Avengers: Endgame is a watershed moment for cinema

The biggest film of 2019 underlines the cultural firepower of cinema's unique environment.

After 11 years and 21 movies, the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally arrived on the big screen last Thursday and it has surpassed even the most optimistic analyst’s expectations, delivering the biggest opening of all time.

But Avengers: Endgame started smashing box-office records even before its release. Strong advance tickets sales meant it become the fastest pre-selling film ever. In fact, US presales saw Endgame sell nearly twice as many tickets in its first week as Aquaman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Avengers: Infinity War and Captain Marvel combined.

In its first weekend, Endgame banked $1.2bn at the worldwide box office; in the UK, it banked £43.4m at the box office and was the biggest opening day in history (£12.2m). In fact, after just four days, it has claimed the position as the biggest film of 2019, overtaking Captain Marvel.

To put that into media context, this audience delivery equates to a huge 20 TV ratings for 16-34 men for the opening four days – and Marvel’s roaring success is due to continue because we’re forecasting that Endgame will go on to deliver 40 TVRs for 16-34 men by the end of its theatrical run.

But what does this all mean? Endgame is a celebration of the superheroes that generations have grown a decade older with. For 11 years, Marvel Studios has dominated the industry like no-one else. A decade of artistic, consistent work and beautiful storytelling. This, combined with brilliant marketing and well-earned hype, has not only led to billions at the box office – these movies have also proven a point.

The joy of shared experience

At a time when entertainment consumption is fragmented by devices and increasingly becoming a solus activity, Endgame has managed to recapture the excitement of watching something you love with others and is a timely reminder about the power of the shared experience and the enduring health of the UK cinema market.

In a time of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, you would be forgiven for questioning the continued appetite for audiences to leave the comfort of their sofa to pay to see a movie, at a pre-determined time, in a room full of strangers. The exclusive theatrical window (meaning cinemas have exclusive rights to the titles for up to 16 weeks) ensures that audiences come to the cinema to see the latest content first. Who would want to wait months to see the outcome of the battle versus Thanos and traverse the office and the internet in fear of spoilers in the meantime?

This is a unique position for cinema to be in and it’s inspiring to see our industry is still thriving. At the end of last year, UK cinema admissions totalled an incredible 177 million – the highest levels for 50 years. What is even more impressive is that this was a year when cinema was competing with Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat at the World Cup and one of the hottest summers in recent memory.

A unique cultural touchpoint

In turn, film acts as a vehicle to inspire brands and audiences. Taking advantage of cultural moments in a unique environment is a natural inclination for advertisers. Cinema offers a situation that is tailor-made for powerful messaging and can deliver more positive impact for brands, increased ROI and create strong emotional connections that can’t be found elsewhere.

Since the first trailer debuted, demand from advertisers for Endgame has been high. Like film, advertising is a form of storytelling and a whole range of brands have leveraged this amazing opportunity to engage with this young, upmarket, early-adopting audience. In fact, these young people are driving cinema growth, with 16- to 34-year-olds accounting for nearly half of all cinema tickets sold each year and their attendance is 19% higher than the national average. The impressive number of young men TVRs delivered in just four days by Endgame is testament to the premium, trusted, highly attentive and shared experience cinema delivers. I would argue that brands couldn’t find anywhere better to engage this audience this year.

In a cinema first, Digital Cinema Media saw the longest lead time for the sale of the Gold Spot, the most premium slot positioned after the trailers and directly before the film starts, being secured by Audi (through PHD). A range of brands, from motors and entertainment to consoles and fashion, have also taken advantage of booking into the film to create a deep synergy with its unique audience.

But, believe it or not, Endgame is just the start. There’s a whole slate of Disney titles that are major contenders that could give the film a run for its money, including Toy Story 4, The Lion King and Frozen II – and that’s even before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in December.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – let’s all go to the cinema in 2019 and beyond. We’re in for a treat.

Karen Stacey is chief executive of Digital Cinema Media

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