Why Do They Make the Movies They Do?

DickBioPicThe entertainment industry is in a state of flux. Attendance is declining steadily while ticket prices are now at double digits. This dilemma is due in part to the sudden explosion of streaming movie sites that offer wide varieties of content right in our living rooms. It all means year-to-year theatrical revenues are starting to shrink. Filmmakers are searching for the “magic bullet” to target the largest audience for their movies. Question is; which audience segment will generate the most revenue?

Hollywood separates moviegoers into groups based upon consumer behaviors and preferences. These are called psychographic profiles; unlike demographic profiles which group people by age, income and social status. Psychographic groups are connected by similar tastes and sensitivities. The term “like-minded” refers to these groupings.

To illustrate, I’ve developed a list of psychographic categories below. If you want to participate in an unscientific survey, write each of these categories on a sheet of paper. Next, write the name of at least one recent film that would appeal to people in each group.

Pre-school children who love fantasies: Youngsters looking for role models: First-person shooter gamers (adolescents and teens): Sports enthusiasts: High adventure lovers: Love-sick teens: Romantics (a euphemism for love-sick adults): Woman-hating men: Man-hating women: Animal/earth lovers: Animal/earth haters: Students of history: Historical revisionists: Political liberals: Political conservatives: Pro-evolutionists: Pro-creationists: Atheists: People of faith…

The point of this exercise is to increase our awareness of the mental gymnastics movie producers go through before green-lighting a picture. They not only have to identify the potential audience for their project, they must also be convinced there are enough people in that category to make money – hopefully, BIG money.

Millennials are the hot generation that everyone is talking about and marketers are targeting. The Pew Research organization defines “adult Millennials” as those who are 18 to 33 years old, born 1981–1996. This mostly self-indulgent, pre-parental group drives the majority of trends in fashion and other lifestyle choices including entertainment. The oft-quoted axiom from the film, Field of Dreams applies to this psychographic group. “If you build it, [they] will come.” Filmmakers spend sleepless nights trying to figure out what “it” is.

If age 18 isn’t a young enough group to influence, ABC Family Channel is shifting away from millennials to what it has dubbed Becomers – kids age 14 and up. This is part of a rebranding of sorts to focus on music and the many “firsts” in the lives of its young audience. ABC Family president, Tom Ascheim says, “Becomers are exploring and establishing who they are becoming — personally, professionally and romantically — they live in that magical and messy place between their first kiss and their first kid.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Pew Research has been studying another psychographic group called Christians. According to their latest statistics, after surveying 35,000 Americans from all 50 States they report this “niche” makes up 70.6% of the entire U.S. population.

We are witnessing a sea-change in the direction many filmmakers are taking toward more spiritual or inspirational stories that appeal to this huge, underserved audience. Entertainment executives realize this psychographic group that has both the desire to be entertained and the money to go to the movies. It also happens to be the largest like-minded group of consumers in America – mainstream families with traditional values rooted in their faith.

The “Faith and Family” audience is moving the needle toward more “mild-mannered” film types, which are in fact, the most profitable. To illustrate that point, Dove published its FILM PROFITABILITY STUDY which shows that the average Dove Approved film is nearly 3 times as profitable as movies that failed to meet Dove standards. It’s also important to note that the number of R-rated movies produced each year has fallen by 38% since 1991. And, over the past two years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of faith-themed films released into theaters…nearly 30 titles during that period. Before choosing your next movie experience, ask yourself a couple of questions. “Which psychographic group was the movie made for?” And . . . “Do I want to be counted as a member of that group?” A safe place to begin making those entertainment choices is at www.dovechannel.com

Column Credit: Dick Rolfe, CEO – The Dove Foundation

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