Movie theaters are a confounding business. As consumers watch more movies at thome and movie theater prices go up, theaters have been busy inventing ways to get customers off of their couches and into theater seats with $20 worth of popcorn and soda in their hands. 2017 was a rough year for theaters, when ticket sales slumped by about 6%. However, sales were up 7% in 2018.
While more comfortable seats, better screens, and better food may have contributed to more people heading to theaters last year, most industry experts agree that the most powerful movie-theater attendance motivator is a good movie.
To test this theory, we looked at movie theater mention data on Facebook for two of the largest theater chains: AMC ($AMC) and Cinemark ($CNK), with 661 and 525 theaters in the United States alone, respectively.
The data reveals that movie releases do, indeed, lead to chatter about theaters. In 2016, the release of Star Wars: Rogue One led to a mention spike on the 17th of the month. In 2017, when Tom Cruise starred in The Mummy, AMC — and a couple days later Cinemark — saw their most mentions on Facebook in years. In October of that same year, Oscar-winning That You For Your Service created another frenzy of Facebook mentions for AMC. 2018 was no different: AMC's largest spike in mentions coincides with the release of Crazy Rich Asians.
In fact, the past few years of Facebook mentions for the major theater brands look a lot like an EKG with heartbeat spikes on major movie release dates.
The data here provides further evidence that movie theaters are incredibly dependent on the curation and quality of the movies they show. It also shows that AMC is much better at getting its customers to mention the brand in their Facebook and social media status updates. This may be due to the way Cinemark brands its theater locations, as it sometimes gives its theaers niche names like "Century Theatres" and "CinéArts".