Movie Theaters Try to Maneuver the Changing Customer Landscape

The pandemic has caused many industries to shut down for the time being, but the movie theater industry seems to be in an even more serious state of flux. The industry has shut down and not been able to offer its services, unlike restaurants that can still offer takeout and delivery.
"To stage a comeback, movie theaters will need to address consumers' new baseline emotional and financial needs,” Pam Erlichman from Jebbit said. “Emotional needs in terms of installing confidence about cleanliness and social distancing (such a wipe downs and blocked rows/seats) and a new financial value proposition as so many consumers would now rather spend $19.99 for the whole family to watch Trolls 2 from home instead of $100 from a theater. But is that enough?  I fear not.  Movie theaters will also need a loyalty program overhaul that starts with better understanding their customers’ needs and finding ways to personalize and delight them through the entire theater going experience."
The pandemic has not only caused movie theaters to close but also the industry, as a whole, has been affected and forced to shut down much of its production. This has meant movie theaters, even if open, might not have big tentpole releases moviegoers want to see for a while.
“The shuttering of doors of movie theaters and entertainment locations during the lockdown has been nothing if not devastating to the industry,” Tom Madden, Senior Partner, ICF Next, said. Activating dormant or otherwise inactive segments in your database and really leaning in to engaging those customers and members with relevant communications and on-demand content is one way to capitalize on a captive audience. How can you nurture and add value to their lives, even in small ways that show empathy and authenticity, that will lead to a more meaningful relationship with your brand on the other side?”
Movies like Fast and Furious 9, A Quiet Place 2, and Black Widow have been delayed as entertainment groups want to release films when it is more financially sound to do so. Fast 9 was even delayed a whole year into 2021. Then there are movies that have started releasing digitally and bypassing movie theaters altogether, such as the new Scooby Doo movie “Scoob!” that released on multiple streaming platforms.
“Theatres and other entertainment venues like amusement parks and bowling alleys are in a particularly challenging situation- their experiences are inherently social! As they prepare to phase-in reopening, beyond reassuring customers on the additional sanitization and social distancing measures they have implemented, there are also opportunities to reassure their best customers and elevate the experience,” Randy Hernandez, VP of Strategy at Brierley, said. For example, AMC and Cinemark reassured their loyalty program and premium movie club subscribers that their points, rewards, and benefits would be extended. Now is also a good time to engage customers with games, social posts, quick polls, and other interactive content that tap into their love of the service – (i.e. share a favorite movie, park ride, top bowling memory). As theatres begin reopening, Texas recently opened theirs at 25% capacity, we will see them leverage more online reservations, allow customers to pre-order their favorite snacks for pick up, and, potentially, test some elevated experiences like exclusive screenings for best customers.”
Movie theaters have been far down the list on many states’ re-opening lists, mainly because of the nature of the business. At the movies, customers are typically packed in a room together for at least an hour and a half and distancing processes would be complicated by seating arrangements and food safety procedures.

“Entertainment companies have an opportunity to work together here and really boost loyalty and brand engagement while delivering value to their consumers,” Tim Glomb, VP of Content at Cheetah Digital, said. ”Imagine if theater loyalty members receive discounts on movie downloads, or if companies such as Sony or Disney provided loyalty points to the moviegoer's loyalty program of choice that they can use once theaters are back. By working together, and sending the message: ‘let’s entertain you where you are and reward you so your theater experience is even better when you return’, not only would they drive more sales and higher engagement, but they would see a boost in loyalty return once they begin to open up again.”
An article at AZCentral wrote about this topic and quoted an owner of a theater called FilmBar about what they see in terms of opening.
Kelly Aubey, who owns FilmBar, said in the above AZCentral article, “I want to wait two or three weeks to see how the end of the stay-at-home order affects infection rates. If they don’t spike after a few weeks, we'll consider it.”
Moviegoers also may not immediately come back as soon as the theaters open either. There is a possibility some people may wait several weeks or months to go back to their favorite movie theater to get some popcorn and catch a film. This is just a mental barrier some people will not be able to get past for some time.
Bindu Gupta, Loyalty & Marketing Strategist at Comarch, said, “Given the hesitation of consumers to experience movie-going as they did pre-crisis, movie theaters must entice potential movie-goers with heavy discounts and promotions as well as rewards they can earn as loyal customers, while reassuring them about the safety and social distancing protocols they are taking to make the experience pleasant for all movie-goers.”
With all of the transition and disruption across all industries, but especially for brands in the entertainment industry, how can they still engage customers while also preparing as it begins to re-open?

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