With a new measurement system that aims to shift the focus from buying screens to buying eyeballs, the rise of digital screening technology, an enhanced focus on cinema's ability to add incremental reach, and a fully staffed sales team to show off its wares, Val Morgan's sales director Natasha O'Connor says the issues that have hampered the growth of cinema advertising in New Zealand—primarily a perceived lack of accountability and additional production costs inherent in transferring TVCs to film—are now being addressed and it has taken steps to ensure cinema will be easier to plan, buy and measure in 2013.
A key strategic initiative in Australia and New Zealand is a new cinema rating system called CineTAM. Based on actual movie attendance data from 60,000 cinema loyalty club members, Val Morgan claims it "will be the most robust measurement system of any medium in the country". In the past O'Connor says accountability has been based on attendance figures. But the new system, which has had its launch pushed back slightly and is now due to launch in June, allows advertisers to target 12 different demographics and "guarantees the eyeballs".
Val Morgan’s national cinema circuit, which comprises around 2,000 screens, is now close to 60 percent digital, compared to around 80 percent in Australia, so rather than requiring agencies to create, for example, 150 different copies of a TVC on expensive 35mm film, files can now be sent on USB drives, which has made it easier, cheaper and quicker for advertisers to get their material on screens in theatres. This continuing evolution has removed a major impediment to growth, she says, and it's becoming more of a "no-brainer" to add cinema to a brand's screen strategy alongside TV and online video.
Like magazines, outdoor and digital, cinema is also taking the complementary approach, beating the incremental growth and CPM drum. Cinema has also now been incorporated into Roy Morgan’s media planning software, Asteroid, for the first time in New Zealand, which allows cinema’s role in multimedia schedules to be evaluated alongside television and other media channels.
While O'Connor says having blockbusters on the menu certainly makes it easier for the team to sell in to agencies, box office figures aren't necessarily correlated with increased ad revenue (as an example, she says ticket sales in Australia were fairly stagnant last year, but cinema advertising was up close to 50 percent). The Kiwi box office finished up around seven percent on 2011 at $167 million, although this is slightly down on 2010's $177 million. And while it didn't quite reach Australia's heights, she says ad revenue is on a similar trajectory here, up by over 40 percent in the last quarter of 2012.
Internationally, she says, growth at the box office is around ten percent and, despite the continuing gnashing of teeth over the supposedly deleterious effects of piracy, box office revenues have almost tripled in the past decade. Adding to the belief that piracy doesn't hurt the creative industries as much as the studios tend to make out, the US and Canada clocked another record box office haul in 2012 with a total of US$10.8 billion.
Motion Picture Distributors Association of New Zealand figures show The Avengers was the top grossing movie (as of Boxing Day, the industry's official end of year) in New Zealand last year, followed by Skyfall and The Hobbit.
2012's biggest grossing films in New Zealand
1. The Avengers (20th Century Fox) $8.8m
2. Skyfall (Sony) $6.3m*
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Roadshow) $6.1m*
4. The Hunger Games (Roadshow ) $5.8m
5. The Dark Knight Rises (Roadshow) $5.7m
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (20th Century Fox) $5.4m
7. The Adventures of Tin Tin ( Paramount) $5.3m
8. Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II (Hoyts) $5.0m
9. Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I (Hoyts) $4.5m
10. Ice Age: Continental Drift (20th Century Fox) $4.5m
* Still in release