Customer Retention – Observing Movie Theater Industry Strategies and Tactics

Strategy Plan One

July 28, 2012

customer retentionCustomer Retention

Similar to other business industries, the movie theater industry has experienced ups and downs over the past few decades, with trying to build the customer base and in customer retention.


It is often stated in Customer Relationship Management strategies that it is 3 times harder to attract new customers than to keep customers through customer retention.  What do you think the logical, strategic approach is?

ice ageOn a Friday night, a group of us decided to take in a movie at the theater.  Deciding to be entertained in 3-D, we slid in and bought tickets for Ice Age: Continental Drift.  After paying  the usual ticket prices, the design of the theater brings you to the unavoidable drink – snack – popcorn counter, where of course, we snack – geared everyone for the movie.

To not miss anything, like anyone else, we wanted to ensure we were there prior to the 7:15pm start time.   As you are probably aware, the first few minutes prior to the start time, movie goers are slightly entertained, with all bodies pointing forward to the screen with clips and shots of “did you remember to get…”, and all the rest of value-added, movie theater promotional stuff.  After 10 minutes of alternating between occasionally glancing at the screen and frequently engaging in conversation with our party, the lights dimmed and volume was cranked up.

In your mind 7:15pm start time is firm and you are ready to watch.  Nope, not the case.  For the next 16 minutes (yes I was the annoying one looking at my mobile device lighting up the adjacent areas) we all sat through movie trailers, ads and clips, one after another.  Then another promotion for another 3-D movie coming up.  Oh, and then one fairly entertaining movie theater industry ad attempting to generate more interest in coming to the movie theater again.  16 minutes of this!  Didn’t we all just pay to watch a movie at 7:15pm?  I can expect to click-through pop up ads on a website if I am getting something for free there, but experiencing this in a movie theater?  Why?

Don’t get me wrong that I am severely complaining here, but highlighting more of a business and marketing observation.  Quite frequently some of us put on our business hats and observe how businesses promote themselves, engage and communicate with the customer, and try to build up the loyal base of repeat customers.  Here are some of the messaging and customer retention relevant observations at the theater before the movie, during that time frame prior to the movie, and post-movie time frame:

  • Customer convenience – theaters make it easy for customers to buy tickets in advance at kiosks or online
  • Captivated audience – Paying customers are in front of the screen, focused on the screen and the instructions on proper movie theater etiquette tells movie goers not to be doing anything else (ie: don’t talk, don’t use mobile devices)
  • Free Trial – Customers are getting a “free” glimpse at additional products, in the appropriate format (ie: movie theater ads have a bigger impact being played in the actual movie theater and not on a 21 inch, non-surround sound system at home)
  • Colors, design and words used in the clips, trailers and ads can create positive responses from the consumer
  • Investment – the movie industry sinks millions into advertising and test marketing these ads prior to developing the final 2 minute clip or trailer (ever notice movies had looked super appealing in those trailers?)
  • Feedback – the theaters capture customer feedback in two ways – in person or by kiosk; this feedback is an important part of improving the experience and of the Customer Relationship Management process

Whatever the tactics and strategies used by the movie theater industry, they are able to hit and make an impact on the paying customer to enable a response to return.  In your business, what are your strategies to gain the continued interest from your customer?  Keep them informed? Provide them will add-on packages while you have their attention?  Offer the free trial to keep the customer coming back?  Ensure you observe certain industry and business tactics towards gaining and retaining the customer base.  Incorporate strong customer retention strategies in your business plan and marketing strategies.

More on the Customer:

More business blogs of interest:


Ty Col    Consultant, Mentor, Entrepreneur

Strategy Plan One

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One


2 thoughts on “Customer Retention – Observing Movie Theater Industry Strategies and Tactics

  1. Great article SPO, even though I am in the patient service business we depend on loyal customers and return business. Your comment on the movie not starting on time reminded me that our customers feel the same way. We give them an appointment time and then when they arrive on time we need to make good on our promise that they get to be seen at that appointed time. Time matters to people. Thanks for that reminder, it will be the topic to tomorrow’s power meeting.

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