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¡Viva Las Películas! - New Data Confirms The Growing Size And Appetite Of The Hispanic Theatrical Market

Posted By Pete Filiaci, Thursday, March 31, 2016

Imagine yourself sitting at home on a Thursday night after dinner, watching your favorite TV show and texting friends about the upcoming weekend. You want something to do on Friday night, and one of your friends recommends looking at the showtimes at the local theater to select which film would be the best choice to kick off the weekend. It’s easy to imagine this scene playing out every week in homes all across the country. What is perhaps less recognized is that this scene plays out with much greater frequency in the homes of Hispanic Americans.

Hollywood has had a prominent place in American life for generations. Going to the movies remains an escape from everyday life, a break from the truths we face every day: bills, work, child care responsibilities. The allure of visiting a communal space with a large screen dedicated to this beautiful art form remains one of those reachable goals that most people and families enjoy sharing with friends and/or family. For Latinos, this is true to an even greater extent. According to NRG’s 2015 Moviegoing Report, Hispanics are 10% more likely to be moviegoers (85% versus 77% for non-Hispanics). Additionally, they are more frequent moviegoers, seeing an average of 8.6 films per year versus 7.2 for their non-Hispanic counterparts. When you combine this with the fact that Hispanics attend in bigger groups (55% of Hispanics attend with three or more people versus 42% of non-Hispanics), it’s indisputable that this population packs some powerful box office punch.

Driving Box Office Sales

"No longer can the domestic market sustain the budgets of studio projects on its own,” says Deborah Calla, Chair of the PGA Diversity Committee, and Women’s Impact Network (WIN). "It is clear that in order to maximize profit, movie studios need to speak directly to the various cultural groups that make up the population [of the United States].” According to Nielsen, Hispanics generated $2.3 billion in box office revenue last year, which is 21% of total sales. For a demographic group that represents nearly 18% of the total U.S. population, that’s impressive. "We know that Hispanics are a loyal movie -ticket -buying group,” says Calla. "If targeted with specific and culturally significant campaigns, [Hispanics] will support a studio film with greater presence and expenditure.”

As more marketers recognize and market to this consumer, Hispanics continue to flock to the movie theater to enjoy the experiences of being completely engaged with and often enthralled by, the big screen. More than half of Hispanic moviegoers (53%) say they go to the movies for the big theater experience. This is a fact that movie studios and producers should take much solace in, given a media landscape that allows for viewing or enjoyment of every form of media, essentially from the palm of your hand. The act of visiting the movies and enjoying the experience in totality—from the convenient ticket kiosks, to the refreshments counter, to the luxury seats—is something celebrated by Hispanics. A recent Mintel report on moviegoing noted that Hispanics over-index across the board when it comes to spending on the extras, such as advanced tickets, reserved or premium seating, theater snacks, beverages and even full meals. And then, of course, there’s the spending on the content itself. NRG tells us that Hispanics are much more likely to see movies in 3D as well as seeing more titles in 3D annually when compared with non-Hispanic audiences.

Every studio head or marketing director works hard to deliver an impactful opening weekend. If that’s the case, targeting Hispanics with advertising in-language could be the recipe for success. Calla notes, "When the [advertising] messaging is targeted to the Hispanic community in their native language, in a culturally-appropriate way, there is a feeling of inclusion and acknowledgment. The greater returns reflect and justify these target-specific campaigns.”

Hispanic audiences tend to visit the theater on opening weekend more than any other demographic segment. According to NRG, 45% of Hispanics go to the movies on opening weekend versus 33% of non-Hispanics. Another important factor to consider is the power of word-of-mouth among Latinos. Hispanics are very social, and the impact that has on the ways in which they share information about products they love—including films—is notable. Hispanics are more likely to be convinced to see a movie in theaters (45% Hispanic vs. 42% non-Hispanic) and will pass along what they’ve heard about a movie more frequently (52% vs. 45%).

A Diverse Hollywood Reflects a Diverse America

As powerful as their current box office impact may be, Latinos likely will have an even greater impact in the years to come. Because Hispanics are more highly concentrated in the younger age groups, they account for nearly a quarter (24%) of all ticket sales among millennials. Given their relative youth, Hispanics have more effective years of buying power than non-Hispanic whites, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans. In fact, the window is an estimated 20 years greater than non-Hispanic whites, per Nielsen, due to a much younger median age combined with a greater life expectancy. What does this mean? It means more opportunities to target them across their lifetimes as moviegoers who attend with their families now, and who will one day take their children and grandchildren to the movies.

The social experience of moviegoing is another big draw for Latinos. Not only do they tend to go with family and friends, as the most active users of social media, they are also most likely to post about movies. In fact, Hispanics are 36% more likely than non-Hispanics to share their thoughts about films across social platforms. "The social experience of moviegoing is clearly a key driver for Hispanics,” says my colleague, Hilary Dubin, Vice President of Business Development at Univision Communications. "Our research community, Univisionistas, an online research panel of over 5,000 members, tells us that 47% go to the movies because it’s an entertainment activity they can enjoy with family and friends.”

As much as Hispanics are already the most frequent moviegoers, there may be even more opportunity to drive additional attendance. Dubin notes, "Our Univisionistas tell us that they want to increase their moviegoing. In fact, 74% of the panel would like to go to the movies more frequently.” That increased appetite for entertainment may entice even more films to market to this consumer. It’s time to think beyond the genres that are most closely associated with Latino moviegoers.

Films across the genre spectrum have enjoyed success with Latinos. Horror films, family-friendly fare, and action blockbusters all do exceedingly well among the cohort. But a diverse taste across a multitude of genres is becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, according to NRG, Hispanics over-index on being fans of every genre—from action/adventure to art house/independent. "One clear way studios are trying to target minorities with their products is through casting,” says Calla. "Putting actors on-screen who represent diversity creates ways for audiences to see themselves represented, and as participants in cultural storytelling.” Consider the success of Straight Outta Compton, or Furious 7, the latest installment in one of the most lucrative movie franchises in history. These titles buoyed a historic year for Universal Studios, one in which the studio grossed nearly $2.5 billion overall and commanded over 21% of market share during the same time frame—tops among all distributors in the United States, according to

It is crucial to note that both Universal titles have incredibly diverse casts with people of color in prominent starring roles. If the media we watch is a mirror to our world, reflecting the diversity of characters and people all around us is not only the right thing to do morally, it’s proving to be a sound business strategy too.

The Case For Multiculturalism

Latinos are avid moviegoers; this much is true. But according to a study released by the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, they may not be finding the characters on the screen—or the opportunities behind the camera—that accurately reflect America’s makeup.

The study, which is called the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, found Latinos are among the least represented speaking roles in film and TV, even though they make up about 17% of the U.S. population. Out of more than 11,000 speaking characters surveyed in film and TV, 5.8% were Hispanic or Latino.

The case can be made that this illustrates the need for a systemic change that starts even before the director’s chair or the producer’s chair. It starts in the writing room where small armies of dedicated writers, thinkers, comedians, and creatives are developing the stories, words, and images that the actors on-screen will deliver. Lacking that diversity in the development process will most likely result in a lack of diversity in the finished product.

Given the avidity of Latino moviegoers, Hollywood is clearly already delighting these consumers with its exceptional storytelling. Latinos are contributing more than one out of every five dollars spent at the box office. Just imagine how much more box office potential there is to be had from these enthusiastic attendees if they start seeing more films that acknowledge their experiences, reflect their values, mirror their faces and echo their voices.

- Illustrated by Elena Lacey

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