Learning about young moviegoers

In Focus

Recently, the International Cinema Technology Association held a business session in Los Angeles as part of their annual program, the L.A. Seminar Series, at the Universal Hilton Hotel. The program usually attracts 200 to 250 attendees and is geared primarily to the technology community of the motion picture industry. However, in the past five years the programming has broadened its focus and is now attracting film studios and theatrical exhibition.

One program that attracted attention and was favorably received was a panel of students including a high-school senior, film students and a 16-year-old student from Europe. Most of the panel members were between 16 and 23 and their comments were intriguing. Bear in mind that some of the findings below are skewed, because each panelist enjoys going to the movies and has little income and few spare dollars for entertainment.

* Social media is most important in picking out a movie to attend. Trailers are second, followed by YouTube and peer recommendations.

* The quality of the cinema is important, depending on the ticket cost. One individual said she would rather see a $5 movie in a plastic chair than a $15 movie in a luxury recliner.

* Food service is not important, but the theatre does serve as a meeting place to network with friends.

* Tickets must be affordable for them to consider going to the movies.

* Surprisingly, this group was not in favor of reserved seating. They indicated that finding a seat is part of the film experience.

* Most were not big fans of the pre-show and definitely liked seeing trailers better.

* The panelists like going to the movies with friends and are not fans of going alone.

* Price is most important for tickets and concessions.

* As a group, they thought MoviePass is the best deal ever.

* 3D doesn’t make a difference, but all loved the 3D in Avatar.

* This group was not interested in theatre service. They just want to see the movie.

* All but one watches pirated movies but said they would not do so if movies were cheaper.

* Several subscribe to Netflix but indicated that if they could not find the movie, they would pirate it.

The session was eye-opening. But it would have been even more productive if a few different age groups had been represented, along with at least one person who does not go the movies.

Ticketing Evolution

The traditional movie theatre box office hasn’t gone away, but in recent years the industry has seen more and more alternatives to longstanding face-to-face ticket sales. The ubiquity of smartphones, the lure of the web, and the public’s comfort with online transactions have all been factors in the growth of Internet and mobile movie-ticket purchases. Still, online ticketing accounts for only 25 percent of overall movie-ticket buys in North America, compared to a massive 80 percent in China.

But the percentage is growing each year, spurred most of all by the rise of luxury recliner seating in cinemas and the public’s urge to reserve those extra-comfy and roomy chairs. As Joel Davis, VP and chief operating officer at Premiere Cinema Corp., explains in our FJI exhibitor survey in this issue, “Patrons are quickly accepting the reserved model due to the wide acceptance of recliners. It’s the law of supply versus demand, due to the loss in chair inventory. It created a greater occupancy and a higher revenue stream for advance tickets that did not exist before.” Davis reports that since Premiere converted to recliner seating, his advanced reserved-seating sales have at least doubled.

No doubt about it, the movie-ticket landscape is changing. Fandango recently acquired MovieTickets.com, expanding its reach to all 40,000 screens across the U.S. Today’s Fandango is much more than just a ticketing platform; it’s also a source for information and trailers to encourage “movie discovery,” in the company’s words. Fandango has also integrated its ticketing into Apple’s Messages and Facebook’s Messenger platforms, making group outings easier to coordinate. That kind of social-media planning is also the raison d’être of Atom Tickets, a growing app that streamlines the process of planning a night out at the movies with friends.

Dynamic pricing is another hot trend. In our March issue, Andreas Fuchs talks with Claas Eimer, commercial director of German circuit UCI Kinowelt, which recently announced it is deploying Smart Pricer’s airfare-style pricing software in all 23 of its locations (totaling 203 screens). Leading U.S. circuit Regal Entertainment Group is also exploring the concept. And just before press time, Missouri-based circuit B&B Theatres announced a new arrangement with Dealflicks under which a varied amount of ticket and concession deals will be available for movies on certain days. Availability and prices will differ depending on time of day, day of week, seat availability and other factors.

And let’s not forget the boldest experiment of all: MoviePass, which just lowered its monthly fee from $9.95 to $7.95, if paid as a yearly subscription bundled with the Fandor streaming service. Some theatre circuits are embracing the scheme, which gives the public unlimited access to movies, and others like AMC Theatres are fighting it.Whatever the ultimate outcome, this is no longer your parents’ ticketing world.