In-Theatre Audience as Interactive Buzz-Builder

When was the last time you went to the movies? I, like much of the rest of America, enjoy going to the movies and spending my (gulp) $9.50 on two hours of pure entertainment. I probably go to the movies anywhere from 2-5 times per month, which can amount to almost 10 hrs of movie theatre time, all of which is extremely focused on the screen in front of me.

According to a 2003 study from Arbitron, the American movie audience is very receptive to in-theatre advertising. This audience is young, affluent and largely un-tapped by American advertising (according to this study, almost $1 billion is spent on in-theatre advertising with a small portion of this being in the US). This audience would appear to overlap nicely with the most active, valuable portion of the Internet audience, making it seem like a missed opportunity for advertisers in today's cluttered, A.A.D.D. market (for those who know me, this refers to Advertising Attention Deficit Disorder, a term I use quite often).



For many advertisers, specifically in the interactive space, generating buzz is a primary objective. Buzz is what creates word-of-mouth, referral advertising. Buzz increases a consumer's propensity to react and respond and remember your brand. These elements can translate into customers.

In the last two years or so, a number of theatre chains have switched over to Digital movie formats, allowing content to be streamed in over the Internet to the theatres, cutting back on distribution and development costs. This pipeline could also be used in a more immediate format for creating true movie-going events. For example, what's to stop a concert from being broadcast into theatres around the world and at the same time, "live" from a central location? What if Sting did a concert for the rainforests, broadcast to all Loews theatres and tickets were sold for $20 each? What if there was a Bush/Kerry debate held in these theatres and broadcast over the Internet with questions and answers being supplied by the theatre-attending audience for $5 each? The web becomes a great distribution vehicle for the events, which are centered in the theatres. The true interactivity occurs in the theatres, but the world at large is available to view the proceedings online. This becomes an extremely effective buzz-building opportunity that leverages the affluent, younger, and very highly sought after demographic of the US audience, as well as the audience at large.

Couple this idea with event marketing efforts, additional offline promotion, and additional online opportunities for follow-ups with message boards and chat rooms that leverage the community around this type of an event, and it becomes an extremely powerful idea.

Logistically speaking, this could certainly be a task to undertake but the effective reach of this type of event is large and the inherent advertising opportunities for tying together the web and offline advertising could be great.

There are specific types of advertisers that this idea would work well for and certain types that it would not. It would also require much planning and coordination to isolate a partner who runs a majority of digital theatres and would be willing to manage this type of event. That being said, the costs should be minimized due to the digital nature of the content distribution and the price of the tickets for attendance could be set in a way that covers the costs plus some profit. Selling sponsorships and incorporating advertising via commercials or product placement would also become sources of revenue for an opportunity such as this, if anyone wanted to undertake it.

I am wondering what you think of an idea such as this? Have you heard of anyone undertaking such a concept to date? As always, my goal in sharing these types of ideas is to throw out concepts that I think could work and better the flow of ideas for the industry, so let us know what you think.


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