The Millennial Cinematic Experience

The availability of free in-home movie viewing is greater than ever before, yet there is still no substitute for the big screen experience… and with the millennial generation, nothing speaks louder than the ultimate viewing experience in a modern theatre. Statistics say that 53% of theatre ticket sales in the U.S. are coming from Millennial filmgoers, so it is vital for theatre operators to deliver an engaging experience if they want them to come back.  In this evolved Age of Experience, perfecting and owning the experience means owning the Millennial entertainment spend.

I’m a Millennial.  There, I said it!  There are times where I loathe being put into that category and marginalized in that way, but I have to admit that my affection for the aforementioned experience puts me right in the mainstream of the category.  I’m gadget reliant, technology competent, and hungry for great experiences.  As such, I’ll tell you that there are three cinematic experiences that need to line up in order for me to spend my cash at a theatre, versus queuing up a free or low-cost movie in the comfort of my man-cave. Those three experiential hot buttons are a meaningful social experience, a sensory-immersive experience, and a stress-free experience.

In my generation, movies have really been about the social experience. Going to the theatre is a social activity that requires companionship, planning/coordination, finding a shirt that is not wrinkled and making sure I have a sweet playlist to entertain my friends on the drive to the theatre.  So it takes a little effort. Data tells us that, despite the effort, 69% of Millennials feel that time spent out with friends and family is more valuable than nights hanging at the crib.  Socializing is my primary incentive to leave my man-cave.  The connected experience of going to the movies with the people closest to me satisfies my Millennial desire to attend a high-experience event while simultaneously fulfilling my need to connect with others. Additionally, there is an intrinsic value in experiencing a wide range of emotions so intensely with a room full of strangers.  As you know, movies elicit powerful emotions and these are intensified when shared with a group; so much so that they are almost contagious. Just think of a time when you watched the whole theatre gasp at an action or horror film. Admit it, you jumped too!

The immersive experience has developed leaps and bounds over the past half-decade. Advances in recent technologies have been the catalyst for a new immersive movie going experience, and increased fulfillment for Millennials. In terms of technology, I notice it all.  Mobile and digital are the forefront of the experience as well as:

  • Engaging Digital Box Office displays featuring snippets of other movies
  • Oversized Digital Displays throughout the lobby areas featuring info and advertising
  • Digital menu boards that talk me into spending my hard-earned cash on snacks
  • Video walls and software that display incredible life-sized and interactive content
  • Directional auditorium signage leading me to my movie … better than a popcorn trail
  • Incredible auditorium projection, making the movies so much more life-like
  • What can I say about digital sound systems – it’s all about that bass!

We Millennials expect technology to work. All the time.  Without fail.  You are better off not having technology in your theatres if it doesn’t work. Remember, we are tethered to our smartphones, apps, and gadgets and expect them to work every time. The same goes with theatre technology. So I love it when a theatre uses the advancements in technology to engage moviegoers as soon as they enter the theatre. It creates an environment that we will want to return to in order to experience it again.

At the core, Millennials go to the movies for the same reasons other generations have attended theatres, which is a momentary escape from the real world. For decades the cinema has been a door to another world. But what makes this particularly special for Millennials?  The phrase “kick back and enjoy the show” comes to mind first. Millennials expect a convenient experience and a level of comfort that meets or exceeds the comfort and convenience of the reasonably equipped man-cave. Theatres offer a unique atmosphere due to growing commitment to a VIP experience. Reserved seating, reclining seats, and loyalty programs all add to the perceived VIP experience and make for an easy, stress-free trip to the movies. Sure, Millennials are the entitled generation, BUT we are not cheap. In fact, 81% of Millennials admit that they are willing to pay more for a superior customer experience … an experience where we feel that everything is customized to our individual expectations while still enabling a feeling of community.

A little advice from one Millennial movie junky – make going to the movies a social, immersive, VIP, cinematic experience to drive a memorable experience and then let us do the rest. We’ll text, chat, snap, and share our delight with magic of the movies, making sure that our other Millennial pals know where we went to get a sensory experience and escape the outside stresses.  That sounds like a good payoff, huh?

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