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Screenvision Adopting TV Approach to Selling Ads in Movie Theaters

Movie Theater Interior - H 2012
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One of the big companies putting advertising on movie screens hopes to entice ad buyers with guarantees, better pricing and new services like Shazam.

Coming soon to the cinema -- more targeted commercials.

At its first-ever upfront presentation tonight in New York, Screenvision will be announcing changes to the way it sells advertising on movie screens. The company hopes to steal ad dollars from television broadcasters by acting more like them.

To this end, Screenvision now will be working with Nielsen to offer guarantees for certain demographics. In the past, the company merely touted the number of theater attendees without breaking down which audiences were showing up for certain films. Not only did Screenvision take a broader, less focused approach, but the ad time typically was a more expensive buy.

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"If you are going to move impressions from TV, you can't just price it at 40 percent more," says Jim Tricarico, chief revenue officer at Screenvision. "We've got to become more competitive and flexible."

Tricarico recently was hired after spending 12 years at Nickelodeon as executive vp sales.

According to the Cinema Advertising Council, the cinema advertising industry has averaged $600 million in revenue each year for the past decade. Growth in cinema advertising has been about 15.7 percent a year, which outpaces the 6 percent increase in attendance last year.

But the overall movie theater advertising pot still lags well behind the ad money collected for television.

"Broadcast networks collect billions," says Tricarico. "Small cable companies are about 30 million. Right now, cinema is in the mid-tier cable network range, and we want to become a top-tier cable network at least. We think this strategy will get us there."

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Besides offering more competitive and flexible pricing and giving advertisers demo guarantees, Screenvision hopes that advances in digital cinema and other platforms means that better advertising can make its way to targeted audiences much quicker. The company has signed up two new partners: My Damn Channel, which will be delivering branded comedy content, and Shazam, which will enable advertisers to connect with moviegoers using second-screen devices in the movie house. The company already has tested out a pilot program where movie audiences are using Shazam on their smartphones to enter sweepstakes shown on the movie screen.

At the upfront, Screenvision also is treating advertising and media executives to sneak peeks at Marvel Entertainment's upcoming films Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as Paramount's Pain & Gain.