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Do People Still Go to The Cinema?

Posted In: Media by Connor,
January 23, 2024

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We all know that cinema attendance declined during and after the pandemic, but, with successful turnouts for films like Barbie, is cinema advertising still a worthy investment? 

Regardless of audience figures, cinemas are an effective advertising channel because the audience are in a captured environment – they can’t skip or fast forward, and the atmosphere created by cinemas leaves viewers relaxed and receptive to the content they’re seeing. Sure, audience members could be on their phones, but with the large screen and high-definition sound systems – ads are much harder to ignore. As a result, Cinema has the highest engagement (and lowest ad avoidance) score of the major advertising channels. The cinema’s ability to utilise colour, sound and motion on the ‘big screen’, increases ad recall and brand recognition, and is not reliant on frequency like other ads. DCM states that even though 95% of ads shown in cinemas are also shown on TV, 85% of viewers think it’s a different ad, suggesting that advertising in cinema can be a great choice for those looking to increase brand awareness with a high level of impact.

Cinema advertising is also the second most trusted form of advertising, perhaps in part because of the legitimacy of the films they precede but also because, (like TV) every ad is vetted and cleared before it can be exhibited. 

Another pro for cinema advertising would be the ability to geo-target audiences, and with cinemas often found in, or near, shopping centres or retail parks, it’s possible to position ads close to the point of purchase.

But, what’s the point of all of that if no one sees it?

Well, it’s true to say that cinema admissions are not where they were in 2019, but it would be impossible to ignore the huge numbers that we saw in Summer 2023 (thanks to Barbie’s creative marketing campaign and the meme-ification of ‘Barbenheimer’). In fact, July 2023 saw 17.6 million admissions, which was the highest cinema attendance since December 2019, and higher than the pre-pandemic monthly average of around 14 million.

Admissions are still down on pre-pandemic levels overall, with 117 million admissions in 2022 compared to 177 million and 176 million admissions in 2018 and 2019 respectively, but it’s not all bad news…

Thanks to the success of 2023’s biggest films, attendances do seem to be rising. Data from The UK Cinema Association shows last year’s total admissions as around 113 million from January to November, but DCM estimates that this could actually be as high as 140 million, an increase of almost 20% from 2022.

So, is this hinting towards admission numbers returning to normal?

Although admission figures are yet to reach 2019’s level, over 80% of UK adults are reported to have visited the cinema in the last year, with 64% of that audience being ABC1 adults. This perhaps suggests that audience numbers have not dropped due to lack of interest across the board, but that the rising popularity of streaming and short form content among younger people has caused the demographic to shift somewhat post-pandemic. 

Traditionally, 16-24 year-olds made up the largest portion of cinema viewers, a fact that remained true in stats until 2019. Now, however, we are seeing that 34.7% of regular cinema viewers are in the 25 to 34 age group compared to just 21.4% for 16-24 year-olds. 

This information presents an interesting opportunity for brands to get in front of an older audience in a space that doesn’t currently seem to target them. For example, the majority of cinema ads are for brands with a younger audience, e.g. Pepsi Max, Dominoes, etc. as well as Universities or apprenticeships. So, if we consider that the majority of viewers are over 25, they may be shown adverts aimed towards younger people, and cinemas could be an opportunity to get more appropriate brands in front of this demographic in a less saturated market. Overall, even though cinema attendance isn’t as high as it used to be, it is by no means low, and with the prospects of more blockbuster movies hoping to emulate the success of films like Barbie in 2024 and beyond, cinemas feel like a promising avenue to consider as part of a media campaign. And when you add the trust factor and potential to stand out to a changing demographic, it seems well worth finding out if cinema advertising could work for your brand.


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