Driving Cinema Attendance Through Personalization — a few words about my panel at CinemaCon 2013

Last week I gave the most important talk of my life. I was lucky enough to present on stage at CinemaCon 2013 in Las Vegas to hundreds of cinema officials. The presentation was a huge success and we’ve been approached by a number of industry leaders interested in deploying our solution throughout their communication channels. Due to popular request I’d like to share my slides and some thoughts about the programme.

I was part of the panel called “Driving Incremental Admissions Through Innovative, Personalized and Engaging Communication Techniques” led by Mark de Quervain, who has recently left Vue Entertainment. Apart from Mark and myself myself on stage we also had Marieke Jonker (CEO at Amstel Filmand, We Want Cinema) and Bobby Mutraporn (Director at Independents United). The official abstract of the programme went like this:

This program will demonstrate how to drive significant additional attendance through using affordable new customer facing marketing tools including dynamic personalized film recommendation and crowd sourced demand systems specifically designed for the cinema. We will also show how you can encourage profitable cinema going through better use of social media and other channels while talking into account the need to talk about the best ever cinema experience and growing choice of content.

Mark started by quoting some troubling numbers about cinemagoers around the world. The attendance has been flat for the last 10 years and the only reason for box office going up are prices going up. Half of the whole population who never go to cinema and 11% of population drives 50% attendances. Where the biggest potential for growth is though, is not these top cinemagoers who often participate in cinema loyalty programmes, but in the next group, those who attend 5-6 times a year. Watch Mark’s introduction here.

This is where Filmaster (and myself on stage) comes in. Here’s more or less what I said:

Part of the reason for flat attendance is simply the lack of awareness. The industry had done a good job in the past but content is increasing, the market is crowded, people have less time, there’s just too much stuff everywhere, so a lot of quality content gets lost in the noise, particularly films outside the top 30 that struggle to get heard due to shrinking marketing budgets. Filmaster’s mission is to help cinema chains drive attendance through personalization. We focus on making occasional cinema goers want to watch more by matching them with the right content at the right time.

Personalization is the future. It’s everywhere: on Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and Google. Most VOD platforms already have it. Yet, when I go to a website of my favorite cinema chain or read an email, you guys tell me that twilight 6 is coming to theaters… Or that I should really watch that new Harry Potter feature next week. But I don’t really care about Harry Potter. Needless to say I don’t find adolescent vampires appealing, either. I would rather watch a good drama or an action flick. But how do I know that a picture matching my taste is coming to a cinema nearby? We have to send people what is relevant and engaging… things that they WILL like, not what we want them to like.

Filmaster works by combining top-notch recommendation algorithms with a vast crowd-sourced and curated database of interconnections between movies and shows. We analyze people’s tastes, process through algorithms and match people with upcoming movies this very person would enjoy most based on their social media profile or direct input, i.e. rating the films. The typical deployment involves placing a Filmaster widget on your website. the widget is responsible for sending usage data to Filmaster’s cloud. Filmaster then analyzes this data and comes back with a list of personalized recommendations that can be placed on your website, apps or integrated into your newsletter service, so that you can personalize the communication with your customers across all channels. You dont need to have any special system in place to use Filmaster, as the solution comes together with the data in the cloud. There is no cold start problem as the solution comes with historical data, but The algoritms learn, too, so the recommendations get even better in time.

I then showcased a few successful deployments of Filmaster’s personalization technology in the VOD space as well as in the cinema space (our recent development together with Emprire Cinemas in the UK).

Update: you can now watch my presentation on YouTube:

as well as download my slides from the below widget. Enjoy!

Marieke took over afterwards to discuss her cool crowd-sourcing platform that helps get old movies to local cinemas by popular demand–people simply signing up to watch them in a Groupon model, but without all the creepy parts (watch her speech here). Eventually Bobby came on stage to share his expertise in social media marketing, showcasing his amazing ASOS campaign (video pending) and pitched how his smart ideas can simply make businesses grow. This especially applies to cinema which frankly speaking, lacks innovation in the social media space. No, having a fan page and a Twitter account does not really count as active social media marketing (watch Bobby’s talk).

I think we did a great job overall showing the industry where they should focus their efforts in order to drive attendance, engagement and loyalty of their customers, the cinemagoers. The rest of the conference reflected what we said, too. There was a lot of talking about how to make people watch movies on a big screen and what technology should be used to force them to ditch their huge TV screens and go out to watch a movie in a theater. I don’t think this technology is called 4K, new sound systems or other costly technological efforts. I believe this can be achieved with affordable techniques like personalization, social media marketing and analytics. I hope we have managed to disrupt the old way of thinking a bit and the reactions and meetings we had during the whole event tend to prove that indeed we did.

I hope to share some great results of new cooperations as a result of CinemaCon 2013 very soon!

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