puts advertisers in a position to gain maximum impact. Front + Center’s framework, approach and alliances make it a potent media solution for advertisers to be organically woven into the moviegoing experience with guaranteed attention, which is critical for brands as the integration of brand stories naturally becomes endemic and not intrusive.

* Endemic cinematic content: Screenvision Media’s in-house creative studio, 40 Foot Solutions, is creating programming on behalf of brands to develop endemic cinematic content to which moviegoers feel connected. In the last year, they’ve produced original content for a growing list of national advertisers, including Shocktop, LG, Sprint, Bank of America and Dell, that are leveraging this creative resource to speak to movie fans. 40 Foot Solutions’ work earned more than 30 creative awards in 2016, including one Golden Trailer and 11 Telly awards. 

* Screenvision Select: The company has created a second custom pre-show, Screenvision Select, for its art-house network. The show is shorter in length and rooted in independent spirit, centered around short films and art-house content, with advertising from more niche and luxury brands.

* Advanced technology alliances: As technology has progressed, Screenvision Media has partnered with TimePlay and Audience Entertainment to create more engaging experiences for moviegoers on the big screen.

Spotlight Cinema Networks

“Throughout Spotlight Cinema Networks’ six-year existence, we’ve sought partnerships with cutting-edge content providers so we can offer our exhibitors visually distinctive and highly engaging short films for their sophisticated audiences,” says Michael Sakin, president. “We’re already in year two of our successful relationship with Vimeo, a popular video-sharing website that allows users to upload, share and watch videos. This deal gave Spotlight access to content from some of the world’s leading video producers, who use Vimeo as a platform to reach millions of viewers from around the world. Each month, our team picks one to three short films from the vast pool of Vimeo content to ensure that it meets the cultivated tastes and expectations of nationwide audiences who visit theatres in the Spotlight network.

“Earlier this year, we continued our push in delivering and curating short pieces of video content—one to three minutes in length—with a partnership with WME/IMG’s Made to Measure (M2M), which produces unique art, fashion and design content.

“Because of our unique ability to reach such an upscale, highly desirable audience, we are now being approached by content providers who want to be included in our coveted preshow. These content providers include up-and-coming directors, film festivals, and even producers of cause-related content for the global community. We hope to announce more programming partnerships later this year that will benefit our exhibitors and delight their audiences.”