Forget Fanboys, Why Hispanics Are the Most Important Moviegoers

The Hispanic population, which will grow to 56 million by 2030, has turned films like “The Lego Movie” big hits

Lego Movie

Hispanic moviegoers are the most important audience in the United States, according to a diverse panel of experts who spoke Sunday at the Produced By Conference in Los Angeles. They go to the movies more often and in larger groups, they spend more at concession stands and they talk about movies more on social media, panelists said.

“Hispanics are far and away the most important consumer at our cinemas,” John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners told the crowd at Warner Bros. Fithian cited a wide variety of statistics to reaffirm his point, and broke into Spanish on a couple of occasions.

Also read: TV Chiefs Want More Diverse Showrunners – ‘Latinos In Particular,’ Says ABC Boss

Univision’s Peter Fillaci initiated the discussion with a presentation that stressed the financial incentives for Hollywood to aggressively court Hispanic customers.

The Hispanic population will grow to 56 million by 2030, augmenting what is already the fastest-growing group in the United States. While one in every six Americans identify as Hispanic — 34 million give or take — one out of every four babies born are Hispanic.

Though Hispanics are not a monolith uniform in taste, panelists agreed they are generally more family-oriented and more active on social media. Nielsen executive Ray Ydoyaga said data revealed heightened use of both social media and mobile devices among Hispanics, a point also made by a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

Also read: Why Hollywood, Cable Companies Are Not Satisfying Hispanics

Ydoyaga has spent the past several years researching the Hispanic market for Hollywood studios, and he has concluded that Hispanics are the “most valuable” and “most avid” moviegoers.

They go to the movies six times a year on average, as compared to four for everyone else, and they show up on opening weekend more than anyone else (47 percent to 37 percent).

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While Hollywood devotes a lot of time figuring out what fanboys want to see, Hispanics have driven many of the year’s biggest hits, such as “The Lego Movie.”

“Who would have thought a family title could do $250M in the dead of winter?” Fithian said, referencing “Lego.” “It did, and Hispanics had a lot to do with that.

Also read: How Warner Bros. Tweaked ‘The Lego Movie’ for Foreign Audiences

Hollywood’s reticence in targeting Hispanic moviegoers stems from several myths the panelists worked hard to disprove.

Many executives believe Hispanics only go to see certain movies of a certain genre, but Fithian cited data demonstrating they like the same genres as everyone else. Many executives believe Spanish-speaking audiences will not see English-language movies, but producer Roberto Orci noted Spanish-speaking audiences love seeing marketing that targets them specifically because it is so unusual.

He then noted a few marketing campaigns that failed because companies did not do sufficient market research. Chevy released a car called the Nova while “No va” in Spanish means does not go.

“Sometimes you can’t just take a general market ad and translate it into Spanish,” Orci said.

Though Hollywood must recognize Hispanic moviegoers are distinct, they should not treat them as some foreign group. Most identify strongly as both Hispanics and Americans, as Spanish-speakers and English-speakers.

Orci, the Mexican-born producer of “Star Trek” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” described the two main characters in “Star Trek” as “two brothers from different cultures.” Spock is a legal immigrant who makes best friends with a Gringo.

“That’s a universal theme, and it’s informed by my experience and my culture,” Orci said. “Is that a Hispanic touch? I dunno.”

The only subject on which there was not universal agreement is whether Hollywood has been supportive enough of Hispanic filmmakers.

Fithian cited directors such as Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo Del Toro as evidence that “Hollywood has diversity right on Hispanics.” Yet the number of Hispanics behind and in front of the camera for major studio releases remains small.