Cinema is moving on TV for big cultural watercooler moments – more so for under 30s
It may seem counterintuitive but streaming video services and social media are driving the public’s desire for mass connecting cultural moments. The physical presence of the box office and a slate of blockbuster movies is doing just that – admissions among 14-24-year-olds were up 20% last year.
"People just don’t stay at home and binge content. They’re still looking for that shared experience."
When Woolworths credited a 7.5 per cent sales jump for the September quarter last year partly to its Lion King Ooshies collectibles promotion, market researcher Matt Sandwell wasn’t a bit surprised. It’s about psychology.
Consumers, he says, are craving more mass cultural moments of connection just as personalised technology and proliferating media choice makes them more difficult to find.
“While people are embracing more progressive or alternative channels, equally people are kind of reverting back to the traditional, the known and the comfortable,” says Sandwell, principal of The Owl Insights. “We’re social animals. We need to fit. We need to reflect who we are.”
That’s the social science part of the equation.
In blunt commercial terms, this underlying desire for broad cultural connections has the box office in “rude health”, producing a string of titles that are rivalling TV shows as the trigger for cultural “water cooler” events and giving brands an alternate route to create large-scale culture alliances.
"We know a third of the cinema-going audience have no interest in the Olympics. No doubt there will be some large reach but we see a real opportunity to be another media choice outside of the Olympics."
Super Bowl moments
Avengers: Endgame is a case in point. Val Morgan’s managing director Guy Burbidge says for the first 10 days of its launch, sessions were running from 7am-2am daily to keep up, along with 34,000 kilograms of popcorn.
It’s partly driven by escapism from what Sandwell says is a widespread sense of bleakness and volatility pulsing through the community but also because films are breaking from the predictable.
“Evolving storylines and great storytelling is certainly what’s first and foremost for audiences,” says Burbidge. “You certainly see that playing out in other media channels at the moment where perhaps evolving storylines haven’t really been the core and audiences are changing significantly as a result. We know that people are talking around movies more than ever so the potential for brands is exciting.”
With under 30 audiences at the cinema up 7 per cent in 2019 and 14-24-year-olds up 20 per cent, Burbidge says the perception that on-demand streaming services are biting cinema are misguided. “We see no signs of that changing in any way shape or form this year,” he says. “And part of that is people just don’t stay at home and binge content. They’re still looking for that shared experience that Matt talks about.”
Burbidge says the signals are good for cinema even throughout the 2020 Olympics “We know a third of the cinema-going audience have no interest in the Olympics and 35 per cent are fans of convenience – they’ll dip in and out of ceremonies and key events and that’s it,” he says. “No doubt there will be some large reach but we see a real opportunity to be another media choice outside of the Olympics.”
Here’s some key takeaways:
- 83 per cent of people say movies normally come up in their conversation with family and friends
- 2020 admissions up 6 per cent YOY
- 83 per cent says movies are a great way to spend time with friends and family
- $220m spent at the box office in the past 6 weeks – up 15 per cent YOY
Cinema’s 2020 “Super Bowl moments” include:
- Top Gun
- No Time to Die – James Bond
- Fast & Furious 9
- Black Widow
- Wonder Woman
- Disney’s Mulan
Burbidge says this year cinema will be pushing its credentials to brand owners and agencies as one of the few remaining epicentres of mass cultural conversations. “There a bit of a gap in the market understanding of what role cinema can play on a schedule beyond being nice-to-have at the end,” he says. “The smart marketers that are coming on board are having really interesting conversations about how cinema can play beyond just supporting TV.”