Distributors have long known that advertising in cinemas is an effective way to access audiences before the release of a film. But new UK research suggests audiences are more receptive to commercials shown there than to any other form of advertising.

Research by TNS on behalf of the Cinema Advertising Association's Film Audience Measurement and Evaluation (Fame) found consumers generally perceive adverts and trailers for upcoming films to be part and parcel of the cinema-going experience.

The researchers spoke to 3,000 people over the age of seven who had been to the cinema in the past six months. They found that 34% felt going to the movies would be "worse" without the ads. This was higher than any other medium, including television and the internet.

Ongoing popularity

With cinema-going still the most popular activity out of home - the study suggests 92% preferred going to the movies compared to other activities - UK film distributors are likely to continue ploughing money into cinema marketing to promote releases.

UK distributors spent more than $580m (£300m) in prints and advertising in 2006, an estimated $261m (£135m) on prints and trailers, and $331.3m (£171.3m) on media advertising, according to the Film Distributors Association (FDA). Media advertising includes television ($141.2m), outdoor panels ($116m) and national/regional press ($56m), and was up 3.3% compared to 2005.

While local box-office revenue for 2006 hit $1.48bn (£767m) - $1.62bn including the Republic of Ireland - the direct impact p&a expenditure has on this remains unclear. To discover the exact reason why each individual opts to see a film would be the holy grail of cinema-advertising research.

But Fame research did find that 80% of cinema-goers noticed movie posters in cinema foyers, while two out of three paid considerable attention to standees, proving there is a higher value in integrated cinema campaigns. It also found that more people paid attention to cinema advertisements - 20% of people surveyed paid a lot of attention to cinema adverts followed by 12% for television and 7% for magazines.

Influencing brand decisions

Jackie Colvin, head of research at Pearl & Dean, says the results, although not definitive, are overwhelmingly positive.

"These findings into audience behaviour are incredibly positive," she says. "The popularity of combining a trip to the cinema with other purchasing and social activity makes it a powerful and engaging advertising medium that influences almost immediate brand decisions as well as longer-term buying and brand-building."

So, as the UK approaches the close of the first quarter of 2007, with the last few weeks showing the local box office going from strength to strength on year-on-year comparisons (since Hot Fuzz's February 14 release, box-office performance has been up 60.4%, 38.9%, 35.6% and 24.5% compared to the same weekends of 2006), one can only wait and see if continued cinematic advertising will boost attendance in what is already being primed to be an explosive year.