Why the cinema ad industry is buoyant: 'Media's biggest screen is thriving on the disruption faced by other channels'

Zoe Jones

“Disruption – don’t fear it, embrace it,” was the mantra from keynote speaker, Dave Hollis, Walt Disney Studios' head of theatrical distribution, who addressed the global cinema advertising industry at its Biennial Convention in LA last week.

Hollis is responsible for global film sales and distribution efforts for all films released under the Disney, Pixar, Disneynature, Marvel, Touchstone Pictures and Lucasfilm banners. In his inspiring talk, he outlined the strategy that’s driven Disney’s record-breaking success. According to Hollis, quality is the best business plan and when deciding what movies to make, Disney asks itself two questions: Do I need to see this movie now? Do I need to see this movie in a movie theatre?

Disney’s plan is clearly working as on 2 November, the studio announced it had broken its own global box office record, earning a massive $5.851.4bn and surpassing its 2015 calendar-year record of $5.843.8bn. And we still have Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to come…

He also gave us a glimpse of Disney’s release schedule up to 2019 which includes The Incredibles 2, an Untitled Indiana Jones film, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4 and two more blockbusters from the Star Wars franchise. I can’t wait for the Han Solo movie.

Disney’s success was just one example of the huge momentum the cinema industry is currently experiencing, which this global gathering showcased and celebrated. In the UK, the latest figures published by the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA) show that admissions totalled 11.7m for September, making this year’s Q3 up 26% year-on-year. And 2015 was a huge year.

Despite the introduction of more channels, devices and in the face of evolving viewing habits, the biggest screen in media is defiantly embracing and thriving on the disruption faced by other channels. One scary stat claimed that we humans now have a smaller attention span than goldfish – eight seconds versus nine seconds!

John Partilla, chief executive officer at Screenvision Media USA, talked around this theme, saying: “We are now in the attention economy, there is an attention deficit and a heads down culture but cinema is the home of impact with the most amazing content in the most amazing context environment.”

JC Oliver, global chief creative officer at AOL, focused on the elusive millennial and Gen Z audiences, saying that cinema is one of the only places they are truly captivated. He added: “Size does matter – the bigger the screen, the bigger the emotion.”

It was also brilliant to hear from legendary producer and political activist Lawrence Bender whose films to date include Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Good Will Hunting. His film, An Inconvenient Truth, also raised unprecedented awareness about climate change and won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. He said the film had to be released in cinemas to truly make a difference.

Overall, three days spent in Hollywood meeting our compatriots from around the world was a fantastic experience, particularly sharing learnings and opportunities. While every market is different with its own challenges, themes were common. The content, the context and the experience are all driving significant growth for our businesses. It’s a great time to work in cinema.

Zoe Jones is marketing and insight director at Digital Cinema Media (DCM)

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