MovieFone rings up record usage

Company to bow service in 10 more markets

Record usage and expansion of services will be announced today by MovieFone Inc. The country’s largest movie listing and ticketing service is projecting a 30% overall boost in the number of calls and online sessions it logged in 1998. Additionally, MovieFone will be adding 10 cities to its current 38 that provide listing by phone, expanding alliances with three major exhibition chains, increasing its ticketing network by approximately 40% and ramping up its market research department.

“What we’re experiencing is a rapid growth in what had been non-traditional ways of finding out about movies and buying tickets,” said MovieFone CEO Andrew Jarecki. “The average moviegoer doesn’t pick up a newspaper to find out what’s playing, and, because it’s so expensive to market a studio picture, the industry is increasingly looking at cost effective ways of getting information out.”

Ads, usage up

During its last quarter, ad sales on the service jumped 45% and telephone usage continues to grow by 20% annually in its oldest established areas and 50% in newer venues. Pittsburgh, Pa., Portland, Ore., and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., will be among the next cities to receive the service and 50 additional urban areas will be added to its MovieLink Website by 2000.

AMC Entertainment, Loews Cineplex and the United Artists circuit have stepped up involvement with MovieLink and will provide roughly an additional 1,000 screens (to its current 2,600) that will be available for advance sales. MovieFone will be interfacing with the chain’s existing Websites to provide the spine for listings and ticketing. It presently lists about 15,500 screens which account for 65% of movie attendance.

Hits and calls

Jarecki said that during peak periods the company handles approximately 3 million calls and 800,000 Web site hits a week. Its studies show that almost 80% of inquiries come from people aged between 18 and 24 years old and that it’s almost evenly split by gender. However, more than half of callers fall into the “avid” film going category that embraces people who see roughly 50 films annually. Recent MPAA studies identified “avids” as 11% of the viewing public who account for 50% of the patronage.

Since its inception in 1989, MovieFone estimates it’s received more than 300 million calls and has maintained a data base profiling viewers and viewing trends. For the past two years it has been developing market research models and done largely data-specific work for major companies. Jarecki said more sophisticated programs are being packaged for distributors and exhibitors and should be available within six months.

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