Fourth quarter, bring us home! Holiday movies promise diverse concession profits


The fourth quarter of 2012 started off with a great first weekend in October and promises to finish out the year strong. Will it? The slate of films coming all the way through the end of the year is tracking well and building lots of hope. The concession promos and sweepstakes are doing their part to help the year’s profit margins give us a robust finish to 2012. We are going to need it with the rise of food prices coming in 2013, especially corn, which we will explore next month. But to stay on track, let’s review the next three months of activity.
October was a strong month, but it’s really the calm before the holiday storm. The month started out way above last year’s attendance number and teed up a great November. The kid-friendly Halloween movie Frankenweenie kicked it off along with a few horror flicks such as Sinister and Paranormal Activity 4. Cup and bag promos for Frankenweenie and the earlier ParaNorman were in full swing in September and carried over into October. The adult lineup of films for October was also impressive, topped by the critically acclaimed Argo.

November is widely considered to be a monster month this year with a big lineup. The highest anticipation, of course, is for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II. This is the final installment and will definitely be a great concession film with its demographic. The cup and bag promos for this film are getting ready to launch, to compete with Skyfall, the latest James Bond adventure. That film is also tracking well and has the demographic and action classification to also promise high concession sales.

But with the expanded offerings at the theatre, including dine-in concepts, cafés and bars, the ability to create food and beverage sales is no longer tied to the big blockbuster. Adult genre films are bringing in the audience that is attracted to these alternative options to the traditional concession stand, and the wide variety of films this holiday season will benefit the bottom line accordingly.

There are still the big kid films that will drive popcorn sales such as Wreck-It Ralph in November, complete with a Nesquik sweepstakes and a Subway promotion. But Life of Pi is a more interesting question. Ang Lee’s latest will be a crossover film with a mixed demographic, and a wide food offering at the theatre will play well to those chains that have moved beyond the basics. Red Dawn is another film in this category: It will play to my generation, who remembers the original, and we are of drinking age now… The expansion of the movie theatre into the area of full restaurant offerings, or even limited ones, is helping drive food and beverage sales to both higher per-capita sales and true consistency, which used to be so elusive.

After November fills the theatre seats, December brings a few big films promising to help finish out the year strong, starting with the eagerly anticipated The Hobbit. We just can’t put down the J.R.R. Tolkien novels, and Peter Jackson again brings that fantasy world to the screen. This film should perform well because the literary foundation assures a wide audience and the Lord of the Rings trilogy was critically acclaimed. The film will draw a large demographic which will push food and beverage sales, and there are several promotions around the movie as well, including concession packaging and sweepstakes that were offered by several different companies to win trips to the premiere.

There are several other films in December with wide releases that will likely earn critical acclaim and perform well, starting with Les Miserables. It will be a challenge to market this film to an American audience which will not know the original classic novel as well as it knows The Hobbit, but the film promises to be an extravaganza. Once again, the diversity of the food offering will come into play as this film caters to an older, more sophisticated group. But if it plays as well as promised, think The Phantom of the Opera, which broke through pre-conceived notions of the audience and played so well to the larger population.

All of the coming films promise to provide fun holiday fare. That motivates the audience to come to the cinema willing to buy food and beverages to accompany their experience. The conversation always circles back to experience, which is why the genre of the film and the widening variety of options go hand-in-hand. To support the environment of a movie theatre, we have to have film product and a reason to leave home. The social aspect of the theatre is the motive, but the experience once there is what has to drive success. The theatre industry has fully embraced this philosophy, which is why the year 2012 should end well.

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