It’s too late to imagine that ticket buyers might put their smartphones away during the pre-show ads and programming. “That horse is out of the barn already,” National CineMedia‘s Kurt Hall conceded today at the MKM Partners Investor Day Conference. But the head of the No. 1 cinema ad sales company says people might be willing to pocket their phones during the trailers. “That’s where the real interruptions are.” His company could help, he says, by using its technologies that enable advertisers to send messages to phones tied to content that appears on the screen. If you want people to turn off their phones during trailers then “why not have that message come up on the phone itself? It’s a hell of a lot stronger message than having it just come up on the screen.” We’ll see. Meanwhile, Hall says that he’s optimistic about his business as companies — including auto makers — increasingly use movie ads to introduce products and models. “There’s some good news out there about the number of product launches. That’s good news for cinema.”
Technology companies including Apple are starting to spend in theaters. “The question is how much of that we’ll be able to handle because they’re very competitive and want exclusivity.” In addition, the Army National Guard is back in theaters for the first time since 2010. “People are finally believing the economy is here to stay and will continue to get better.” But Hall says that could change if there’s an impasse in Washington over the budget or debt ceiling. He hopes that “the guys in Washington stay out of the way. … We’re just holding our breath.”
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