Think Like a Movie Studio: Use Demographic Data To Reach Your Audience

With strong evidence suggesting that Hispanics go to the movies more often than other demographics, the film industry is adjusting its approaches to marketing and production. What lessons could you take from this?

With the right data, an audience that might have once been falling from your grasp might become easier to reach.

That’s what the film industry has learned in recent years with the Hispanic market, and the industry has changed its approach in numerous ways as a result. More details:

Spot a demographic trend: In recent years, while other segments of the movie-going public have declined or stagnated, Hispanics are a growing market for the film industry. While Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. population, they buy 25 percent of all movie tickets, according to a recent study by Nielsen. “The U.S. is a mature theatrical market,” National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian, told the Wall Street Journal. “But unlike any other, we have a growing population and the fastest-growing part of that population, Hispanics, also happen to be the most enthusiastic moviegoers. That’s good news for the future of our business.”

Adapt for the audience: Theater owners are keeping demographics in mind when choosing movies to feature in markets with a large Hispanic population. Action, horror, and animated movies do great, but adaptations like Twilight and James Bond don’t, one Los Angeles-area theater’s general manager told WSJ. Some chains, such as AMC, use demographic data when considering expansion opportunities.

Market to it: The film industry is adjusting its approach as well, working to cast more Hispanic actors in mainstream films and taking franchises that have been particularly successful with that market—The Fast and Furious and Paranormal Activity are high-earning examples—and tailoring the content to the audience. The films in the former franchise takes place in East Los Angeles, a primarily Hispanic city, and many of its lead actors are Latinos. Meanwhile, the upcoming Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the franchise’s fourth sequel, is a bilingual film that will have a number of scenes with Spanish dialogue for the U.S. release—without subtitles.

That said, not every bet is perfect. The 2010 movie Machete, made by popular Mexican-American director Robert Rodriguez and starring movie tough guy Danny Trejo, specifically targeted Hispanic audiences. It did well with that audience in theaters but struggled to reach a wider one. (Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of that movie.) Thanks to strong DVD sales, though, it’ll get a second chance later this year with a celebrity-heavy sequel.

But, nonetheless, there is much to be gained from looking at the data available to you and adjusting. How have you adapted your approach with data? Let us know your take in the comments.

The "Paranormal Activity" series, popular with Hispanic audiences, will get a bilingual spin-off next year. (Paramount Pictures)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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