August 27, 2019 at 8:06PM

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Do You Know Who Actually Goes to the Movies?

It's easy to think of going to the movies as something that's universal. Everyone goes to the movies, right? Actually, 25% of the population is categorized as non-moviegoers according to the MPAA. (Inconceivable?!) And some people go to the movies way more often than others. As filmmakers, we need to understand who's going to the movies so we can find our target audience.

Fortunately, the MPAA releases a report every year that breaks down the moviegoing public across many different demographic categories.

"Frequent Moviegoers"

The first thing to look at is how often people go to the movies. And the most important category is frequent moviegoers (those who go to the movies once a month or more). Why is this the most important category? Because they have an inordinate amount of power at the box office. Only 12% of the population falls into this category, and yet, they purchase almost 50% of movie tickets. Another way of looking at this: the average person buys 5 movie tickets per year; frequent moviegoers buy over 15 movie tickets per year. If your film appeals to frequent moviegoers, you have a much better chance of making a profit.

So, who are these frequent moviegoers? Before we can dive into that, we need to define some terms.

Over / Under-representation

The best way to understand the data we're going to look at is to think about it in terms of over- or under-representation. We talk a lot about representation in Hollywood when it comes to hiring cast and crew but today, we're going to look at what it means for the audience. So what exactly is over/under-representation? Let's think about an imaginary group (age/gender/ethnicity/etc.). Let's imagine that this group makes up 20% of the population. Normally, we would expect this group to make up 20% of your audience. If this group makes up 30% of your audience, then they are over-represented. If they make up 10% of your audience, then they are under-represented. Groups that are over-represented in your audience wield a disproportionate amount of economic power.

Now, we can look at which groups are over-represented among frequent moviegoers.

Age

The most "important" age group is 25 - 39 year olds, making up 25% of frequent moviegoers. This group is over-represented by 4 percentage points compared to its share of the population. 12 - 17 and 18 - 24 year olds are both over-represented by 4 points as well. Together, 12-39 year olds account for half of frequent moviegoers and almost half of all tickets sold

Ethnicity

While Caucasian was the single biggest group among frequent moviegoers (55%), they are actually under-represented by about 7 points. Latinx was the most over-represented group. Latinx accounted for 24% of frequent moviegoers despite making up only 18% of the population. Asians also tend to be over-represented, although to a lesser extent. Latinx and Asian are the groups that go to the movies the most often on a per capita basis.

Total Tickets Sold

The reason to target frequent moviegoers is that you get more bang for your marketing buck from this group. However, filmmakers obviously care about every ticket sold. Are the trends different when we look at total tickets sold? In short, no. The same groups tend to be over- and under-represented and by similar margins. On top of that, these same trends have held largely true for the past several years.

Single Most Over-represented Demographic Group :)

Putting all of this together, what have we learned? Well, we see that the "ideal" target demographic is a Latino man aged 25 to 39 years old. Does this mean that I should rewrite my script to target this demographic? For the love of god, no! Tell the story you're inspired to tell. And then, you get to use the knowledge of these trends to find your target audience.

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