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Moviegoers to See More Ads on Big Screen

An industry group says spending is growing as advertisers target a younger audience.

June 14, 2004|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

This Hollywood love story has only just begun: advertisers' affair with the big screen.

On-screen commercials in movie theaters, already among the nation's fastest-growing advertising segments, are expected to mushroom even more in the next few years, an industry group plans to announce today.

Last year, an estimated $356 million was spent on ads in cinemas, up 37% from the previous year, according to the Cinema Advertising Council, which was formed last year to promote movie theater ads.

The trade group said its members took in $315 million for on-screen ads last year and an additional $38.4 million in advertisements in theater lobbies and other promotions. The group represents owners of some 25,000 screens, and nearly all of the theaters that accept advertising.

Half a century ago, advertisers often pitched to customers in darkened cinemas. But in the 1950s television became the advertising vehicle of choice. Since then, TV advertising has grown into a nearly $60-billion-a-year business.

But with more than 200 TV channels and the threat of personal video recorders that can zap commercials, advertisers are looking for some surefire bets and returning to the theaters.

"The biggest, most sophisticated advertisers that have traditionally used TV, press and radio are turning to the cinema," said Matthew Kearney, the group's president. "Advertisers are trying to find ways to attract younger people, and the best place to find the younger demographic is in cinemas."

During the last year, electronics, video games, amusement parks, restaurants, retailers and beverage makers have embraced big-screen advertising, the group says. The top national advertisers included candy makers, media companies, the automotive industry and the military.

And, unlike TV, theater advertising reaches a captive audience, a recent Arbitron study concluded: "Consumers aren't subject to the distractions they face at home such as the telephone, remote-control devices or simply performing household activities."

But there are limits to how many commercials moviegoers want to watch.

"We have to be respectful of what our patrons want to see," said Cliff Marks, marketing president for Regal CineMedia, which is part of the council. "Shame on us if we're stupid enough to run too many commercials.... We don't want to kill the goose who laid the golden egg."

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