By Robert Rinderman
“The Screenvision Media network is stronger than ever before,” according to Darryl Schaeffer, the company’s executive VP of operations and exhibitor relations. “We are coming off a record 2016, are outpacing that, and we’re also ahead of the overall industry thus far in 2017.
“Our network is newer and more innovative today. We have an average contract term with our affiliates of approximately nine years. When Technicolor acquired Screenvision, the average length was more like three years. We’ve had a network of approximately 15,000 screens for a while now,” she added.
Schaffer ought to have a pretty good historical perspective on Screenvision’s consistency as well as its corporate evolution. She first joined the cinema as video and media curator of storytelling for brands, exhibitors, and movie-theater-going audiences nationwide more than 25 years ago.
Chief marketing officer and EVP of strategic alliances John McCauley has known Schaffer since the early 2000s, when he was a senior executive at one of Screenvision’s exhibitor partners, Loews Cineplex Entertainment. In his marketing role at the cinema chain he regularly worked with her.
Technology-Driven Evolution and Collaboration
“Darryl has had a front row seat to the evolution of cinema advertising,” McCauley points out. “Similar to the movies, the pre-show has gone from an analog to a digital platform. It was not necessarily that additive to the moviegoing experience and maybe not even meaningful to revenue for exhibitors early on.”
Times have changed. In speaking with these two senior execs, it is clear that Screenvision is cognizant of its important and multifaceted role in cross-connecting advertisers, exhibitors, and moviegoers in numerous ways and for multiple benefits. Case in point: the company is working with industry ticketing partners and social media platforms to better identify potential moviegoers.
There are currently 178 individual affiliate movie theater circuit partners on Screenvision’s network. All of these exhibitors are keenly aware of the growing impact that ancillary monetary contributions such as pre-show advertising have on their top and bottom line results.
Observes McCauley, “Exhibitors are looking at Screenvision more as a partner in helping them grow their businesses and looking for other ways to generate more meaningful revenues as they become entertainment destinations. We have transformed the industry from an analog world of trivia and slides to a full-on show that takes advantage of movies, pop culture, and other lifestyle-related things.”
He says that rapid technological convergence has created an inflection point and exhibitor partners are increasingly looking to the Screenvision team to be a “first-look arbiter of new opportunities,” assisting theater owners sort through the most attractive ones that will ultimately help drive growth and profitability.
Exhibitor Advisory Panel
About a year ago, Schaffer spearheaded the creation of an affiliate Exhibitor Advisory Panel, which she now chairs. “The goal is to demonstrate how much we value our exhibitor partnerships,” she says. The panel was first launched at ShowEast 2016 and the group, which has representatives from the network’s leading cinema affiliates and is open to all 178 of its theatrical circuit partners, met again at Screenvision’s upfront advertising event this past May in New York City.
The next meeting is slated for the 2017 edition of ShowEast, taking place in South Beach, Florida. Says Schaffer, “It’s meant to be an open forum looking at issues of the day together. It is not just related specifically to cinema advertising and the pre-show. How can we help the overall moviegoing industry and each other? The main thing that’s come out of it has been a more collaborative working partnership.”
One area of focus for exhibitors has been generating better analytical data about customers. AMC (Stubs) and others have achieved increasing success on this front via robust cinemagoer loyalty programs. Screenvision has been focused on how technology addresses customer loyalty growth and success.
Interfacing with moviegoers before, during, and after they visit the theater is the central goal of the “connected cinema,” as Screenvision defines it. Creating ways to entice patrons to visit, engaging further with guests once they’re at the facility, and seeking interactions following their departure are the three key ingredients.
Brand advertising and sponsorship opportunities are leading to new sources of profits for Screenvision and its affiliates, creating meaningful ways for brands to tie-in and generate bigger bang with their advertising buck. For example, a new alliance with MovieTickets.com is providing advertisers with valuable analytical data for more precise targeting while also helping unlock digital promotion opportunities during the movie decision-making process.
With each passing month, Screenvision is developing a closer relationship with its alliance partners. “Everyone is trying to deliver more to the moviegoer and also get more out of them, says McCauley. This is an exciting time for us. Many constituents are playing an active role on the connected cinema platform.”
Screenvision is increasingly interested in creating and promoting its own exclusive content that is only available in theaters. Reel Lifestyle typically focuses on health, travel, and design stories, with food-oriented segments—especially with regional cuisine twists—proving quite popular.
Lifestyle expert and brand consultant Chadwick Boyd hosts these. Audiences are encouraged to go online for full recipes and to follow Boyd on leading social platforms after they view the Reel episodes.
Driving traction with local advertisers as well as nearby businesses, brands, and of course the theaters is important to Screenvision. The F+C team has created Corner Stories, brief segments highlighting local businesses and their owners.
Strong relationships with the local community help position the theater as a key pillar of its regional ecosystem. On average, 25 percent of the 25-minute pre-show is dedicated to local advertising.
According to McCauley, one recently learned lesson is that brands are interested in participating from the very beginning as producers of cinema-specific entertainment. Their goal is creating unique, interesting, and compelling content.
“In coming months, I believe we’re going to see an increasing impact that creative technologists have on the entertainment world, and that will influence what’s happening in theaters. This will drive more effective experiences and demand from moviegoers,” predicts McCauley. “We want to be on the front line of that and be able to bring it to our exhibitor partners, Screenvision’s platform, and the creative community in general,” he says.