How Your Customer Data Can Build a Loyal Audience for Your Cinema

August 11, 2021
Martin Berg
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Every ticket purchased by a patron for a movie at your cinema becomes an opportunity to collect essential data on your local customer base. That data can then help you convert occasional moviegoers into frequent patrons of your cinema. In 2018, the Motion Picture Association of America reported that while only 12 percent of the U.S. population (43 million) went to a cinema monthly in 2017, those consumers accounted for nearly half (49 percent) of all movie tickets sold. By leveraging the data you collect, you can draw those frequent moviegoers to your cinema and convert causal patrons into regular customers.

Filmgoing is also a communal experience and a common outing for friends and family. A 2019 study by Facebook found that 62% of moviegoers say that they are “more likely to see a movie in theaters if others want to see it with them.” By making the effort to collect data on your entire audience—not just those patrons who are ticket buyers—you can learn how your digital interactions with your customers can convert them and the people they buy tickets for into moviegoers loyal to your cinema.

Building customer relationships that lead to customers returning with increased frequency to your cinema is a key factor for the success of your business. Fostering connections with a core group of customers who frequent your cinema—especially if they regularly bring other guests with them—by interacting with them digitally could provide a significant boost to your cinema’s bottom line. 

The importance of your cinema having a digital presence

A 2019 survey taken by Webedia Movies Pro showed an 18.7% increase in the number of online movie ticket purchases compared to the prior year. As audiences increasingly purchase tickets online, cinemas are seeing some significant additional benefits. The survey also discovered some important information about moviegoers who purchase tickets online. Online ticket purchasers are:

  • Twice as likely to buy concessions than those who purchase tickets at the box office
  • More likely to purchase tickets for premium (i.e., 3D and IMAX) screenings
  • More likely to pay an upcharge for reserved and/or premium seating

All of those factors would result in more money for your business, and one can expect the online share of tickets sold to increase significantly because many consumers have become more comfortable with online transactions as a result of Covid-19.

Because of that, your cinema needs to have a thoughtful and impactful digital presence that will not only outreach to new customers but also establish strong repeat business with those coveted once-a-month (or more!) moviegoers. An added advantage of having an effective digital presence is being able to sell tickets directly on your cinema’s website. Not only does this save you money on service fees charged by third-party ticket selling websites, but it allows you the crucial opportunity to collect and leverage data from customer touchpoints to build strong relationships with your patrons.

Retrieving data on your customers is essential for your business, and modern consumers are already accustomed to their purchasing habits being examined thoroughly by online retailers before, during, and after their digital transactions. Many of your youngest patrons—your future best customers—have grown up regularly interacting with online retailers and understand that data collection is ingrained in the transaction process. Customers accept their data being collected if they see that it creates a better customer experience for them or if they gain something from it. These interactions with your customers are crucial opportunities to aggregate data to help improve the way you run your cinema’s operations.

Collecting and leveraging your customer data

Collecting accurate data on your cinema customers is often challenging because their moviegoing habits are affected by several factors, and each online cinema ticket transaction may yield complex data. One significant factor is that a cinema customer could have different contextual “taste profiles” based on who they are attending a movie with. 

One customer, many profiles

For example, a parent of young children might purchase tickets to see an animated children’s film with them on one occasion, purchase tickets to see a comedy movie with friends on another occasion, and then purchase tickets to see a dramatic film with his or her spouse on a third occasion. The profile of that moviegoer would then be based on conflicting “taste profile” data that would make it difficult to determine what type of movie is actually of most interest to that individual. However, this is common for many moviegoers who see very different films in cinemas depending on occasion or mood—though some moviegoers might generally prefer R-rated films, they may see a PG-rated film if it receives positive reviews or becomes a “must-see” blockbuster. So while the data might initially appear to be contradictory, it actually allows you to segment this customer’s data into several different taste profiles.

One customer, many patrons

Another challenge of collecting data on a cinema audience is the manner in how tickets are purchased by consumers. In many cases, a single-ticket buyer is purchasing several tickets for a date, friends, or family that are going with them to the cinema in a single transaction. If one ticket buyer is buying tickets for a group of patrons going to see a movie, your transaction data will only have a customer profile for one person, the ticket buyer. If most ticket buyers are buying tickets for groups of people when they are visiting your cinema, you will not have accurate data that would reflect the demographics and interests of the entire audience in the theater. More importantly, you would not have the contact information of those members of the audience to follow up with for future ticket sales on occasions when they will be the ticket buyers.

However, you can still collect additional data on the non-ticket buyers in a group before, during, or after they visit your cinema by offering a way for ticket buyers to easily distribute the tickets purchased with the rest of the group by entering their email addresses. To incentivize ticket sharing, you could offer concession discounts that are tied to each ticket (and restricted to one per ticket scanned). You can also use confirmation emails to advertise different promotions, such as a giveaway, that would require users to enter their contact information to enter the giveaway or receive the offer.

Whichever method you choose to utilize, the purpose of the process is to collect the essential data that will be most helpful in attracting local customers to your cinema. Your form could include a survey with questions on basic demographic information (age, gender, location), tastes (favorite genres, actors, directors, snacks), and preferred time of day to visit the cinema. This data would be invaluable in helping you with your programming schedule by providing you with information that would determine what upcoming films would be of most interest to your local audience and when they would most likely go to see those films. 

Primarily, these initiatives would allow you to collect contact data on your local patrons, which you can utilize to help encourage moviegoers to visit your cinema again rather than competing theaters in your area or other entertainment options in your area. Online outreach can be particularly influential in drawing patrons to your cinema: A 2019 study by Facebook found that 58% of U.S. moviegoers first learn about new films online. If you can ensure that your digital outreach is the first place your customers hear about upcoming screenings of the next must-see film that interests them, you’ve already created a strong lead that could result in ticket purchases.

Advanced segmentation concepts

While the major movie studios and film distributors spend tens of millions of dollars on marketing their movies to audiences, their marketing efforts are far too broad to help sell tickets to your specific cinema. This is where the contact data that you have collected will prove to be essential to your operations. You can schedule regular emails and social media posts that promote upcoming screenings, promotions, and other events targeted to your audiences that are most likely to respond to them. Using DX’s ability to integrate with Mailchimp, you can segment your contact lists to run targeted engagement campaigns. If your contact is the first to reach your audience, you have established a direct line for your audience to purchase a ticket to see their next movie at your cinema.

In fact, the ability to segment your audience data will help ensure that you are sending your patrons the information that is of primary interest to them. Instead of facing the disappointing churn of contacts who unsubscribe from your mass outreach because the information you are sending is not relevant to them, by segmenting your audience you can retain more of your contacts with targeted campaigns. Increasing your targeted customer efforts is important to your cinema’s future success. 

At we are exploring how to build the tools cinemas need to address the challenges and opportunities presented by digitalization, increased data points, and evolving preferences of the cinema audience. By collecting and utilizing your customer data to understand their taste profiles, you are developing an invaluable tool to understanding how your cinema can be the perfect entertainment destination for your local community audience—and, most importantly, sell more tickets!

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