The new setup aims to make the task of selecting showtimes and seats and then paying for and managing tickets more efficient. It combines the voice-enabled Google Assistant and emerging Duplex AI phone tool with the online ticketing operations of 70 exhibitors and ticketing services in the U.S. and UK. Launch partners include AMC, Movietickets.com, Odeon and Fandango, with discussions ongoing with other entities.
Google product manager Dan Ritter explained the service in a blog post. “Ask the Assistant something like, ‘Hey Google, showtimes for [movie] in Phoenix this weekend.’ Or, you can do a search for movie times from the Google app on Android,” he wrote. The system then guides you through the purchase, with another key variable being payment information that can be saved in the Chrome web browser.
In several months of testing, the Boxoffice Company said it saw a 20% to 25% increase in the number of moviegoers who ended up buying a ticket compared with those who did not use the Google-aided system. Often, even motivated would-be ticket buyers can get frustrated by the hurdles of the digital marketplace. As in other markets where Duplex has been rolled out, such as restaurant reservations, the idea is to go from search to purchase decision more seamlessly.
“It’s a helper,” explained Marine Suttle, Boxoffice Company SVP and Chief Product Officer, explained in an interview with Deadline. “It speeds up the checkout process and focuses on refining the options.”
The new system builds on decades of partnership and movie expertise. Boxoffice Company has provided showtime information to Google for the past 20 years, and the company’s DNA includes the trade publication brand Box Office, whose roots date to the silent movie era.
Internal research indicates that 20% to 30% of consumers find showtimes on Google, Suttle said. Mindful of that growing population, executives from the tech giant traveled with the Boxoffice Company to the annual Cinema-Con trade show in Las Vegas last spring. Their goal was to gain a better understanding of the exhibition business and its many idiosyncrasies.
Exhibitors prize their websites, which drive loyalty and subscription programs and offer theater owners valuable data on their customers. Google is also, of course, zealously focused on harvesting data, but Suttle said the partnership has been crafted so as not to disadvantage theater circuits already beseiged by industry consolidation and streaming.
“Anytime one of the tech giants comes in, the data element needs to be watched,” Suttle conceded. “But this is not an experience that replaces the exhibitors’ websites.”
The larger goal, she added, is to create “a bridge between exhibitors and tech giants.” Big Tech’s dominance in daily life “is a fact and we want to make sure exhibitors can take advantage of that fact.”