Film connection reels 'em in

By Published on .

It was an action-packed, goofy comedic summer on the big screen, with just the kind of adrenaline-rush, crassly funny, thrill-filled fare that men love. "Bad Boys II," "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "Scary Movie 3," "Bruce Almighty," "The Matrix Reloaded" and "2 Fast 2 Furious," among others, drew audiences filled largely with male fans.

Even with overall attendance taking a dip for the year as a whole, compared with 2002's record box office performance, young men continued to be among the most frequent and fervent moviegoers. According to Nielsen Cinema, which began measuring theater attendance in mid-2003, an average 14.6 million men between 18 and 34 years old went to the movies monthly between May and September, 15.7% of the total 93.1 million moviegoers.

In that same coveted demo, which has seen a Nielsen-reported 4% drop in TV viewing this past season, half said they go to the movies once a month or more; 27% reported they'd gone in the last week.

Regal Cinemas, in its own study, found that men 18-34 hit theaters 2.1 times a month. The demo makes up 23% of the total moviehouse audience, Regal says.

TV BECOMES MOVIE FAN

Because there's such a concentration of young men at the movies, broadcast and cable TV networks have stepped up their in-theater advertising to try to reach this elusive, entertainment-hungry group. In-theater advertising executives say TV networks are now in the top three buyers of on-screen time.

"The number of networks using this space has increased, the money they spend has increased and they're buying more screens, more frequently," says Todd Siegel, exec VP-sales and marketing for Screenvision Cinema Network. "They used to have the luxury of using their own airwaves to build brand awareness and drive tune-in. Now, they need to go elsewhere to find this audience and try to get them back."

General Electric Co.'s NBC signed a deal about a year ago that gives the network pre-show time at Regal Cinemas to promote its series and specials. Among the recent TV shows hyped on the silver screen: the drama "Las Vegas" and sitcom "Scrubs."

"The theater venue is a good place to reach people who are already interested in entertainment," says John Miller, VP at The Agency, NBC's marketing unit. Regal and other chains offer loyalty cards to reward those frequent moviegoers, and have created pre-show shorts and commercial pods. "They're not chained to TV," says Doug Pulick, Regal's VP-research. "They're mobile."

The DVD market-where movies and TV converge to attract young men-continues in hyperdrive. By the end of 2003, there were 55 million DVD households in the U.S., according to the Digital Entertainment Group, an industry trade association. That figure represents a 39% jump from 2002.

Consumers buy an average of 17 DVDs a year, DEG estimates, far more movies than they ever collected on VHS. Sales and rental numbers are climbing, with the figure expected to hit $12.3 billion by the end of 2003, according to Adams Media Research.

Men are spending more time watching DVDs because personal libraries have grown. "Their collections are deeper now, and they have more to watch," says Danny Kaye, senior VP-business development at News Corp.'s Fox Home Entertainment.

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