For decades, Hollywood movies dominated our lives. The movies were our weekend past-time, the place of our first date, and our retreat during the hot summer months. Today, if you asked the average American when the last time they went to the movies, they would likely have to think really hard. Hollywood has failed to keep moviegoers engaged, and it needs to ask itself why ticket sales have dropped over 18% since 2002 (Nash Information Services, 2013). The details can be debated – but, ultimately, it comes down to technology, easy access to content (free, paid and pirated downloads and streaming), comfort and cost.
Access to high quality, in-home entertainment is easy and is getting easier every day, thanks to better and cheaper smart TVs and adapters, increased viewership on tablets and smartphones, improved Internet TV apps and faster streaming.
The number of internet users who downloaded a movie within the last month has grown 259% in the past four years, and 28% in just the past 12 months. Surprisingly, this is being done across all age groups.
Easy Access to Content
Piracy is also a big contributing factor, as an estimated $25 billion in revenue is lost annually by U.S. film studios (MPAA 2012).
Americans seem to be okay with the notion of “free for me,” since the vast majority feel that it is completely “reasonable” to share files with family and friends, 70% and 54%, respectively. Furthermore, we are finding that anyone can be a pirate, with 46% of adults 18+ and 70% of adults 18-29 who have bought or downloaded pirated movies from friends/family. (Columbia University, Copy Culture in the US, page 63).
Comfort and Cost
Although theaters have begun to offer premium services and more comfortable seating, consumers need continual and marked improvements in experience to justify the continued rise in the price of movie tickets.
Consumer spending on digital home entertainment has also increased by more than 24% from the first half 2012 through the first half 2013 (Digital Entertainment Group, 2013). Consumers are actively evaluating whether or not movie going provides something they can’t get at home and, in turn, investing in theater quality entertainment systems.
Why Lapsed Audiences Should Go Back and How Hollywood Can Get Them Back
Our lives are structured around interruption through technology. At the movie theater, we are forced to go radio silent – making it one of the few bastions of pure enjoyment. How can lapsed theatergoers be convinced to return to the theater when they think they have exactly what they want at home? It’s a two-fold promise that needs to be made by theaters to audiences:
1. Promise audiences they can use the movie theater as the ultimate escape from their hectic lives
2. Promise an added-value packed experience: more immersive audio/visual (3D, IMAX), expanded concessions services (more happy hour menu than kiddie birthday party snacks), double-features (the movie equivalent of BOGO) and special screenings for loyalty members.
What Marketers Can Do to Help
As marketers and media professionals, it is our job to get people in the door. It’s up to us to sell the consumer on the two-fold promise. We have to capitalize on the moments when people are exasperated and in a need of a two-hour escape.
It’s having the right message on the subway platform: greeting those whose commute was supposed to be 20 minutes but actually took two hours; or on the radio when the traffic is terrible and the weather is miserable. It’s being there at the end of a TV show season or when someone is streaming a movie soundtrack. It’s also about continually reminding potential movie audiences that there is a place where they can go to escape the constant onslaught of life and be entertained.
After we get people in the door, it is up to the movie companies and theater owners to ensure that the experience is so good that they gain loyal customers and turn them into evangelists. Then, and only then, is there the possibility of a new golden age for Hollywood.