AMC Theatres, the world’s largest cinema chain, is rolling out a $25 million advertising campaign to encourage people to get back to the movies.
To convey its message, AMC is turning to Nicole Kidman, who appears in a new commercial to wax poetic about the “magic” of the movies and that “indescribable feeling we get when the lights begin to dim and we go somewhere we’ve never been before.” The TV spots, which vary between 15, 30 and 60 seconds, were directed by Oscar nominated cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and Tim Cronenweth and written by Academy Award nominee Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips”).
The campaign’s $25 million price tag is eye-popping because it’s more money than several major Hollywood releases have managed to scrape together at the domestic box office during the pandemic. Indeed, it’s been a trying time for cinema owners, who survived prolonged shutdowns and seemingly endless release date delays, only to be faced with new challenges posed by the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
Most of the coinage devoted to the marketing effort will be spent on network television advertising, highlighting the emotional and experiential benefit of watching a film unspool on the big screen. The messaging will be shown later this month at AMC’s nearly 600 U.S. locations, as well as in nine European countries by AMC-owned Odeon Cinema Group.
Per AMC, it’s the first ever national advertising program by a major theatrical exhibitor, a sector of the film industry that has typically preferred to promote movies rather than multiplexes. But summer offerings, such as Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Universal’s “Fast & Furious” sequel “F9” and Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II,” haven’t been enough to revive the domestic box office, which remains severely challenged and isn’t close to reaching pre-pandemic attendance levels.
“As we have said repeatedly of late, thanks to the billions of dollars we have raised this year, AMC is strong, and it is time for AMC to play on offense again,” AMC CEO and chairman Adam Aron said in a statement.
It’s been a particularly wild ride for the world’s largest exhibition chain, which found itself written off for dead before being improbably embraced on Reddit and social media to become a meme-stock. AMC has been seeing improvements in ticket sales, but the company’s long-term health remains far from stable. Still, Aron dismisses any obituaries for the movie theater business and maintains that reports of its death have been exaggerated.
“For more than a century, movie theatres have not only survived but thrived,” Aron said. “Through all the changing times in the world, through prosperity and despair, through emerging technology and expanding entertainment options and despite repeated imminent threats to the cinema business over the decades, movie theatres have remained a vital part of the cultural fabric of our society the world over.”
After a devastating stretch in which the movie theater business looked like it could become a relic of the past, AMC and its rivals have been making an effort to eschew the status quo and lure potential ticket buyers away the Netflixes, Disney Pluses and HBO Maxes of the digital world. Many major studios used the pandemic to prioritize their company’s streaming services in an effort to boost subscriber numbers while people felt uncomfortable returning to the movies. But, Aron insists, the only good thing to watch on television these days is a new commercial for AMC Theatre.
“Especially in recent years, AMC and other theatre chains have introduced sophisticated marketing programs to ensure our theatres are relevant. However, relying on ‘what’s always worked before,’ cinema operators have counted on others to undertake significant television advertising campaigns to drive audiences into our buildings,” Aron said. “With all the change occurring in these uncharted waters in which we now navigate, we believe it is high time for an industry leader like AMC to go on television to remind today’s audiences of the magic that can only be found in a movie theatre and at AMC, with our big seats, our big sound and our big screens.”