Movie Theaters Are Thriving With Millennial Viewers, According to Ad Sales Teams

Upfronts say data shows a growing passion for cinema

Talks of a merger between movie theater advertising powerhouses Screenvision and National CineMedia (NCM) broke down 14 months ago. A little over a year later, the companies are going their own ways, each holding upfront presentations to pitch ad buyers on what advertising to millennial moviegoers can mean for brands.

At a jam-packed presentation last week at New York's Moynihan Station, Screenvision CEO John Partilla spoke about the captive audience and immersive experience cinema delivers, something he feels TV has struggled to achieve lately. "There's only one Super Bowl, one Oscars, but cinema is 52 weeks a year," said Partilla, who took charge of the company late last year.

Meanwhile, NCM held its upfront on Wednesday, appropriately, at a movie theatre. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson cooked up post-presentation eats at the AMC Lincoln Square theater. While Screenvision talked up its partnerships with MovieTickets.com, social site Timeplay and EdisonX, NCM focused the overwhelming bulk of its presentation on millennials and data.

"Our millennial movie-going audience grew over 16 percent in 2015 and is already up 8 percent so far this year!" said NCM president Cliff Marks, who also took a shot at broadcast TV and its decline in ratings.

NCM rolled out data: Millennials are 50 percent more likely than the general population to say movies are a passion; they are the age group most likely to purchase movie tickets in advance; and 86 percent of them arrive early. NCM is working with its new Nielsen Marketing Cloud Data Management Platform to glean data on loyalty programs, mobile panels and credit card purchases of filmgoers.

Screenvision is moving deeper into original content with the creation of Movie Night, a three-minute pre-movie program which focuses on five young actors and friends who meet at a movie theater every Friday night. Supporting brands can be integrated into the episodes as the sixth character and create a running theme or storyline across the series.

Both NCM and Screenvision shared trailers of upcoming films, including the next Star Wars film Rogue One, due out in December.

"The big screen experience can't be replicated by TV," said Screenvision's Partilla. "There will always be a captive, attentive audience for movies."