Will Movie Marketing Spend Be Up Or Down Going Forward?

Movie studios' marketing may never be the same due to rising streaming platforms.

Sure, we have seen a handful of movies coming back to near pre-pandemic levels in terms of opening-weekend box-office results: “Black Widow,” “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

Even then, the second and third weeks of those big movies -- still important time periods -- have seen some alarming theatrical revenue declines, especially “Black Widow” -- down 67% in its second week.

Plus, the National Association of Theater Owners says the movie’s $80 million opening weekend actually should have been around $100 million. It attributes the dip to traffic going to Disney+, Disney’s streaming platform.

Could movie marketing have eased these theatrical revenues declines? And more importantly, what happens now that streaming will be a factor for years to come?



Yes, theatrical audiences are coming back. But it’s still slow. Only one in two adults feel comfortable going into a movie theater, according to a recent poll.

But what about new growth in COVID-19 infections?

A historically stronger theatrical fall and winter movie season is coming up -- and that may not be good for keeping infections at bay. In addition, a good 40% or more of U.S. citizens are still firmly in the camp of not wanting to take the vaccine. There are more than a few negatives for the marketplace.

Consider the long term. Will movie studios continue to hype theatrical business at the same dollar level as their owned streaming platforms, where they also want growth?

There’s an old saying about serving two masters. You can’t.

Current theatrical marketing copy just gives adults a choice. See the movie “in theater and streaming.”

That sends a signal: It’s OK to stay at home this weekend. That said, theatrical movies’ core audience -- teens and young adults -- will continue to seek out the communal experience of cinemas.

Movie-studio marketing executives have long been savvy to using digital media -- social media, in particular -- as strong promotional tools to market films. In response to the current movie marketplace, Facebook says it has tools to get moviegoers back into cinemas. But is that enough?

At the same time, don’t count out TV advertising for scale and reach. It continues to be a big promotional generator, especially when reaching those prized films that cater to ‘four quadrant” audiences -- the broadest-base of moviegoers.

Consider the $1.4 billion in estimated national TV advertising spend for movie studios in 2019, according to Now think about today. It's a polite way of asking: What gets cut, and what gets added?

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