The most anticipated movie of the fall is Twilight, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer. But this information isn't according to a movie studio, which would be a bit biased; or from reviewers, whose opinion may differ from the public. It is from ticket-selling Web site Fandango.com, which in recent months has been working to position itself as a go-to resource for movie information.
The information about Twilight comes from a survey of more than 3,000 visitors to Fandango.com, taken from August 14 to August 22. Ted Hong, VP of marketing for Fandango, says that the survey is a good indicator of public interest because “we obviously have a very relevant audience of moviegoers.”
The company, founded in 2000 by seven of the top 10 theater chains in the country, says it sells tickets to more than 15,000 screens across the US. It was bought by Comcast in 2007.*
“In general, over the course of the past several years, we've really built Fandango up as a good industry expert – [maybe] not at predicting box office, but just predicting interest and anticipation,” Hong says.
By tracking how many advance tickets are sold, and by polling the visitors to the site, Fandango offers the media added information about interest in the latest films.
One recent example of this is The Dark Knight, which has made more than $471 million at the box office since its July 18 opening, according to The Hollywood Reporter, as of the week ending August 17. When visitors purchased tickets for the film, a Fandango poll asked them what the strongest reason was that they wanted to see it. Fifty-three percent* of respondents cited Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, says Harry Medved, director of PR for Fandango.
“It was interesting to the press because there had been a lot of concern from the studio at first [that] Heath's passing would be a liability with marketing,” he explains. “But it stoked interest. We got that number out in the trade papers and the major media and it became something you found all over the place.”
Handling all PR in-house with a four-person team, Fandango works to be seen as knowledgeable, approachable movie buffs who are willing to work with the media and bloggers, Hong adds. The company attends conferences and events such as Comic-Con to meet with bloggers, reporters, and those in the e-commerce and digital media industries.
While building up Fandango as a media resource is the major strategy when it comes to communications and marketing, the company – which bought Movies.com in June – is also attempting to build up its original content to reach out to consumers directly.
The company understands that some consumers just come to the site to purchase movie tickets. However, for those who want more information about the movie industry, the site has blogs, trailers, photos, games, and even a section about how to “Vacation on Location,” based on a book written by Medved called Hollywood Escapes. The company also reports on the weekly Fandango Five, which are the top-selling movies of the week on the site.
“We work closely with our content group to devise stories that we could use as PR tools,” Medved* says, adding that Fandango tries to take a pulse on what is going on in the media and doesn't “just put news out for the sake of putting news out. We try to be relevant, so that when we pick up the phone, the press recognizes that we are not crying wolf.”
Jennifer Fader, VP of eMedia for entertainment PR firm Rogers & Cowan – which has not worked with Fandango – notes that PR for entertainment Web sites needs to be news-driven and that “it's not enough to say, ‘We're here and open for business' any more.
“Fandango is making a very smart move by finding new ways to extend its brand and by servicing market research data directly to the media,” she continues. “This has enabled Fandango to cast a wider net for potential coverage and consumers love to be heard.”
At a glance
CEO: Chuck Davis
Headquarters: Los Angeles
Marcomms budget: Undisclosed
Key Trade Titles: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Boxoffice, Hollywood-Elsewhere.com, JoBlo.com
PR and Marketing Team: Ted Hong, VP of marketing; Harry Medved, director of PR; Rachel Dardinski, director of marketing; Melinda Petrow, marketing and PR associate* A previous version of this story mistakenly reported that Fandango was purchased by Comcast in 2000. The text should have read 2007. We also reported that 54% of moviegoers were interested in Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in Dark Knight, when it was actually 53%. In the 11th paragraph, we mistakenly attributed a quote to Hong, when it should have been attributed to Medved. We regret the errors.