By Melissa Slater, Hughes Agency
July 5, 2023
It’s officially July.
The month of vacations, pool parties, lake days and of course, the release of the summer’s hottest blockbusters.
At Endeavor’s most recent Collaborators & Cocktails event, we got to sit down with one of the former top guns of the movie theater industry, Ken Thewes.
Thewes, former chief marketing officer of Regal Cinemas for 10+ years, educated the packed theater (okay, Endeavor’s presentation space) on some headwinds that the industry is facing and the pivots that they are making to address them.
Here’s what we learned about an industry that we have all spent some time (and money) in:
- COVID-19 was not the first time the industry had been dramatically hurt. The movie business has faced a number of historical headwinds in the past century including the Great Depression, the invention of the TV, and followed by that, the invention of color.
- The number of movies released each year has dwindled significantly in the past five years. This is in part due to streaming channels, such as Netflix and Disney +, releasing new films straight to their individual platforms.
- Other challenges the industry has grappled with include audience dissatisfaction with many advertisements being run pre-show, an abundance of movie previews dipping into the listed start time of the film, and Thewes’ personal favorite, the popcorn being too expensive.
To address the issues they were facing, multiple pivots were made.
Changing the Experience
Recliners were added in the worst performing theaters, which proved an immediate return on investment. Food and beverage at concessions were upgraded, resulting in more restaurant-quality food. Additionally, wine and beer were added to the menu in some locations, and the alcohol margins proved incredible. Lastly, premium screens were installed, resulting in bigger screen size, and better sound and projection quality.
Shifting to Digital Sales
Ten years ago, digital sales options were only utilized by a small percentage of moviegoers. Once Regal’s website and app rolled out, that quickly changed and today, 93% of movie tickets are sold digitally. Not surprisingly, those digital sales come with a convenience fee, and that convenience fee equates to just shy of $100 million annually for Regal.
Implementing Subscription Plans
In 2019, Regal launched Regal Unlimited, the “all-you-can-watch movie pass that pays for itself in just 2 visits.” Regal Unlimited subscribers also receive discounts on concessions, rewards, and exclusive opportunities.
Embracing Augmented Reality
Regal rolled out augmented reality with an “it’s just there” mindset, meaning that behind certain movie launches, Regal would include some type of AR experience as part of the promotion package. Just the mention of it caused unforeseen benefits, including a remarkable increase in app downloads. In one year, 30 different AR experiences were created, which gained over three million engagements and a 38% increase in weekly app downloads.
What movie are you most excited to see this summer? As a Ryan Gosling fangirl, I’m personally looking forward to watching Barbie— and of course, at a Regal theater with a large buttery popcorn in hand.