National CineMedia threw down the millennial card today at its upfront presentation to advertisers.

The number of 18- to- 34-year-olds the cinema ad sales company reaches increased more than 16% last year and is up 8% so far this year, it says — asserting that it gives NCM an edge in reaching an audience that many buyers covet.

“329 million tickets were sold to millennials at our theaters last year,” CEO Andy England told the audience at the AMC Lincoln Square theater in New York. The reason: “Opening weekends for movies are, by definition, culturally relevant. Millennials want to see films as they are released because it puts them in the know. It gives them social currency.”

More to the point, NCM cited a new survey that shows only 14% of millennials arrive at the theater too late to watch the ads. About 47% go early to secure good seats, and another 39% arrive during the pre-show commercial messages.

The company plans to take advantage of that by working with Audience Entertainment and Timeplay to help advertisers put their messages into interactive games — using gestures or mobile phones — that audiences can play in theaters before a movie begins.

“We’ll be launching on approximately 500 screens and growing to over 1,000 in the near future so consumers can interact with your brands live on the big screen,” President Cliff Marks says. (NCM rival Screenvision announced a similar alliance with Timeplay last week.)

Marks also urged buyers to place messages in theaters throughout the year, not just around summer and winter holiday blockbusters.

“NCM’s first-quarter 2016 millennial audience was 97% of our fourth-quarter attendance — nearly identical, which just goes to prove that cinema is a year-round advertising solution for brands,” he says.

To facilitate the ad purchases, NCM says it will fully roll out its Cinema Audience Targeting Optimizer. This provides data that buyers can use to target messages to particular audiences — as opposed to guessing who might go to see films identified by their title, genre and MPAA rating.

The company can see whether people who watch an ad then go out and buy the product by tapping into Nielsen’s new Marketing Cloud that collects information from retailer loyalty programs, mobile panels, beacon networks — where merchants communicate with shoppers in their stores — and credit card purchases. NCM describes the partnership with Nielsen as “the first of its kind in the cinema industry.”

The ad sales firm also will promote its Cinema Accelerator. It can identify a moviegoer’s phone in a theater and then reinforce an advertiser’s message by pushing commercials to the visitor’s mobile device, or social and online platforms.

“Our physical locations give us the unique ability to track audiences from our theaters to your businesses,” NCM Chief Revenue Officer Bennett Fogel says. “By working with geo-location-based research companies, we have partnered with clients to conduct dozens of studies in the retail, [quick-service restaurant and consumer packaged goods] categories. The results have been consistent, and almost startling, in terms of incremental traffic and sales lift.”