Rewarding the audience: Theatre circuits keep moviegoers coming back for more
In last year’s special section on screen advertising, we presented interactive ways of “Engaging the Audience” during the pre-show. In an equally exclusive follow-up, Film Journal International reports about another key component that aims to keep our ever-mobile moviegoers socially engaged and loyally connected with their cinema: rewards. While the experience of going to see a film on the big screen is certainly rewarding in and of itself, not to mention inherently and truly social (Take that, Facebook and Twitter!), it always helps business to do more for your guests.
“Give me free stuff, baby!” These words posted by Marcos Perez on the Facebook page of CinemaSync provide a suitable motto, and sent this author into the interconnected social strata. Moving from the location-based activity-sync component to the full “Movie Night Out” app that cinema advertiser NCM Media Networks has developed, your reporter discovered a Valentine’s Day posting that “over at the Regal page…we’ve got 10 Safe Haven movie prize packs up for grabs! For a chance to win, visit this page and leave a comment: http://regmovi.es/Y7AwOf.”
The film’s page reveals more than 405,000 likes, and the one at Regal lists no less than 2,022 posts, 2,700 likes and 33 Tweets from Jan. 22 to Feb. 15. Sorted by “Social Ranking,” Bonnie Hurlbrink from Raleigh, North Carolina, takes the lead: “So I met a guy two weeks ago who lives about three hours away....the following weekend he drove here just for my birthday and brought me the book…this weekend he is driving again to take me to the movie....this guy is really making me feel special! Prize pack would be awesome!”
Regal Entertainment Group has some 1.77 million Facebook likes and plenty more free stuff up for grabs for them. Whether posters covet a t-shirt that spells out “God Asks. The Devil Commands.” to wear on opening night of The Last Exorcism II or want to cash in on one of many discount coupons—free popcorn with ticket purchase for Jack the Giant Slayer on the Regal mobile app, 50% off the Die Hard 25th Anniversary Blu-ray collection—it’s a Good Day to join Regal Crown Club indeed. Counting more than seven million members, the circuit’s loyalty program is at the heart of Regal’s marketing activities, as detailed by Ken Thewes here.
Since launching right after CinemaCon 2011, AMC Stubs now has more than two million members. For more information about the loyalty program which offers “free upgrades on concessions any day, any time” and “online ticket purchase fees waived,” among many other things, see our May 2011 edition.
“We believe it is important to provide our most loyal guests with a program that provides them with a variety of rich rewards and, most importantly, rewards guests for dollars spent at AMC,” says Sun Dee Mills Larson, VP, film marketing and communications. Recent social rewards included chances to win a Texas Chainsaw 3D prize pack, and a poster from the AMCi film The Impossible signed by stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, along with the writers and director (both contests on Pinterest), and a chance to win a free trip to New Orleans thanks to The Last Exorcism II (on Facebook and Twitter). Twitter offered “FREE t-shirts for the first 300 people to see The Last Exorcism II at 10PM on 2/28 at select theatres.” And why not “Meet @EliRoth & @OfficialAshBell at the 10PM screening of @LastExorcism2 on Feb 28 at Burbank 16! Get tix!”
AMC Entertainment, Regal, National Amusements, Cinemark and Cineplex in Canada, to name only the exhibitors surveyed for this article, all took advantage of the excitement surrounding the Oscars this year. In addition to hosting nominee marathons, Best Picture showcases and screenings all movie week long at discounted prices, plenty of prizes became part of the party. “We’re only hours away until the big show! Comment below and let us know what movie(s) you think should win an Oscar?” Cinemark asked, urging moviegoers to go all-out social. “Make sure and follow us on Twitter (@CinemarkUSA) and live-tweet with us by using #CinemarkOscars! We’ll be giving away film nominee swag!” (www.facebook.com/cinemark, with 462,600 likes)
Attending Oscar-nominated titles qualified Regal Crown Club members to enter an exclusive sweepstakes that might make their “Red Carpet Dreams” come true by winning a trip to attend the Oscars in 2014. The two-day pass for back-to-back showings of all nine Best Picture candidates also came with a medium popcorn and drink $5 combo. Home to the seventh annual “Best Picture Showcase,” AMC Theatres made the entire countdown to the Academy Awards tastily rewarding to their guests. “AMC is going a step further, honoring each Oscar Best Picture nominee with its own special promotion,” the circuit announced (www.facebook.com/amctheatres, 3.585 million likes). From Feb. 3 to 24, guests enjoyed concession freebies, including a free pizza pie or French fries with ticket purchase to Life of Pi and Les Misérables, respectively. AMC also showed its love to ticket buyers for Amour with a complimentary Cameo light snack combo.
Both Cineplex and National Amusements hosted online Oscar contests. “You Pick the Winners,” the latter’s Showcase and Multiplex Cinemas invited moviegoers. Entering their predictions in nine categories qualified them to win a grand prize of one year’s worth of movie tickets, while five runner-ups received movie prize packs. “The contest had a fantastic response and the winners were thrilled to receive their prizes,” the circuit noted.
