TheGrill 2016: Mobile Is the Key to Reviving Movie Ticket Sales, Says Movio’s Will Palmer

Moviegoing isn’t dead or dying, but it needs to get mobile, says Will Palmer, the CEO of Movio, who returns to TheGrill stage for the second year in a row

Will Palmer, co-founder & chief executive of Movio speaks onstage during TheWrap's 6th Annual TheGrill at Montage Beverly Hills on October 6, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alison Buck/Getty Images for TheWrap)

“The winner of the mobile race will be the winner of the ticketing race,” said Movio CEO Will Palmer, in a preview to his panel next week about the future of moviegoing at TheGrill 2016, which kicks off Monday September 26. “The way the social channels are headed towards e-commerce, studios will be able to create content that will perform really well within these social channels. Those will be the biggest changes — mobile, and the ability to ticket natively within social apps.”

Currently, only 25 percent of movie tickets in the United States are sold online, compared to a stunning 80 percent in China, a topic that will be explored at the conference. What’s the reason for that gap?

Palmer believes that once mobile and social ticketing methods are widely implemented, along with the data tools that Movio offers, North American movie ticket sales could return to early 2000’s numbers, or better.

“That will be possible when the programming is managed in such a way that it complements itself rather than cannibalizing itself,” said Palmer. “When that piece gets sorted, coupled with the data that studios are now using to decide what to make, we are going to see some growth.”

At TheGrill 2015, Palmer focused on the lack of movies for women, despite a Movio study showing that films targeting female baby boomers and millennials — the audiences statistically least likely to watch tentpole releases — tend to perform better at the box office relative to their budget than tentpoles do.

The same study also found that 54 percent of female baby boomers attend movies before 5 p.m., compared to only 33 percent of millennial women.

“These trends help answer a major problem in the cinema business,” Palmer said, “which is, What do you do with all of the distressed inventory during the day?”

Palmer and Movio have been gathering audience data via theater chain loyalty programs for every major U.S. film released since January 2014. At the time of the conference last year, Movio had analyzed audience data from 310 films total. By now, Palmer estimates, that figure has nearly doubled.

“We have over 100 million customer records,” he added.

The more films Movio compiles in its database, the more in-depth, targeted and valuable the company’s flagship analytics software becomes to studios and film exhibitors, who use it to help decipher how specific audience demographics are responding to their theatrical releases.

Don’t miss this year’s Grill taking place Sept. 26-27, 2016, at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, check out all the speakers here. Buy your ticket before they sell out!