Showtimes, Movie Tickets —and More: Interview with Fandango President Paul Yanover

It’s been a busy start of the year for Fandango. The online ticketing leader kicked off 2016 with a slew of big acquisition announcements: the home entertainment platform M-GO, movie discovery app Flixster, movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and Brazilian ticketing provider Boxoffice caught up with Fandango President Paul Yanover to talk about what the company’s expanded presence means for consumers and exhibitors alike.

How do the recent acquisitions of Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes affect Fandango’s reach to consumers? 

They represent a great opportunity to expose our brand and offerings to a broader number of people. There is a pretty large non-duplicated audience that comes on board as a result of these acquisitions—63 million monthly unique visitors according to comScore. Flixster has a largely mobile audience of moviegoers looking up show times and theatergoing information, and we’re confident they’ll have a lot of interest in buying tickets online, and that should open up more ticket volume. Rotten Tomatoes is probably one of the best complementary brands to Fandango; moviegoers love Rotten Tomatoes as a constant source of aggregated reviews and ratings, and we know that’s a big part of going to the movies. The idea of connecting Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes from a commerce perspective is pretty exciting, as is having movie discovery become a bigger part of the Fandango experience.

How does the acquisition of M-GO fit with the company’s strategy?

We know that consumers love movies and see them in a unified context, so it was very important for us to connect with consumers through a more complete experience. That’s why having and providing access to the home entertainment window was useful. I think what’s more interesting now is our ability to connect the entire lifecycle experience; we know, for example, that a huge majority of people who experience movies in the home window actually bought tickets during the theatrical window as well. The ability to connect products and services across windows is something moviegoers want, and we believe it will drive more value to all the participants in the ecosystem. We’ve kind of seen early examples of this with “super tickets” that were done in the last couple of years. I recall particularly the “super ticket” program we did with Paramount and AMC Theatres for Anchorman 2 as very interesting because we took an exclusive screening that allowed fans who loved that franchise to see the movie a couple of days earlier than the general public and bundled it with other content, including the digital HD release. All of this is part of an idea to serve fans and connect windows. That was difficult for us to do effectively two years ago because we were pairing services that we couldn’t really optimize. M-GO, which has been rebranded as FandangoNOW, allows us to bring bundling and home entertainment to ticketing as well as ticketing to our home-entertainment customers, creating a comprehensive experience for movie fans. We think that our expanded network and the ability to connect with movie fans throughout the film life cycle will open up exciting new opportunities for exhibitors and studios. is your first excursion to international markets. Why start with Brazil?

Ingresso is the perfect marriage of strategy and opportunity. We looked at markets that we thought exhibited the right dynamics around theatrical moviegoing—meaning they have lots of growth and an active consumer base that appreciates and goes out to theaters. Latin America is, on a relative basis, underscreened for the emerging demand, so we see outside growth there in the overall marketplace. And that applies to Brazil and many other countries in Latin America. Ingresso is a market leader, and there was an opportunity to make this happen and partner with them, and Brazil is in the top 40 percent of the Latin American moviegoing market. It’s a great starting place for us when thinking about the region. We’re very excited about it. It’s a great place to do business and a great moviegoing environment.

What new trends do you think will emerge in the coming years for the ticketing business?

In many ways, some of the current trends we’re seeing now are continuations of themes that I think we’ve established in the past five-plus years. The idea that the Internet is moving from the portals to new places provides many opportunities.

Once upon a time it was a big deal to print a ticket at home on a piece of paper with your printer. Now we’re rolling out a new mobile ticket that allows customers to use their phones as their ticket media at any theater—whether the theater has a scanner or not. Historically you could only use your phone if a theater had a scanner to scan a QR code; we’re breaking past that limitation. A lot of the stuff that we’re doing around content and the integration of windows, the idea of home entertainment and ticketing being a combined experience, that’s going to remove friction for consumers. If I’m on Rotten Tomatoes in curiosity mode and looking up information on a particular film while making my moviegoing decisions, I now have the availability to ticket and have an advance purchase right then and there. A big trend that we welcome—and will continue to partner with exhibition on—is the whole category of in-theater amenities. Reserved seating is huge for the exhibitor and huge for us. There are so many great innovations in exhibition around dine-in concepts, bigger, better, and bolder formats to see the film, luxury seating, bars where appropriate—all of these factors are ensuring that going to the theater is an incredible experience. We’re really excited to find ways to help exhibition get their message to consumers so they can know which amenities each theater has so they can maximize their night out.

2015 was a big year at the box office. Was it a big year for Fandango as well?

It was a very big year at the movies. We were all excited about the big blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out, and Furious 7. We actually saw 81 percent growth in our gross booking, so it was a monster year for Fandango. We continue to see a significant shift into mobile—it gets bigger every month. It moves around based on the types of movies and the audiences they serve. When it comes to youth-oriented movies, we get up to the mid-to-high 60s in the percentage of tickets sold on mobile devices. If you take a general sampling, mobile represents more than 50 percent of our tickets. We’re continually seeing a majority of our business coming through mobile.

We are still very much expanding our footprint. We’ve added a lot of exhibitors in the last year. Our network has gotten to a point of critical mass and critical awareness. We have more expansion ahead in 2016, and I think a lot of that is related to our brand; last year we made a pretty significant advertising campaign, where we partnered with Keenan Thompson from Saturday Night Live, creating a sketch-comedy character in collaboration with him, Miles Moovay, who is the ultimate movie fan. We pushed a lot of viral videos and social activity around Miles Moovay, and we saw tremendous brand awareness lift nationally. We’re about to launch the next phase of our Miles Mouvay campaign and have a lot of terrific new spots that will start launching this month for the summer movie season.

You’ve also announced Fandango Labs, a sort of R&D division for future innovations.

We’re very excited about Fandango Labs, which we kicked off at the end of last year. I think Fandango has a rich tradition of being an innovator, and we wanted to figure out how we could help take the industry to the next level. We realize that the next level can only be achieved with partners, so we created a board of advisers for Fandango Labs and brought in different leaders from studios and exhibition, as well as figures from other industries. It’s really exciting for us to have this board of luminaries working with us to take our ideas of innovation under their guidance and push them into action. For example, this idea of our scannerless mobile ticket is one of the first things to come out of Fandango Labs. We’re looking forward to announcing more of these projects later this year.

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