Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production
Why 2019 Is Going to Be a Blockbuster Year
Asset Management, distribution and software
London, UK
Young audiences are driving cinema admissions to their highest levels since the 1970s, writes DCM's Karen Stacey

It’s official. In 2018 UK cinemas recorded their highest attendance levels for 50 years. Total cinema admissions across our thriving industry reached a huge 177m which is even more impressive when you consider that last year cinema was competing with Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat at the World Cup, one of the hottest summers in recent memory and trying to beat the performance of the previous year which saw the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi – one of the biggest films of all time!

Despite this competition and the ever-growing proliferation of content choices across all media platforms, an unprecedented 10 movies each made more than £30m at the UK Box Office last year.

The Top 10 films in UK & Ireland, according to ComScore, were:

1. Avengers: Infinity War

2. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!

3. Incredibles 2

4. Black Panther

5. Bohemian Rhapsody

6. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

7. Peter Rabbit

8. The Greatest Showman

9. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

10. Deadpool 2

These 10 films accounted for 35% of the total Box Office, a percentage that has remained steady for over 20 years despite competition from an increasing number of films being released. Only 394 films were released in 2008, last year this increased to a massive 800 films. So, despite the huge growth in content choice that I’ve referenced, more than double the number of films are being made for cinema now versus 10 years ago and in 2019 a further 100 more films are set to be released.

So what’s driving this extraordinary performance which has also resulted in DCM posting its fourth consecutive year of revenue growth?

According to the UK Cinema Association (UKCA) chief executive, Phil Clapp: “These fantastic figures for 2018 confirm that the UK cinema sector remains in extraordinary health. The UK public has responded with overwhelming enthusiasm both to the breadth of the film slate and the quality and range of different cinema offers across the country.”

But who’s going? What I believe is unique to cinema, and critical for our industry to understand and capitalise on, is that young people are driving this growth. 16-34s account for nearly half of all cinema tickets sold each year and their attendance is 19% higher than the national average at eight times a year.

The biggest film of 2018, Avengers: Infinity War, was also the biggest film for this audience, delivering more than 3m 16-34 admissions, equivalent to 20 16-34 TVRS, in the first two weeks alone. And we predict that 2019 will be even bigger with 16-34 admissions forecast to be up 8% year-on-year thanks to huge releases such as Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, The Lion King and Star Wars.

With the ad industry currently lamenting a lack of commercial opportunities to engage with this ‘Netflix’ generation, we went on a mission to better understand this audience, inspired by Kantar Millward Brown’s Ad Receptivity research which revealed that Gen Z (16-19-year-olds 44%) and Gen Y (20-34-year-olds, 34%) rate cinema ads as the AV advertising format they feel most positive towards.

Our new research, Mission 16-34: Launch, Land, Impact, which we unveiled at our Upfronts last November, revealed that although this audience still really values experiences and loves entertainment content, technology has fundamentally changed the way they access this at home and on the move. They are heavy on-demand viewers but also easily distracted, with many looking to actively avoid advertising. The findings also revealed a stark challenge for all of us – 71% felt that they are 'hounded by advertising' and while they spend a huge amount of time online, 39% have installed ad blockers.

But there is hope! Our study also revealed that 16-34s do still feel a strong affinity with brands, they do enjoy quality content and they do like advertising, as long as it’s in the right context. We found that all AV platforms can play complementary roles as they provide different viewing experiences at different times for different needs.

So, let’s dispel this myth that 16-34s have disengaged with advertising – they haven’t - as our experience in cinema has proved. They love cinema as it provides big cultural moments - they don’t want to miss out when it’s still the only place to see the latest movie content for 16 weeks. They also love the shared, premium experience and the guaranteed quality of the content. They trust the cinema experience and this trust transfers to brands on the big screen too.

According to Dr John Curran, a business anthropologist and cultural analyst who worked with DCM and Differentology on our 16-34 research: “Cinema is ultimately an indulgent experience – the opportunity to switch off from the outside world for two-to-three hours and give yourself up to the big screen in front of you. Cinema therefore provides attentive audiences who are in the best possible context for paying attention and taking in brand stories.”

So, let’s stop current ad practices that lead to people feeling ‘hounded’.

As an industry we’ve collectively caused this problem.

Let’s go back to the craft of advertising and instead, let’s entertain and inform audiences in a context they feel comfortable with.

And let’s all go to the cinema in 2019 – it’s going to be another blockbuster year!

And don’t take just take my word for it…as Luke Randall, Senior AV executive at UM, wrote in his Campaign prediction piece earlier this month: “2019 could be the best time yet for us as an industry to go to the movies.”

This article first appeared on Campaign Magazine.

Karen Stacey is CEO of DCM