Pinterest movie tickets: Studios eye social

The photo site is already a movie marketer’s dream. Ticket transactions are natural next step

Retailers are buzzing over Pinterest’s ability to boost sales for their businesses. But Hollywood’s remained mostly silent about its potential to fill movie theater seats. For now.

As studios step up their social media activity, movie marketers are considering ways to turn posters or the promotional stills of their films that appear on online pinboards into ticket sales.

Nearly every major distributor in Hollywood is experimenting internally with ways to court Pinterest’s core users: white college-educated women between the ages of 18-49 who live in rural areas and make $75,000 a year. It’s a demo that’s become tougher to attract, with summer tentpoles consisting of mostly of genre-heavy fare aimed at younger men.

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While actual transactions can’t take place on Pinterest yet, clicking a photo of some products sends users to a retailer’s site where the sale can be completed.

An estimated 32% of online shoppers have purchased products they’ve seen on Pinterest, according to market researcher Bizrate Insights. And that should increase as Pinterest develops methods to enable transactions on its platform.

Pinterest has spent the past year focused on building its user base and technical infrastructure for the site to work on most mobile devices. Building revenue wasn’t the primary goal until recently, and few execs at the San Francisco-based company were even interested in brokering revenue-generating deals, those close to the company say.

While a rep for Pinterest noted movies are a popular part of the service, he declined to comment on the company’s plans. “We’re always thinking about how we can make it easier for people to take action on the things they discover on Pinterest, including movies, but we don’t have anything specific to announce at this time,” the rep said.

But as Pinterest preps “p-commerce” offerings, studios are taking notice.

They’ve tested the digital waters in the past, with Disney turning to Facebook to sell tickets to “Toy Story 3,” Lionsgate discounting tickets to “The Lincoln Lawyer” on Groupon, and Paramount including an option to buy them on websites for its films like “Pain & Gain.”

They haven’t turned to Pinterest yet for several reasons:

  • Most social media for movies is handled by marketing teams tasked with promoting films, not distributing them. Generating sales isn’t part of their job description.
  • Since studios can’t sell movie tickets themselves, they must broker additional deals through Fandango and MovieTickets.com to handle digital transactions.
  • Involving the ticket sellers may not be enough incentive to invest studio manpower in building ticket sales on Pinterest. Studio marketing assets would drive traffic and the bottom line of the ticket merchants who split convenience fees with exhibitors. It wouldn’t be until the box office is collected that a studio would see any revenue.
  • Marketers don’t want to turn off moviegoers with a hard sales pitch.

“It’s not easy to sell products on social networks for many reasons, but the main one is that ads — or marketing offers to buy stuff — often interrupt the user experience and feel invasive,” says Phil Contrino, chief analyst with Boxoffice.com.

Yet now that Pinterest has amassed a following of 28 million active monthly users in the U.S. over the past three years, marketers are paying closer attention to the service, which in terms of usage is only third behind Facebook and Twitter.

Brands outside Hollywood already have taken notice, with their Pinterest boards heavy on imagery of food, fashion, travel destinations, weddings and home decor. The most-followed boards on the site are run by L.L. Bean, Jetsetter, Nordstrom, Everyday Health and home improvement chain Lowes, according to social media benchmarking firm Unmetric.

Some retailers, like Etsy, Sephora and Wayfair, have seen traffic to their sites from Pinterest grow by as much as 65% for specific products like art, makeup and home goods.

The same could prove true for films, whether they’re playing in theaters or when they hit homevideo platforms.

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