movie marketing

Can a new platform disrupt the way we book cinema tickets online?

I’m going to set out my prejudiced little stall immediately: I hate booking cinema tickets online.

In terms of annoying outdated UX, booking tickets for all the major cinema chains is up there with pagination, full-page takeover ads and reading our old non-responsive site on a mobile.

I looked at the major players Odeon, Vue and Cineworld earlier in the year and each provided a frustrating experience, full of unnecessary distractions and barriers to purchase.

Universal Pictures: social and the silver screen

How has one of the oldest and most high profile industries adapted to the rise of social media?

Two years ago, social was something that the publicity department did on the side. Universal has since built a specific social team and overseen a complete change in marketing strategy.

Albert Hogan is the head of digital strategy at Universal Pictures UK and he talked at our Festival of Marketing this morning about how the studio has learnt to engage with a very vocal film-loving audience across social.

Death to the trailer: the 10 most shared movie promos of the last 12 months

Cinema ticket sales are down 8.8% in the US alone this year so it’s becoming increasingly vital for movie studios to use online video to drive box office numbers.

However it’s not just about uploading a trailer to YouTube and sitting back and and waiting for the views to rack up months prior to a release date. Almost half of a trailer’s shares are achieved in the first 24 hours of upload.

In fact the most shared promotional content for a film isn’t even just the standard trailer anymore. It’s other more innovative and intriguing types of movie marketing content like prankvertising, music videos or standalone short films relating to the movie.

The good news is that one in three people would buy a cinema ticket after watching an online trailer or ad. The internet has become the key arena where the attentions of cinemagoers are fought for, however as it gets increasingly crowded and box office figures continue to drop, studios will have to work even harder to improve their strategy.

Unruly has just published some research on the current state of online movie marketing. Here’s a look at some of the stats and advice contained within.

How digital & social media are changing the way movies are marketed

The internet and digital media have been accused of contributing to the slow demise of the movie industry, however it’s also a fact that digital has enabled filmmakers on a budget to attract a wider audience than was possible in the analogue age.

Social media has been one of the obvious agents of change, as films can gain huge amount of buzz through word-of-mouth.

It means the movie-going public no longer has to rely on official reviews and adverts on the side of a London bus to find out about the latest releases.

Our own Christopher Ratcliff has already touched on this subject in an article about intriguing examples of online movie marketing, but I felt it was a topic that deserved further investigation.

And for an expert view on all things movie marketing, Universal Pictures’ head of digital strategy Albert Hogan will speaking at our Festival of Marketing in November, a two-day celebration of the modern marketing industry,

The Festival also features speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, and more.

Is it dawn of the dead for official movie websites?

The very first experience of the internet I ever had was visiting an official movie website. 

In 1997, via a dial-up connection at my girlfriend’s parents’ house and supervised by her pale older brother, I typed in a URL I found in Empire magazine:

It looked exactly as you’d imagine. A static image of Austin Powers with whatever character Liz Hurley played in it (again this was 1997), along with a couple of Flash enabled games, a few still images and the odd ‘high quality’ screensaver. 

I doubt there was a trailer. If there was, it would have taken three hours to load.

Unfortunately 17 years later things haven’t really improved. Even in this age of parallax scrolling and HTML5-festooned web experiences, most official movie websites are still clunky and follow exactly the same template…

14 intriguing and mysterious examples of online movie marketing

While foraging around the internet I noticed a wonderful thing. The Blair Witch Project website is still live.

I assumed that much like all movie marketing websites that are more than two years old, it would have been shut down or repurposed as a DVD product page.

Then again, The Blair Witch Project website is far more important and era-defining than any other traditional movie homepage with simple links to trailers and cast & crew biographies. 

In 1999 I was beginning to use the internet for the first time and I was part of the gullible first-wave of audience members who truly believed that The Blair Witch Project was a genuine documentary. Thanks to its website fleshed out with fake news reports, interviews, a history of the Blair witch and stills from the evidence room.

Fight Club! Odeon, Vue and Cineworld: a UX comparison

It doesn’t feel like that long ago when this phone conversation was a common occurrence…

Automated Booking Line: Please say the location of your chosen cinema clearly.

Me: Manchester.

ABL: Did you say Chester?

Me: No.

ABL: Here are the film times for Chester.


ABL: You have selected The Nutty Professor 2 The Klumps.

Thank goodness those days are over… or are they? 

Modern online cinema booking is certainly far from the flawless experience it should be. In my experience its full of limited navigation, poor search and endless booking options.

In this user experience test I’ll be taking three of the biggest UK cinema chains through a vigourous check to see which one offers the best online experience, for desktop and mobile.

14 blockbusting examples of movie website design

As the cinema experience continues to improve with technological advancements in Imax, 3D and fully immersive sound, so too does the aesthetic experience of the web with its glorious HTML5, parallax scrolling and super-slick CSS3 coding.

It’s as if they’re competing directly for our attention!

Thankfully the home experience will never match the cinema experience no matter how cutting edge your home cinema set-up may be. 

Just think of the sheer visceral horror of watching Sandra Bullock spinning out of control in the depths of space and how muted it will seem while watching it in bed on your tablet.

These films still need to be marketed through these less than cinematic desktops and portable devices in order to drag us out of our homes and into the theatres.

Luckily the fast pace of change in web design trends has meant that the large scale experience of cinema can be substituted online in brilliant alternative and innovative ways.

Here is a list of movie websites that either feature captivating visuals, grand technological achievements, innovative UX or highly interactive fun, whilst also perfectly capturing the essence of the movie online.