White Paper
May 3, 2023

The Impact of Concession Discounts on Moviegoer Spend

Exhibitors always face challenges in determining better ways to increase visitation and spending; providing the best experiences is at the heart of the business, but variation can also play a part in achieving results.

Movio has published extensive research in many elements of the theatrical exhibition industry with a focus on audience data. This time, we took our audience data analysis and put it to the task of determining how effective a simple discount might prove on the classic cinema staple: Popcorn.

In collaboration with two exhibitors in the US, Movio embarked on a trial to test the efficacy of concession discounts in affecting moviegoer behaviour. By varying pricing discounts and marketing different discount tiers to moviegoers, we aimed to find concretely whether this might:

  • Increase the amount moviegoers spent each visit, 
  • Increase the number of items moviegoers purchase, 
  • Positively influence visitation, 
  • And convert those who typically do not engage with concession purchases.


Movio conducted a collaborative pricing variation trial with two US exhibitors to investigate the impact of discounted concessions. The research involving 28,000-plus moviegoers showed that discounted concessions (in this case popcorn) could boost overall spending by as much as 17.6% per-admit.

Exhibitors face diverse challenges to grow audiences and provide greater experiences. Concessions are a huge opportunity to influence both, and have long been a core part of exhibitors’ business. But can exhibitors further leverage concessions with variable pricing, and how far might the benefits extend?

We sought to find out whether targeted discounting of concessions could:

  • Increase the amount moviegoers spent each visit,
  • Increase the number of items moviegoers purchase,
  • Positively influence visitation,
  • And convert those who typically do not engage with concession purchases.

Testing how concession discounts affect spending and behaviour


We architected a two-month trial to test the impact of discounts centred around the classic cinema concession staple, popcorn. Together with two US Exhibitors, we tested the different impacts of $1, $2, and $4 discounts on large-sized popcorn, focusing on moviegoers with historically lower rating of spend-per-admit.

We ranked moviegoers by their spend-per-admit according to past behavioural data, and segmented the lowest 25% of moviegoers for the trial. The selected moviegoers were randomly assigned to one of the three discount tiers or a control group*, which were then fixed for the remainder of the study.

All three discount tiers boosted spend-per-admit across the board, with total spend uplift ranging from 2.12% to as much as 17.6%.

Exhibitor A recorded a 5.17% average increase in expenditure across all three discount tiers, whereas Exhibitor B showed an average increase in expenditure of 11.08%.

Predictably, the highest discount tier of $4 produced the greatest uplift in spend-per-admit, with a 17.60% increase recorded among moviegoers at Exhibitor B. While the impact was less pronounced for Exhibitor A, they still saw a significant increase of 11.11%.

The control groups for each exhibitor were still sent regular communications from the cinema as usual, but received no additional communications relating to the discount offers.

Those in the experiment were able to redeem their discount once during the trial period, and moviegoers were sent reminder emails periodically if they had not redeemed their offer yet.  

Many non-purchasers of concessions can’t resist a discount

Significant numbers of moviegoers who didn’t usually buy concessions were motivated to take advantage of the discount.  

Approximately one-in-ten moviegoers in the research control groups—moviegoers who did not receive additional communication about the discounted popcorn—purchased the discounted popcorn. Specifically, Exhibitor A’s control group saw a 10.12% purchase rate, and Exhibitor B, a 9.25% purchase rate.

With the sole exception of the smallest discount tier at Exhibitor A, every discount tier drove an increase in the proportion of moviegoers purchasing the item in question compared to the moviegoers in the control group.  

Approximately one-in-seven (14.65%) moviegoers at Exhibitor A took advantage of the discounted popcorn – a 44.76% increase in the number of moviegoers purchasing large-sized popcorn compared to the control group. Similarly, one-in-nine (11.16%) moviegoers at Exhibitor B did the same, representing a 20.65% increase on the control group.


Discounts encourage further purchases


It wasn’t just discounted popcorn in moviegoers’ sights; analysis also showed an uptick in the number of items purchased alongside the offered discount.

The moviegoers in question for the trial were those who already spend very little, being those in the lowest 25% in terms of spend-per-admit, and so began from low averages of concession items per admit, but saw comparatively very large increases.

For Exhibitor A, the discount groups saw an average items-per-admit count reach as high as 0.85 compared to the control group’s average item count per admit of 0.59 — a 44.06% uptick!

