Movie Audiences: Internet Role in Moviegoing

Most people still find out about movies in traditional ways, but the Internet increasingly rules.

That’s the conclusion of a new study conducted by Variety sibling company MarketCast on behalf of Google. Research will be presented this morning at an event also sponsored by Variety and the Motion Picture Associaon of America.

Benchmark study, set to be conducted on an annual basis, found that the vast majority (89%) of moviegoers initially hear about a film from traditional sources including TV, in-theater trailers or word of mouth, while only 8% do so online.

Once people find out about a film, however, about half (49%) do additional research before deciding to see a film; for them, the Internet is the most popular tool.

Of those researchers, 70% use the Internet to discover more about the film. That’s about one-third of overall moviegoers, whom the study dubbed “moviegoing infoseekers.”

Despite the stereotype of heavy Internet users as young, tech-savvy males, study found other kinds of moviegoers among the Web users.

What distinguishes the infoseekers, said MarketCast VP-general manager Henry Shapiro, is that for them, “Moviegoing isn’t a passive process.”

Infoseekers are more likely than others to influence friends’ choices in films, and they use the Internet more throughout the movie selection process.

Of this group, 16% said they first hear about a movie online, as opposed to 4% of the rest of moviegoers. They’re also twice as likely to buy movie tickets online.

Asked where they turn to on the Net to do their movie research, 31% named search engines such as Google, followed by entertainment sites such as Yahoo! Movies and Moviefone (named by 17%), general portals such as MSN (13%) and studio-run Web sites for individual films (10%).

Among all forms of advertising, the study found that online trailers and Web ads are the third and fourth most influential on moviegoers, trailing far behind TV commercials and in-theater trailers but ahead of billboards and radio.

Overall, 17% of moviegoers listed the Internet as the most influential medium in deciding what pics to see.

Google and other Netcos undoubtedly will use the research to push studios to spend more online. The Internet last year drew under 3% of all movie marketing dollars.

“By no means am I saying studios should be spending 17% of their budgets online,” commented Google industry marketing manager for media and entertainment David Fleck. “But you can connect the dots and say it probably shouldn’t be 2.6%.”

As with previous research, MarketCast found the Internet has become the dominant medium to research showtimes and theater locations, used by 51% of respondents, more than all other media combined.