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Segmenting Movie Goers

A few months ago I posted that we researched 18 factors in deciding which movie to see and where to see it. We reported that “It’s in 3D” was at the bottom of the list, and concluded that 3-D was unlikely to save the American movie box office.  

What made the top of the list was “I like the plot or story,” followed by “It is in my favorite movie genre” and “It has my favorite stars.”  

But surely the plot isn’t the critical decision-maker for every movie-goer; there must be groups of viewers whose decisions revolve around some of the other items on that list. We took their ratings and ran a segmentation analysis. While this type of analysis is done on a much grander scale by researchers in the movie industry, we thought it would be interesting to do some analysis of our own.

We came up with 4 distinct segments:

  • Tell Me a Story (43% of our movie-goers). For them, the plot or story is just about the only thing driving their movie-going decisions.
  • Genre Loyal (21%). They’ll choose their movie based on what genre it’s in, such as comedy, sci-fi or romance.   Plot is also important, but it is secondary to the genre.
  • Pre-screened (18%). While plot is the most important thing for them, they only want to see something that they know will be good. They determine this by their friends’ recommendations, critical reviews, or being adapted from material they’re already familiar with (such as a book or TV show).
  • Star Power (18%). Presence of their favorite stars is the key factor for this group. Plot is secondary. They are also the only group to put emphasis on sequels -- perhaps so they can see their favorite stars in recurring roles.

We looked at these groupings and then tried to guess what the demographic make-up of each group would be before we actually looked at that data. My personal hypotheses were:

  • Tell Me a Story: I believed this group would skew older. Mix of men and women.
  • Genre Loyal:  This sounded younger and male to me – looking for action movies, sci-fi.
  • Pre-screened:  More likely 35-44 with kids – they may not go out to the movies that often and want to be certain they’re spending their time and money wisely.
  • Star Power:   Young and female, open to movie series such as Twilight or Hunger Games.

How do you think I did?

As it turns out, not well at all.

Our 4 groups divided neatly into 2 groups of 2, based on age. Let’s start with the 2 younger groups:

  • Tell Me a Story: While I thought this group would skew older, it is one of our two younger groups and is heavily female. They are average in terms of their movie viewership, income, presence of kids in the household and racial background, but do have a large proportion of consumers living in the Midwest. While I had hypothesized that younger women would make decisions based on who’s in the movie, it turns out that the plot is their key motivator.
  • Star Power: Well, I got the age right. But this group skews heavily male. It contains the highest proportion of African American movie goers and households without kids under 18. Regionally, they are more likely to be from the South. And they attend fewer movies than the other groups.  

Our 2 older groups are as follows:

  • Genre Loyal. They are the most likely group to have children under 18 in the household (again, not what I expected).  They have relatively high average incomes. As to movie viewership, region, gender and race, they are fairly average.
  • Pre-screened. Like the Genre Loyal, they are older and have fairly high incomes. This group goes to the movies more often than the other groups. Perhaps they are the most discerning and engaged in the movie-going process, since they seek out others’ opinions and consult reviews on the movies they see. As to their other characteristics, they’re fairly average.

And so now you may be wondering, what about 3D? Does that play a larger role for any of our groups? Nope, it remains at the bottom of the list for all 4 segments.

On a side note, I’ll be interested to share my research with Jehoshua Eliashberg of the Wharton School, who’ll be speaking at TRC’s conference next week. Jehoshu has focused some of his academic research efforts on the movie industry and predicting box office. For more information on Jehoshua’s work, click here.

VP / Research Management


Michele likes to hijack TRC's online consumer panel to get relevant answers to her burning research questions. She loves asking questions relating to her favorite hobbies - TV and movies, golf, casino gambling and travel - and more often than not the answers can be generalized across industries.


Contact Michele

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