I ate so much movie popcorn I’m about to explode – quick, where’s the nearest burger joint?
Dinner and a movie — or more commonly, a movie and dinner — are alive and well. In a 2022 study of 1,000 US moviegoers, film advertising company Screenvision Media and data analytics firm Screen Engine/ASI’s study found that 79 percent of respondents visited a restaurant or café immediately before or after seeing a movie in theaters.
Like all good data, it gets more granular than that. Those companies also have a good idea of Where you’re eating and drinking – and the answer dovetails perfectly with those ubiquitous ads that force-feed your attention before previews. They can be long and loud, but you can’t say they don’t work.
Tracking is simple, relatively speaking: Third-party companies like cloud-based location technology platform Foursquare pull data from your Mobile ID, and if you’ve opted twice for location tracking on some smartphone apps, you’re i their latest data point. (GasBuddy or some weather apps are particularly favorites.) Screenvision also works with the M4, which gets its data from a panel that’s probably more aware of the location-based information being compiled and sold.
Regardless of where you are, what advertisers really want to do is influence why you go there. And the more you see an ad during Screenvision’s “Screenvision Front + Center” or NCM’s “Noovie” pre-feature show, the more likely you are to visit one of the advertised establishments.
Viewers may complain that they are a captive audience for big-screen ads, but captivity often translates into engagement. When the screen is huge and sound is unavoidable, the viewer is often invested beyond the price of admission.
Most moviegoers purchase tickets a day or more before showtime and travel an average of 11 miles from home to the theater, according to industry data. This is an audience that is “begging the screen to entertain them,” Jennifer Friedlander, vice president of insights and measurement at Screenvision, told IndieWire. The result is high attention spans and recall rates.
“There’s something that happens when you sit down, because you know you won’t be interrupted for more than two hours,” Friedlander said. “You have a 40 foot screen in front of you, you are ready to be entertained and involved. And this is where our advertising lives.”
During pre-show, including commercials, a movie theater audience’s eyes are on the big screen for about 23 seconds out of 30 seconds, or about 75 percent of the time, according to an April 2023 Amplified Intelligence study. the medium of television, in which the eyes are on the screen for only 11 seconds (36 percent of the time for linear TV; 34 percent in streaming) of each half-minute commercial.
The disparity in recall, or ability to remember seeing a particular ad, is even wider. Over the past four years, movie theater audiences have experienced an average ad recall rate of 72 percent, according to data from Screenvision. The general consensus is that TV ads have less than 20% recall.
“We’re probably pushing some activity,” Screenvision CEO John Partilla told IndieWire. While his announcements probably “won’t let you run away and buy a car,” “you’re going to the margarita joint” that was advertised ahead of the feature film’s unveiling.
Movie ads also work to promote major chains. Years ago, Friedlander said he partnered with Applebees to place a theatrical ad targeting menu changes; the brand recorded a 50% increase. Most recently he has worked with Starbucks; He found that after audiences were exposed to an ad for the coffee chain, those viewers went to a Starbucks 3% more often over the next four weeks.
“For a brand like Starbucks that’s so well penetrated, that’s huge,” Friedlander said.
NCM, which is Screenvision’s main rival and the larger of the two movie ad sales companies, did not respond to IndieWire’s request to participate in this story.
Movie theaters are happy to have ad revenue, which is split with an NCM or Screenvision, but they’d be even happier if those ads didn’t work. The exhibitors would like to be the ones who relieve you of the budget of the entire evening.
According to Wanda Gierhart, head of marketing and content at Cinemark, 80% of their theaters have food and drink options in addition to the standard concessions, and 60% of them serve alcohol. AMC, the single movie theater chain larger than Cinemark in the United States, didn’t immediately respond to our request for comparable statistics.
“We are big data people,” Gierhart said. “And we use all of this data to influence all of our food and beverage offerings (and) our cocktail offerings.”