“Know (and love) movies?” Cineplex asked (www.facebook.com/Cineplex, 245,600 likes).
“Put your knowledge to the test! Put your best guesses forward on just who will win on Oscar night and you could win 10,000 SCENE Points! (That’s 10 free movies...)” Notes Mike Langdon, director of communications, “At Cineplex, we are focused on providing our guests an exceptional entertainment experience. Our SCENE loyalty program, which counts 4.3 million Canadians as members, contributes to the entertainment experience and encourages attendance by providing members the opportunity to earn and redeem points for movie admissions, concession combos, music, DVDs, movie downloads and more.”
Last September, Cineplex received two COLLOQUY awards for innovation in the segment, including the integration of points tracking and redemption via mobile phone as part of the Cineplex app. SCENEtourage was recognized for rewarding “the social experience of going to the movies” by allowing groups of three to ten people to earn additional points simply by watching movies together. (Currently, Cineplex offers special SCENE points for cinema meetings and booking XBOX gaming time at www.cineplex.com/CorporateSales.) SCENEtourage also has games for playing as a group for badges, status and bonus points.
Cineplex further counts on contests to keep moviegoers happy. A recent sampling (www.cineplex.com/Contests.aspx) included texting the keyword (found on Facebook and/or during the in-lobby show) to win an iPad Mini and XBOX gaming console (with Beautiful Creatures and Jack the Giant Slayer, respectively); a merchandising-focused promotion with Hamilton watches, cufflinks, pens and hats (tied in to A Good Day to Die Hard); and a trip for two to cause a SCENE at Fernie Alpine Resort (promoting “Outtakes,” Cineplex Entertainment’s proprietary hot food brand).
“There’s no hard and fast rule about contest volume,” Langdon explains. “The number varies from month to month and depends on a number of factors, including SCENE promotions and studios and distributors running contests in support of particular films.” One such promotion that effectively ties in all that with an interested target audience is “The Mega Movie Event.” Registering for and then seeing Warm Bodies, The Host and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones can yield up to a total of ten entries to win free movies for a year. Last but not least, SCENE members also receive a 10% discount on movie snacks at all times and earn a 10% bonus on ticket purchases on Cineplex Tuesday.
Similarly, membership in National Amusements’ Starpass eliminates service fees on MovieTickets.com. “The program provides additional value to our patrons,” explains Elaine Purdy, VP, U.S. marketing. “Members earn points for every dollar they spend and receive free movie tickets and concessions along the way. They also receive invitations to screenings and the chance to enter exclusive sweepstakes.” Once moviegoers accumulate 2,500 credits, they have attained the prestigious “Director Status” and receive additional benefits that include priority seating at “Chatters” and “Studio 3” restaurants and 10% bonus points on all ticket and concession credits earned.
Showcase Cinemas itself deserves a special credit for rewarding children and families with a rewards program of their very own. When joining the “Popcorn Club,” the young moviegoer receives a membership card that is preloaded with a free ticket and 1-2-3 Go Box of small popcorn and soft drink, alongside getting a special size candy and members-only backpack. With a retail price of $27 for the full package, the one-time membership fee of $10 is definitely a deal, especially taking into account that the young members receive a free movie on their birthdays too. Popcorn clubsters enjoy “great rewards and fun movie items all year long,” Purdy assures. Not to mention “invitations to special events, the chance to enter exclusive contests, and special promotional offers.”
Going full social, rewards and special offers are also promoted on Facebook. Showcase Cinemas (125,750 likes) has upgraded the functionality of its popular “Fan of the Week” page. “Movie fans upload a photo of themselves taken at any Showcase Cinemas to our custom-built Facebook tab,” Purdy previews. As before, “one fan is selected randomly each week and given a pair of movie passes and a prize pack for a film opening that week.” Feb. 15 for instance marked “not one, not two, but FIVE Fans of the Week,” Showcase posted. “Erica M. in the Boston area, you’re getting a signed Safe Haven movie poster. Four others will be receiving Safe Haven prize packs. Congratulations and enjoy!” Speaking of signed posters for posters: “We are giving away this signed Expendables 2 poster when we hit 99,700 likes. Anyone who has entered on our Fan of the Week tab has a chance to win.” Five days later brought “Congrats to David V. of Woburn, MA for winning…”
For their “chance to score a @safehavenmovie prize pack!” Cinemark utilized Instagram to find out from its guests “where your #SafeHaven is.” One random entry received the prize pack “PLUS a signed copy of the book by @juleshough @IAmNicholasSparks and #JoshDuhamel!” Four other entries received prize packs. (http://instagram.com/p/Vm5gmUuCgq, 157 photos; 2,240 followers).
Next month’s feature on Cinemark CineMode and exclusive interview with James Meredith, vice president, head of marketing and communications, will show how rewarding one patron can actually benefit and create a Safe Haven for all.