New study sheds light on what youth audiences really want in cinemas

Phil Clapp at the Australian International Movie Convention. 

The cinemagoing behaviour by kids aged 12-14, 15-17 and the 18-25 demographic is fundamentally different, posing challenges for distributors and exhibitors.

That’s according to a newly-released study of young audiences in the UK, Germany and Spain, which was presented today at the Australian International Movie Convention.

There was very little variation in attitudes and experiences between the three markets, so, given the cultural similarities between Australia and the UK, Australian execs can draw plenty of inferences from the report.

Phil Clapp, CEO of the UK Cinema Association and president of the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), outlined the key points in a session entitled, “What do youth audiences really want?”

Attesting to the relevance of the study conducted by GfK to the Australian industry, Clapp tells IF: “Many of the influences and social media channels are universal in the developed world so we would expect many of the findings to be broadly similar.”

The report found younger people go to the cinema primarily for the ‘wow’ factor, the middle tier see it as a social activity  while the older group need encouragement to leave their homes and engage with cinemas.

Illustrating the differences are these typical quotes from each demographic:

12-14: “I just love watching new films out on the big screen at the cinema.”

15-17: “The cinema gives me the chance to catch up with friends as through working and studying I generally have no free time.“

18-25:  “I prefer watching movies at home in a more relaxed environment. Sometimes I find the cinema far too busy.“

In all three territories there has been a noticeable decline in the past decade in the frequency of moviegoing among 18-25s, although Clapp suspects that is partly due to the ageing of populations.

Interestingly, very few said they have reduced their moviegoing because they are watching films or TV series on Netflix or other streaming platforms. 

Clapp said: “We have to work even harder to keep the 18-25s in the cinemagoing habit as they have less leisure time and a much broader array of things they can do in that time.”

His advice to Aussie exhibitors and distributors: “Think about how you can magnify the experience while young people are in the cinema; how you communicate with and market to them before they get to the cinema; and how you maintain that engagement once they have left.

“Young people now expect a level of personalisation and a level of communication which has not traditionally been a hallmark of the cinema sector.”

Reducing price is an option, the study found, but is not essential because young people are willing to spend money as long as their needs are met. However the price-value perception of cinema decreases over teenage years and the older the teen audience gets, the less their needs seem fulfilled.

The survey did not delve into specific films or genres but found that generally young people believe they are well catered for.

Paradoxically, a lot of younger kids said they believe there should be no or less texting in cinemas but were unwilling to give up that annoying habit.

Some respondents want cinemas to use more apps or loyalty cards to avoid having to queue or use cash.

Among other items on the wish list are themed events, mystery films and more alternate content for their age group such as TV series and live broadcasting of sports events.

There were a few bizarre suggestions such as being able to view a particular seat and the exact view using Google cam, installing mini-screens on tables and hiring staff to act as characters.

Clapp acknowledges Australian cinemas are world class, our cinema is “ahead of the game” internationally and can build on a strong foundation.