White Paper
Oct 11, 2015

What Women Want: Unlocking Incremental Box Office Revenue

The following research was put together by our Chief Data Scientist Dr Bryan Smith, explaining how we have identified two clusters of moviegoers both dominated by women, and typically not attracted to tentpole films. Our findings suggest that a shift in focus towards producing and marketing films to women could pay off not only in incremental box office but in blockbuster returns as well. So, perhaps the answer to breaking box office records is as simple as knowing what women want.

The Box Office Challenge

Even with such chart-topping titles as “Jurassic World” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” 2015’s unadjusted cumulative box office is up only 6% over 2014 and only 1% over 2013 as of 15 September 2015. This suggests that successful big-budget tentpole films are not sufficient for driving an increase in overall moviegoing. Due to their large production budgets, it’s also not feasible to simply produce more of these types of films, and this may be counterproductive as it simply divides the same viewership over a larger number of movies.

Are there groups of moviegoers that attend the cinema regularly but avoid tentpole films?

If so,

  • What do these groups look like?
  • What types of content do they prefer?
  • Would it make sense to spend more resources producing and or marketing content to these groups?

The map to the stars

Movio - Map to the stars
  1. To better understand the moviegoer preferences, our data science team built an audience based network of the movies released since January 1, 2014, 310 movies in all.
  2. The data was captured from a normalized sample of 1M typical moviegoers, from across North America.
  3. Each dot represents specific titles, the size of the dots represents the relative size of the audience.
  4. Each movie is connected to the two most similar audiences, using Movio Media’s proprietary Similarity Rating algorithm.
  5. Then applying our clustering algorithm, the audience was segmented into the following 10 Clusters
  • Tentpole: Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron,
  • Tough Action: American Sniper, Fury
  • Animation: Inside Out, Minions
  • Horror: Annabelle, The Purge: Anarchy
  • Bollywood: PK, Dr. Cabbie
  • Comedy: 22 Jump Street, Spy
  • Indie Pop: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman
  • Arthouse: The Grand Seduction, Magic in the Moonlight
  • Drama: The Imitation Game, Unbroken
  • Faith Based: Heaven is for Real, When the Game Stands Tall

Interestingly Horror fans are unique. This genre is considered as profitable, with relatively low production cost and limited cannibalization.

Who doesn’t go to blockbusters?

To determine this, we looked at moviegoers least likely to watch tentpoles. In the end, two interesting sub-clusters stood out:

  1. Dramas Appealing to Female Baby-boomers - 23 movies, including titles such as The Hundred-Foot Journey or Women in Gold.
  2. Comedies Appealing to Millennial Women - 12 movies, including Spy or Trainwreck.

1. Dramas appealing to Female Baby-Boomers (born in 1946-1964)

baby boomers moviegoers

  • 13% of the total sample
  • Average age of 55
  • 59% female
  • Go to the movies almost once a month
  • Prefer to go early in the day (54% of visits before 5 pm, compared to 42% for the total population)

To create some form of benchmark, we adopted a simple box office revenue to film budget ratio that we call Gross to Budget Ratio.

Movio gross to budget ratio
  1. The ratio for each of the 23 films was averaged to provide a singular, aggregated to a singular ratio.
  2. We will use this methodology through this presentation.

What is interesting to notice is that the average Gross to Budget Ratio is quite significant at 4.1.

2. Comedies Appealing to Millennial Women (born in 1980-1994)

millennial moviegoers

  • 13% of the total sample
  • Average age of 38
  • 60% female
  • Go to the movies almost once a month
  • Prefer to go later in the evening, with only 34% of visit before 5 pm

These films performed even better than the previous group with an average Gross to Budget Ratio of 6.3. These two clusters of movies have common characteristics:

  • They appeal to an audience that is not attracted to traditional tentpole films
  • They attract an audience that is a significant (>13%) fraction of moviegoers
  • They are relatively profitable

They also appeal to very different audiences:

  • One older and more likely to see movies during the day
  • One younger and more likely to go at night
  • Both audiences are avid moviegoers
  • Both are predominantly women

Should Studios Target Women?

Our research would say absolutely, particularly when we consider the following:

  • 60% of all loyalty card holders are female - Loyalty accounts directly for 25% of all admissions and an estimated 47% indirectly
  • 57% of the Animated audience is female, suggesting our children are being introduced to cinema by women

Additionally, we looked at films with a gender bias over 60%, resulting in the analysis of 45 male dominant film audience and 40 female dominated film audience.

Should studios target women

This revealed the following insight:

Although the male-dominated films had an average worldwide gross twice as big as the female-dominated films, the average Gross to Budget Ratio of female-dominated films is greater: 5.1 vs. 2.3.

This trend is true, even when we considered blockbusters, with the male-focused superhero films averaging a global Gross to Budget Ratio of 2.9, while the female-focused action films (centered on the Hunger Games franchise) returned an average Gross to Budget Ratio of 4.4.

To find out more about our methodology download the full white paper "What Women Want: Unlocking Box Office Revenue" and watch the full presentation below.

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