Why can't every year be a Star Wars year?

So here we are, basking in the glory of the film industry’s biggest box office year in history. But in the back of our minds, we know that come the end of 2016 the media is going to be bagging us about the 4% drop (or whatever it may be) in box office results in comparison to the results of 2015. And no doubt they will be talking doom and gloom and predicting the demise of cinema and all the usual stuff.

This got me thinking: Why can’t every year be a Star Wars year? And how do Star Wars years come about?

The thing is, when a film like Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released it doesn’t mean that people who normally go to the movies go more often. I accept that there are some fanboys who may have seen the movie multiple times. However, the overall effect of this is minimal. I think the real reason for the huge box office increase is because a whole lot of people who hardly ever (or never) go to the movies decide to go and see what all the fuss is about.

It just takes a movie like Titanic, Avatar, or Star Wars to drag those people out of their homes and away from the comfort of their home entertainment systems and into the movie theaters. If this happens ONCE, just once a year for enough people, then that turns a good year into a great year — or a Star Wars year.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. With Vista Group products such as Vista Cinema, Veezi, Movio, and Numero we can get a good look at what’s happening with box office numbers and attendance in general.

I asked our data scientists at Movio to look at how frequently moviegoers who’d gone to Star Wars had visited the movies in the last 12 months. The chart shows the results, comparing Star Wars to The Revenant and Deadpool — also good performers in their own right.

Murrays Graph

It illustrates the different makeup of the audience for each movie, not the number of admissions. You can see that Star Wars brings in a disproportionately high number of viewers who hardly ever go to the movies, compared to Deadpool and The Revenant.

In 2015 we also had a couple of other films that performed in a similar manner to Star Wars. Jurassic World (world-wide gross $1.6 billion) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1.4 billion) had a similar audience makeup to Star Wars ($2.1 billion), and so would have contributed to that year’s result.

So perhaps the best  way to make every year a Star Wars year is to get those people who never (or hardly ever) go to the movies to go once — just once a year — and then you’ll have a Star Wars year.

We have done some rough calculations on the New Zealand market (a typical Western cinema-going market with a relatively high per cap attendance of 3.7 per annum) and we think the percentage of population that never goes, or goes just once a year per annum could be as high as 60%. What an opportunity this is.

But why don’t they go in the first place, is it price? Too many other things to do? They just don’t enjoy the experience?

How do we get someone who never goes to the movies to go just once, even when we don’t have a Jurassic World, or Star Wars to entice them? 

Maybe it’s better niche marketing to reach a group we aren’t reaching? More flexible pricing at off-peak times to reach those more price sensitive customers? Is it providing special offers to get people to sign up to a loyalty program so we can target them? We would love to hear your ideas.

If we can identify why infrequent moviegoers aren’t attending the movies, then maybe we could discover what it would take to entice them to visit the cinema just once this year. And then 2016 could be a Star Wars year as well!


That's our view. What do you think?

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