The Future of Movies: 

How Theaters & Studios Can Thrive in the Streaming Era

When the original Star Wars movies were released, the lines to get into the theater could last for hours. People would wait outside in all kinds of weather just to get a seat for a film debut. As theaters started to offer more showtimes and advance tickets, those kinds of lines went away. Still, once a movie hit theaters, there was a wait time before it became available for rental.

Now, in this digital era, the theatrical window has started to blur completely. The impact of COVID-19 on movie theaters has resulted in temporary closures, so studios and theaters alike are thinking about how to make movie releases a full customer journey, instead of one big day. Trolls: World Tour was one of the first major theatrical releases to go straight to digital and streaming services, while Pixar’s “Soul” will be another.  

All of these developments mean that movie-goers are going to look for new and different ways to watch  – in more environments than ever – what can advertisers do to keep up?

Here’s what to think about as we think about the future of the feature.

Understanding the Digital Theater 

Movie theaters won’t be replaced by streaming services. 

We know that for a fact – 82% of Roku users said in our recent survey that even though they can watch movies at home, they still love going to the theater. But as streaming becomes more predominant, Roku expects movie theater-going and movie home-viewing to work in tandem.

tv stat icon
of Roku watchers still love going to the theater

"At some point, (going to the movie theater) will become normal again, and we’re going to have the option of that theatrical experience which in my view is not going to go anywhere, it's a very unique experience,” says Tedd Cittadine, VP of Content at Roku. “I think we all would attest that date night on the couch is not the same as going out."

The future may look like a mix of movie nights in theaters and home movie nights watching  premium video on demand (PVOD). In fact, considering that the average movie-goer attends a theater only two or three times a year, an ad strategy around PVOD can unlock new incremental demand while helping advertisers connect with streamers who are most likely to watch the latest releases.

“I think what this new opportunity has created is this expansion of the moviegoer,” says Lori Pantel, CMO of Fandango. 

“The biggest opportunity for us as marketers in this industry is how can we best serve what I’ll call the three constitute audiences: traditional theatrical...traditional TVOD consumers...and as we learn more about this new windowing consumer...It’s a new consumer for all of us.” 

- Lori Pantel, CMO of Fandango

A Cross-Device Release Day

The shortened theatrical window has made targeting the right movie goer more important than ever. As the theatrical window shortens, advertisers need to be more efficient in who they are trying to reach and with what message. When it comes to digital release, OTT advertising is crucial to connecting the movie release with the right audience.  

“You still want that mass awareness” Pantel explains. “I think what working with OTT partners can do is be very targeted and efficient with your media and investment... What we don’t want to do, especially with OTT and digital, is we don’t want to waste CPMs or dollars on [certain] eyeballs.” 

She adds that genres play a big role. If a horror movie comes out, media companies shouldn’t target viewers who show no interest in horror as a genre. By working with an OTT advertising partner like Roku, advertisers can create genre-specific segments to ensure that they’re reaching the viewers most likely to watch a movie when it comes out. 

Marketing a PVOD title is different from promoting a theatrical release in other ways, too. Streaming services provide a seamless and convenient way for movie-goers to buy the latest titles – creating a streamlined way to measure PVOD sales and views. Roku users, especially, like to find what movies to watch next. Three-quarters (73%) said that Roku helps them discover movies that they want to watch.

3/4 pie
of viewers believe Roku helps them discover movies they want to watch

“All of our users have the ability to one-click transact across transactional video demand services (TVOD) on our platform, embedded with Roku Pay, so it’s a one-click,” Cittadine says. “Studios should follow the consumer. Businesses that adopt this model could really build incremental revenue. I think that this is going to be a successful recipe for the next generation of the movie business.” 

How Advertisers Can Stay Ahead

When thinking about the next big movie release, more media companies will start from the audience, not necessarily the content. OTT advertising can help find the exact audience most likely to see the movie and help create a customer journey from theater to living room. 

Here’s what advertisers should think about:

1. Prioritize outcomes and objectives

TV streaming ads help make sure that every ad dollar spent is a dollar well-spent. With Roku’s attribution modeling, you can guarantee that you’re targeting the right streamers for both PVOD services and upcoming releases, while tracking the actions that those streamers take. 

By creating a full funnel journey for the movie’s release, a streaming ad campaign can drive the right audiences to theaters during the first three weeks of a film’s release – and engage viewers with streaming content afterwards.

2. Ensure streaming is a part of your campaign.

Streaming is where advertisers can effectively reach movie lovers at every stage of the theatrical experience. New viewers and repeat viewers, genre viewers and franchise loyalists can all be targeted with personalized recommendations to guarantee that they have a great movie experience across devices, theaters, and homes.

3. Stand apart from the competition. 

On streaming platforms, advertisers can experiment and go beyond video ad placements by having takeover experiences that generate the excitement needed for both movie theater-going and at-home viewing. Brand Experiences, interactive ads, and homepage placements can all help build awareness and engagement across the OTT ecosystem.

Advertising Movie Nights and New Movies with Roku

Roku is first and foremost an entertainment platform, so building a natural, engaging ad experience for users in key places of the user interface can be extremely effective. 

Movie-goers – whether they’re watching at home or planning on going to a theater – are a loyal audience who are always looking for new titles.

By engaging with streamers who are planning to visit the theater when they can and tune into PVOD when they’re at home, advertisers can build a long-lasting relationship with their audiences that goes far beyond a premiere.