Sony in Pre-Movie Promo Pact With Regal

LOS ANGELES Regal CineMedia and Sony Pictures Entertainment are expected to announce this week an integrated marketing partnership agreement making SPE the fourth player in what Regal calls its “2wenty” pre-show program, sources said.

The two-year pact, estimated by sources at $15-20 million, gives SPE a two-and-a-half minute block in each 20-minute pre-show for branded entertainment at Regal cinemas equipped with digital delivery systems. Regal’s other partners include NBC, Universal Pictures and Turner.

Cliff Marks, Regal’s president of marketing and sales in New York, said that by summer Regal would have equipped 5,300 of its 61,000 screens with digital delivery systems. The systems have reduced the time necessary to make changes, such as adding local tags, from eight to two weeks.

Marks said he expects what he calls “promo-tainment” from Regal’s partners, shorts that he “would liken to the bonus material on a DVD. We’re trying to make it a much more entertaining and engaging opportunity. We’re not so naive as to think people are coming for the pre-show, but we do know they are coming earlier to the theater, sitting there and doing nothing.”

Marks said research conducted through Roper and Nielsen indicates that nearly 80 percent of the audience is “neutral to very favorable to the show.” Marks said the chain’s policy is to start the movie exactly as billed, so that attending the pre-show is optional.

Jeff Blake, vice chairman of SPE in Culver City, Calif., said at first the block would be used for Sony’s movie, home entertainment and online enterprises, but that it could be opened up to other divisions once the firm sees “who’s paying attention.”

Blake said a behind-the-scenes short for Spider-Man 2 will premiere in June in advance of the movie’s July 2 release. “The main thing will be to separate the block from the usual trailers and give audiences an expanded look at product,” Blake said. “We give a lot of credit to Regal for making it an added value rather than a distraction.”

Blake said that cinema is an effective way to reach consumers. “One of the nice features of the program is that you don’t have to finely hone your demo and participate in the usual fractionalization,” he said. “This is clearly a movie-going audience.”