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_____V_____ 09-30-2009 12:01 PM

Audiences are influenced by the Internet
If marketing mavens want to reach younger moviegoers when promoting their films, they need to embrace social networks or risk being ignored.

That was the overall message of Moviegoers 2010, the first report on moviegoing habits produced by Stradella Road, the entertainment marketing firm founded by former New Line Web guru Gordon Paddison that hopes to assist film marketers in determining how to reach consumers over the next decade.

The study found that teens and twentysomethings are especially focused on being able to customize entertainment and are quick to share their opinions with others digitally -- especially as usage of the Internet, mobile devices and DVRs has become more widespread.

An estimated 94% of all moviegoers are now online.

The younger demo is especially key in spreading word of mouth, with 73% of moviegoers surveyed having profiles on social networking sites.

It's a point that's been made a number of times as sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have grown in popularity. But the study is one of the few to break down specific age groups and how they consume movies and the marketing messages leading up to their releases.

* Teens (age 13-17) are "all about sharing information and group thinking," the report said, with social networking a critical communication tool. They go to movies in large groups and are heavily influenced by their friends' opinions. They also prefer texting over having phone conversations. More than 70% also surf the Web and text while watching TV, and 67% of them socialize with friends online.

* Twentysomethings (age 18-29) "are digital natives that have grown up with technology" and are more likely to go online for movie info and to share what they think about movies via social networks (58% socialize with friends online). They use the Internet to find any kind of information and place a high value on online consumer reviews and sites that aggregate reviews.

* Audiences in their 30s are time-constrained, with parenthood dominating their decisions. They split their moviegoing trips between their children and their spouses. They "spend the highest number of hours online and rep the highest use of technology (Internet, broadband access, DVR ownership and cell phone)." They also view the most recorded TV and skip the most ads via their DVRs.

* Those in their 40s embrace traditional media like magazines and newspapers, with moviegoing dominated by special family occasions and influenced by teens.

* And fiftysomethings avoid crowds, prefer matinees and "skip ads because they think there are too many commercials on TV."

Although many moviegoers are going online to get info on upcoming releases, TV still dominates as the leading tool to generate awareness for films, with 73% of those surveyed saying they first heard about a movie by watching a 30-second spot. In-theater trailers were close behind with 70%, followed by word of mouth (46%) and the Internet (44%).

Most films are now considered critic-proof, especially among the younger set, with 84% of moviegoers saying, "When they make up their mind to see a movie, it doesn't matter what the critics say about it."

It may depend on who's giving them the thumbs up or down, however.

Of those surveyed, 75% said they trust a friend's opinion more than a movie critic; 80% said they were more likely to see a movie after hearing a positive review from other moviegoers, while only 67% said a thumbs up from a professional critic had the same weight.

Yet only 40% said negative reviews from their peers would dissuade them from seeing a movie, while an even lower 28% would be kept from theaters because of a critic's opinion, meaning that at the end of the day, negative word of mouth doesn't have as much influence.

While 62% now get their reviews online, only audience members over 50 rely on newspaper reviews.

79% of those questioned said, "Going to the movies is a good escape from everyday life."

Given the increased influence of websites on which consumers buy movie tickets, AOL, Facebook, Fandango, Google, Microsoft, MovieTickets.com and Yahoo were enlisted to supply data for the study.

Study was conducted by surveying 1,547 moderate-to-heavy moviegoers over eight days in July, with an additional 2,305 questioned by phone or online during July. Nielsen NRG managed the research fieldwork.

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