Get these kids out of the house! Send them to the movies!

First off – Happy New Year to all of you!

The sentiment in this blog’s title might resonate with a few of you after the recent break. But it does reflect a deeper reality. Media consumption does follow availability. When people (or children) have time to consume a particular medium, they are more likely to do so.

A good way to see the availability of children and college students to go to the movies is through Rentrak’s movie calendar. It shows the percentage of students in Kindergarten through 12th grade out of school each day, as well as the percentage of college students out of classes. As an example, the Monday through Friday national numbers for this past December are posted below. Rentrak clients can drill all the way down to local markets and even to school districts.

Kids Out of SchoolOkay, great, you say – but does it really mean anything? Are the little ones really zipping out to the movies if they aren’t busy hitting the books? Yes. But there are some good exceptions as well. And therefore, you don’t have to read any more.

If you are continuing to read, this is the detailed setup – good for the research geeks! Skip over the next paragraph if you need to spare brain cells.

In order to answer the question of the relationship between being in school and movie box office results, I took the percentage of children and college students out of school for each day in June 2011 and June 2012. I then compared those percentages with average daily ticket sales revenue per movie. (I did the calculation on a per movie basis to control for the differences in the number of movie releases each week.) I broke each week into three parts, to reflect how movie going and lifestyle patterns change: Monday through Thursday has fewer movie releases and fewer “nights out,” Friday is a big movie release day, and on Saturday/Sunday, most people have more free time. In order to make the data easier to see graphically, I used weekly averages. I did the same work for December 2011 and the first week of December 2012.

Let’s look at some of the summer results first. Each point in the chart below represents the average tickets sales for a Monday through Thursday in June on the vertical axis. The horizontal axis shows the percentage of school kids out of class. As more kids are out of school, the average daily ticket sales per movie goes up, from a low of less than $150,000 when approximately 45% of kids are out, to a high of $450,000. There is a clear step function as the number of children out crosses the 90% mark.

Average Daily Per Movie Ticket Sales

The pattern continues when you look at Fridays for college students even though the percentage of college students out starts at a much higher level as shown in the next chart.

Average Daily Per Movie Ticket Sales

Interestingly, this pattern is not clearly as strong when looking at just the weekend days of Saturday and Sunday. As the chart below shows, weekend dollars per film don’t have as strong a relationship with schools being out. And when you think about it, the answer is pretty simple. Kids aren’t usually in classes on weekends!

Average Per Movie Daily Ticket Sales Sat/Sun

The relationships between weekday movie sales and school attendance in December are not dissimilar to the summer pattern. In December, for Mondays through Thursdays, as more kids are out of school, ticket sales go up.

Average Daily Per Movie Ticket SalesOf course, the rise in ticket sales per movie isn’t just driven by the number of kids. The types of movies in the market vary by week. The studios are making sure that “tent pole” releases are in the market when there are more people available. This is much like TV programs where the higher product value TV shows air in primetime when more people are available and more ad dollars can be captured.

I think the impact of movie releases can be seen in the winter Saturday and Sunday numbers. There are a lot more powerful movies out over the weekends right next to Christmas and Thanksgiving, where the revenue dichotomy with the other weekends is quite strong.

Average Daily Per Movie Ticket SalesAnd of course, there are exceptions to the rule. There are movies released when children are in school which do quite well (as the table below shows).

Exceptions to the Rule

So I’m going to amend my earlier comment (tough luck on those who didn’t read all the way through): Audience availability does increase viewing, but the quality of the inventory has an impact as well. Smart movie marketers know how to sell both when the audience is fully available, and when homework might still be on their minds!

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.