Seven films have taken more than $1bn (£770m) at the global box office so far this year – Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4, Aladdin and Joker – resulting in an advertising bonanza as brands look to cash in on movie fans packing out cinemas.
With two more films still likely to join the $1bn club – record-breaking Frozen 2 and the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – analysts are significantly upping forecasts for this year’s UK cinema advertising spend.
“The film slate has been so strong and the only place to watch a Frozen 2 or Star Wars is in cinemas for the first 16 weeks from when they premiere,” says Karen Stacey, the chief executive of Digital Cinema Media (DCM), which sells advertising representing 80% of the UK movie market. “That exclusive window can’t be replicated and if an advertiser wants to be involved in the buzz they have to be in cinemas.”
DCM is predicting it will see a record-breaking year for cinema advertising revenues, with ad sales growth up double digits. The advertising bonanza is being driven by big spenders led by Apple, McDonald’s, Sky, Samsung and Amazon.
GroupM, the media arm of advertising giant WPP, has significantly increased its forecast for growth in UK cinema advertising spend this year, forecasting that it will break the £200m mark. The company has upped its summer forecast of just 1% annual growth to 9% in its winter forecast, published on Monday.
Cinema will register the biggest rate of growth of all traditional media in the UK this year – outpacing TV, radio and outdoor advertising – with only internet ad spend forecast to grow faster.
The UK film industry is enjoying a boost in profile among advertisers after last year recording the highest admission numbers since 1970.
“Last year was such a good one that there has definitely been a halo effect for brands thinking about cinema, advertisers upping spend as well as attracting new or lapsed advertisers,” says Anna Cremin, head of research and consumer insight at cinema advertising firm Pearl & Dean.
Cremin cites research that estimates in 2019 there have so far been 174 advertisers that are either first-time cinema advertisers or have not run a campaign in movie theatres since 2015.
Cinema-going is fuelled by younger demographics with 16- to 34-year-olds accounting for almost half of the 177m tickets sold in the UK last year. The huge success of blockbusters with particular appeal to younger audiences such as Avengers: Endgame, which has become the biggest film of all time, passing Avatar with a global box office take of $2.79bn, are doing the business for the cinema industry again this year.
Cinema owners have also been investing heavily – from special effects in blockbuster movies to leather reclining seats, sofas and restaurant menus – to keep the movie-going experience attractive in the age of the stay-at-home lure of Netflix.
“It is about giving a complete evening out,” says Crispin Lilly, chief executive of Everyman cinemas. “In the digital age there are times people are craving experience, social interaction and escape. Digital switch-off is becoming increasingly rare, cinema provides that.”
By the end of 2019, Everyman will have opened in 23 new locations in the last five years. Its admissions were up 9.4% to 1.4m in the first half. Lilly added there is scope to open in six to seven new locations a year for the forseeable future.
The cinema industry is also selling itself as a “safe haven” for advertisers, who are becoming increasingly wary about the type of inappropriate content their ads can end up appearing next to in campaigns online, such as on Facebook and YouTube.
“The context in which ads appears always matters and being brand safe matters,” said Stacey. “Cinemas are regulated, they are a safe haven and we as an industry have really played on that.”
Top 10 cinema advertisers so far in 2019 (to 28 November)
1. Apple – £13.5m
2. McDonald’s – £9.9m
3. Sky – £6.87m
4. Samsung – £6m
5. Amazon – £5.7m
6. BGL Group – £5.3m
7. BMW – £5.2m
8. Procter & Gamble – £4.93m
9. Audi – £4.89m
10. Reckitt Benckiser – £4.1m