Day 2, Workshop 1: Smart Data & Smart People

Ben Johnson from Gruvi, a media tech company working with the gaming and cinema sectors introduced the notion of “smart data” as a way to use analytics to help exhibitors spend money and tailor marketing and other experience-driven decisions for an audience who face a “paradox of choice”. The key point, he said, is contract data – once you have a credit card transaction you can tie demographics and behaviour to sales and therefore to films, enabling you to “identify who the arthouse audience is in your community so you can really drill down into the marketing down the line.”


The two key approaches in attracting audiences are prospecting and retargeting. Retargeting costs a little over €1 for a sale and prospecting is more like €4-6 euros per sale, but, Johnson says,

You’re drawing them in for the first time and then you can continue to retarget them with interesting movies. Prospecting is more expensive but you’re investing in the life cycle of a customer that wouldn’t otherwise go out of their way to invest in your offer.

It’s also easier, he emphasised, to target an audience that is used to using online services, meaning a lot of users are young people, while the “fasting growing demographic online is 50 plus.” In a landscape where retail is really beginning to suffer up against online giants like Amazon, people have become “trained towards convenience”. What this means is that the cinema sector needs to cut out waste and ensure it is spending money wisely to get a tangible return on each Euro spent, “If you’re spending lots on social media marketing but you don’t have the understanding of the audience then you’d be better off spending the money on something else.”


Ida Thoren from Fyrisbiografen in Uppsala did precisely this, using funding awarded by the Swedish Film Institute and Europa Cinemas to work with an agency to give a data-driven iterative approach to audience development. “The goal,” she said, “is not only to increase audience numbers but also to improve the audience experience and through that to change the world.”

Changing the world, one subscriber at a time, is Cineville in the Netherlands. Starting out with just 13 cinema members, Cineville now has 40 participating cinemas, using geographic data and smart marketing to grow their subscriptions among young people. While the average price is €7.50, they offer a lower rate to young audiences under 30, as their early findings revealed that young people use the service less than older demographics, meaning the younger subscribers were subsidising the cinema-going habits of an older generation. Much like Yorck Kinogruppe, Cineville’s participating cinemas really see the subscription model as the future so far as promoting healthy cinema-going attitudes are concerned. 


Oliver Fegan from Usheru has also been awarded funds, from Creative Europe, to put into R&D that will benefit stakeholders across the sector. Working to measure how films perform across different exhibition platforms, from theatrical to SVOD, they are building a “discovery platform” that will see some 42,000 European films studied to match coded IDs, enabling them to report back to national film bodies and cinemas with quantifiable data on the film’s viewership. Building audience profiles, the plan is to bolster the “ecosystem of watching movies”, seeing the life of the movie as a single, rather than fragmented journey. 

A powerful statistic Fegan reported is that 95% of people who say they’re going to see a film at the cinema don’t go to the cinema, meaning lots of lost sales. Reasons vary and range from lack of cinema provision to simply forgetting to follow through but one way data can help is in being smarter about converting intent into a sale, something Fegan thinks we all need to do better at. 

Photographs courtesy of Joana Linda.