Cinema Advertising: Interview with Screenvision CEO John Partilla

What drew you to this industry?

I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in this unique niche, with this immersive, large-screen experience, distraction-free environment. The advertising world is very much about serving people anywhere and anytime, which tends to be through a small screen that is getting smaller. And while there are obviously benefits to that in terms of proximity and personalization, I think if you’re a brand or marketer trying to get a message across you know that having cinema screens as part of your storytelling platform is a pretty compelling offering.

We are building upon that great strength. Let’s not forget the main thing, the power of our big screen, but there is a whole customer journey that complements the moviegoing experience. People go online and read about these things—they read reviews, go onto the movie ticket sites, and start to get engaged in the moviegoing experience. It continues when they walk into that lobby and buy concessions before walking into the auditorium and experiencing that wonderful immersive environment. That’s where our pre-show comes in, right before the trailers, where there’s this magical moment of anticipation. That’s our environment, and it’s the right environment to tell a story.

What aspects of the job were new to you coming into this role? What was already familiar?

First of all, what is familiar to me in this role is the fact that I’ve sat on both sides of the table in my career. I’ve been lucky enough to have the sort of balanced career where I’ve spent several years in agencies and several years on the media side. I’ve also spent a lot of my career in digital initiatives, so those sorts of elements are very familiar to me. I understand the process of coming in and trying to make the best product you can that appeals to all sides of the business. On the other side of the fence, I’ve worked with distributors a bit in my background but not nearly to the extent that I am now. Our company is made up, in the simplest terms, around the exhibitors that sign up to be our partners and afford us the opportunity to represent their screens within our network of advertisers. So that is a little new for me, the experience of spending time with exhibitors, understanding what is important to them, where they’re going in the business, and where their investments are, and what they’re looking for from us as their ad network partner. It’s great to be able to approach that challenge with something I am very familiar with, trying to develop and improve a great product through a media platform with the understanding of how to sell, modify, and deliver value for that audience.

What was it about this opportunity that jumped out at you?

I really felt that my experiences would be well-suited to this role. You ask yourself a lot of questions going into this sort of role: Can you be useful? Can you be helpful? Can you add value to a situation? And I felt that with my media background, my advertising background, my digital background, those aspects would be useful to this role. The second thing that was appealing to me was secular; I felt that the cinema sector in the U.S., where we are focusing the conversation on the near term, has had a very stable audience over the years, and even in the last couple of years had experienced some growth. Thirdly, I felt Screenvision was in a place where it had a decent foundation but was obviously in need of some new energy. It needed to reboot somewhat because of the broken merger, and when those things happen you have to look at several important questions. Is the sector good? Are there positive trends there, enough to work with? Is your experience valid? Can you be useful? Is there something that you can build from what’s going on? Paramount to all of that is your ability to breathe new energy, life, and focus into a team that can be in a very difficult or sensitive situation. There are few things more demoralizing to an employee base than a broken merger, and you need to be mindful of that when you come into this sort of situation.

What’s on the agenda for the future of Screenvision?

We are very focused on the power, the engagement, and the impact of the big screen. We want to make sure that we continue to reinforce the focus, attention, and dialogue that we create around that unique canvas. Additionally, we are looking to do all that we can to extend the touch points along the entire moviegoing customer journey. What we mean by that is providing opportunities for consumers to connect in more engaging ways with the moviegoing experience—all the technology initiatives, content initiatives, and data initiatives. We are creating all kinds of additional value elements that are more rewarding for the customer. We hope to create additional opportunities for brands and marketers to intersect with customers along that journey.

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