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This Way Up conference: 78% see cinema as "expensive activity"

Statistics presented at UK cinema conference also revealed that 51% of audiences believe the cinema experience does not justify the overall expense.

Tanya Easterman, senior relationship manager at Cinema First, the cross industry body which runs the Meerkat Movies promotion, has warned that cinema-going is perceived by audiences as a prohibitively expensive activity, something which poses a signficant challenge to the sector.

Presenting new research conducted by the company during a session at UK cinema conference This Way Up at Glasgow Film Theatre on November 30, Easterman began on a positive note: “The proportion of people who have claimed to have visited the cinema over the last quarter was up 23% (over the previous quarter), that’s reflective of the film slate at the moment.”

The same figure for specifically the month of October was 49%, up 7% year-on-year, she added.

Easterman proceeded to analyse the drivers of cinema visits. “The overall cinematic experience is the most important factor, other drivers include visuals, sound effects, ticket offers and discounts,” she said.


“However, overall attitudes haven’t seen much change over the last year, this is a little bit concerning,” she continued. “We still have work to do around perceptions of price,” she said.

“48% agree that the cinema is still the best place to watch films, but 51% still don’t think the cinema justifies the experience of the overall cost of that visit.”

That overall cost also factors in parking and confections, she added.

“The crucial point here is that 78% see cinema-going as an expensive activity, this is measured against other leisure activities. If we’re looking at how people want to spend their money and their time, cinema is perceived as expensive,” she warned.

“Cost is still the main barrier to infrequent cinema visitors. As an industry we need to look at what we are going to do to battle the perceptions of it being expensive,” she added.

Meerkat Movies

Easterman talked up the success of the Meerkat Movies promotion that her company runs with price comparison website Compare The Market.

“We’ve had 3.5m memberships created to date, of those 1.8m are active [the initial membership only lasts for a year and needs to be renewed]. Of those we have had 10m voucher requests, which have translated into 4.7m redemptions over the last 18 months. That counts for 9.4m admissions,” she said.

“In the summer we were getting the same level of redemptions that we were getting with Orange Wednesdays [the previous incarnation of the promotion] at its peak, which is pretty phenomenal,” she continued.

“Compare The Market spent £128m marketing Meerkat Movies in the first year. To put that into context, Orange spent £8m in its heyday, and UK distributors spend on average around £160m on above the line marketing to promote their films,” she added.

Cinema First is an organisation dedicated to increasing cinema admissions profitably in the UK. Its main constituents are film distributors, via the Film Distributors Association (FDA) and exhibitors, through the UK Cinema Association.

Read: This Way Up 2016 wrap: ticket prices, audiences, virtual reality in the spotlight

Readers' comments (1)

  • Rising ticket prices have hidden the real fact that admissions have dropped as industry is still claiming far lower average ticket prices than regular cinemagoers known they are paying to see these films. But even if you were to compare film performance using the claimed industry price of older franchises and their recent versions you will see while box office might be far bigger now admissions for these same films is far lower than they were with their previous films.

    Industry claimed average ticket prices Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts
    UK OP Admissions Av P Total BO Total Admins
    HP and the Philosopher's Stone 16 Nov 2001 £16.33 3,944,445 £4.14 £66.1m 15,966,183
    HP and the Chamber of Secrets 15 Nov 2002 £18.71 4,361,305 £4.29 £54.8m 12,773,893
    HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban 31 May 2004 £23.88 5,318,485 £4.49 £46.1m 10,267,261
    HP and the Goblet of Fire 18 Nov 2005 £14.93 3,169,852 £4.71 £48.7m 10,339,703
    HP and the Order of the Phoenix 12 July 2007 £16.49 3,265,347 £5.05 £58m 11,485,148
    HP and the Half-Blood Prince 15 July 2009 £19.78 3,636,030 £5.44 £50.7m 9,319,853
    HP and the Deathly Hallows P1 19 Nov 2010 £18.31 3,077,311 £5.95 £52.2m 8,773,109
    HP and the Deathly Hallows P2 15 July 2011 £23.75 3,919,142 £6.06 £73.1m 12,062,707
    Fantastic Beasts and. 18 Nov 2016 £15.33 2,044,000 £7.50 £30.13 4,0173,334

    Real ticket price averages cinemagoers paid to see Fantastic Beasts
    Fantastic Beasts and.. 15 July 2011 £15.33 1,613,685 £9.50 £30.13m 3,171,790
    Fantastic Beasts and. 18 Nov 2016 £15.33 1,277,500 £12.00 £30.13m 2,510,833

    Industry claimed average ticket prices Star Wars franchise
    SW: A New Hope 29 Jan 1978 n/a n/a £0.93 £22.32m 20,760,000
    SW: The Empire Strikes Back 21 May 1980 n/a n/a £1.41 n/a n/a
    SW: Return of the Jedi 2 June 1983 n/a n/a £1.89 n/a n/a
    Star Wars: Phantom Menace 15 July 1999 £9.51 2,259,384 £4.21 £50.7m 12,042,755
    SW: Attack of the Clones 16 May 2002 £11.38 2,652,681 £4.29 £37.23m 8,678,322
    SW: Revenge of the Sith 19 May 2005 £14.36 3,048,833 £4.71 £39.18m 8,318,472
    SW: The Force Awakens 17 Dec 2015 £34.01 4,717,060 £7.21 £123m 17,059,640

    Real ticket price averages cinemagoers paid to see Star Wars The Force Awakens
    SW: The Force Awakens 17 Dec 2015 £34.01 3,580,000 £9.50 £123m 12,947,368
    SW: The Force Awakens 17 Dec 2015 £34.01 2,841,667 £12.00 £123m 10,250,000

    OWE OWE Ads AP Total BO Total Ads
    Jurassic Park 16 July 1993 £9.043m 2,817,134 £3.21 £50.15m 15,623,053
    Jurassic World 11 Jun 2015 £19.29m 2,675,451 £7.21 £63.21m 8,766,991
    Bridget Jones’s Diary 13 Apr 2001 £5.72m 1,381,642 £4.14 £41.69m 10,070,048
    Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason 12 Sept 2004 £10.43m 2,322,940 £4.49 £35.61m 7,930,958
    Bridget Jones’s Baby 16 Sep 2016 £8.03m 1,070,667 £7.50 £47.80m 6,373,334

    Real average ticket price 2016
    Bridget Jones’s Baby 16 Sep 2016 £8.03m 944,706 £8.50 £47.80m 5,623,529
    Bridget Jones’s Baby 16 Sep 2016 £8.03m 845,263 £9.50 £47.80m 5,031,579
    Jurassic World 11 Jun 2015 £19.29m 2,269,412 £8.50 £63.21m 7,436,470
    Jurassic World 11 Jun 2015 £19.29m 2,030,527 £9.50 £63.21m 6,653,684

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