Exhibitor B meanwhile saw their discount tiers reach a height of 0.48 average items-per-admit compared to their control group’s average of 0.35, representing a 37.14% uptick.

Concession discounts’ efficacy extends to visitation habits

In keeping with results on measures such as spending and items purchased, the larger discounts also drove a slight uplift in visitation rates across both exhibitors.  

The $4 discount at Exhibitor A produced a visitation rate of 39.3% compared to 36.3% for the control group. Similarly, though less pronounced, the $4 discount at Exhibitor B drove a visitation rate of 30.87% compared to 29.02% for the control group.

Though these results may not appear to be a dramatic lift in visitation rate, it’s worth noting that this trial was staggered across November 2021 through March 2022 (with each Exhibitor running their trial for two months overall). This was a time during both a slow return to moviegoing, and a relatively limited film slate. We can’t speculate, but wonder how much more significant these numbers might appear if the trial was re-run during a less restricted time with a wider range of film offerings as there are now.


Discounts are unlikely to erode total income generated by concessions

A breakdown of per-admit-spend shows levels of spend are reasonably consistent across each discount tier and the control groups. The results suggest that discounts are unlikely to reduce takings at the till.  

The control group at Exhibitor A recorded a per-admit-spend of $8.46. This increased to $8.90 for the $4 discount group. The $2 discount group spent even more – $9.19 per-admit.  

The average per-admit-spend at Exhibitor B was $2.76. All three discount tiers recorded a slightly higher per-admit spend, which peaked at $3.30 for the $4 discount group.  

In Summary

Discounting sessions is likely to:

  • Increase the amount spent on concessions
  • Increase the number of concession items purchased
  • Possibly increase the number of theatre visits
  • Possibly increase overall spending during theatre visits
  • Motivate significant numbers of moviegoers who didn’t usually buy concessions to take advantage of a discount

Predictably, a greater proportion of the $4 discount group recorded positive changes to measures including greater spending, items purchased, and visitation compared to lower discount tiers and control groups across both exhibitors.    

This result is consistent with the initial surge in redemptions among the $4 discount group, which, over the course of the trial, plateaued to levels recorded among the other discount groups.

Notably, however, a breakdown of per-admit-spend at Exhibitor A showed that the $2 discount group spent more ($9.19 per-admit) than the $4 discount group ($8.90), raising the possibility that a larger discount does not necessarily increase overall spend.

This research demonstrates the significant potential of a relatively modest tactical manoeuvre – a discount on a large popcorn – on spending. We know that exhibitors have a strong appetite for experimentation, but maximising investment in promotions must rise on sound data. Movio’s data and insights capture profiles of moviegoers, combining offline and online transactional data, demographic profiles, online activity, marketing engagement and other external data sources to help exhibitors grow audiences and revenue.

Having seen such improvements from discounts with the historically least engaged purchasers of concessions with these exhibitors, there appears to be enormous opportunity in how cinemas can use price variation to improve the engagement of their moviegoers, and, using Movio’s historical data, segmenting certain moviegoers to create highly effective and individually targeted offerings to deliver the greatest experiences possible.  

But there are still further questions we want to explore. In the future, with a follow-up study or re-run with larger sales numbers, we could establish the elasticity of such a pricing model, and relate individuals’ past behaviour in order to customise offers to individual moviegoers.

Want to know more about what Movio has to offer? Contact us to schedule a demo today!

Already a Movio customer? Contact your Account Manager to see how you could run similar experiments and incorporate Movio data to inform targeted discount offerings.

About this research

Our research aimed to gauge the impact of discounted concessions (in this case a large popcorn) on moviegoer behaviour and purchasing.

The two-month study involved moviegoers at two exhibitors – Exhibitor A and Exhibitor B. The research sample at each exhibitor included a control group and three test groups, each targeted with a specific discount – either $1, $2, or $4.

Each of the three test groups was sent communications about a discount on a large popcorn, with reminders sent to those people who had not used their discount. The control groups did not receive any communication about the discount.  

About Movio

Movio is the global leader in marketing data analytics and campaign management solutions, revolutionising the way the film industry interacts with moviegoers. Movio is the world’s most comprehensive source of moviegoer data and has products designed specifically with the challenges of movie marketing in mind. Movie lovers at heart, it’s our mission to connect everyone with their ideal movie. Movio is a company of Vista Group International Ltd (NZX & ASX: VGL).

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