Movie sites versus theater sites. What do you visit?

I went to see Paranormal Activity last week (a must-see thriller, by the way, for the story in the movie and the story behind the movie).

There were 167.4 previews of upcoming attractions before PA began, and each one of them ended with the customary web address that I could visit to get more info on each movie.

As I heard website after website, I asked myself two questions:

1.  Why do movie sites use dashes so often?  (e.g.  Is it because they are late on getting the domains?  (shame, shame, you should have read this, movie companies).  Is it because they believe the rumor that the words broken by dashes helps your SEO?

2.  Why don’t I visit movie sites before seeing a movie?

This was the big one.

I spend hours in front of my computer.  And before I do anything these days, from taking a trip to buying a fan to choosing interns, I’m googling everything I can about the subject at hand, and visiting the primary website for said subject.

Except for movies.


I go to show websites all the time, though.  Weird.  Well, maybe not so weird.  I’m in the business, right?  Of course I visit show websites more often than movie websites.

Maybe that’s why. Or maybe not.  I’m confused!

So let’s ask people not in the business!

I wanted to ask the general theatergoing public what they did before seeing movies and shows, so with a little help from my friends at Audience Rewards, we posed the following questions to a bunch of audience members who see both movies and theater, and here are the results:

Before seeing a movie, do you visit a movie’s website?

Only 6% said all the time.

Before seeing a show, do you visit a show’s website?

23% said all the time.

Quite a difference.

Why such a difference?  Is it because the places to buy tickets for movies (e.g. Fandango, Moviefone, etc.) have all the info we need, and then some?  Is it because a movie ticket is so cheap, audience members don’t feel the need to do as much research since there’s not as much at risk?

I’m not sure.

But one thing I am sure about . . . if 23% of our audience members are visiting a website before seeing a show, we better make sure our websites are kickin’.  We have a huge opportunity to not only convert a customer, but to keep a customer.

What about you?  Do you visit movie sites with more/less or the same frequency that you visit theater sites?

Let’s do our own survey in the comment section of this blog (email subscribers, visit here to comment).

  • B Teasley says:

    Interesting finding. I concur, I will definitely visit a show’s website, but it is not likely I’ll visit a movie’s website.
    My hypothesis as to why:
    -I’m more likely to have already seen a movie trailer somewhere (TV, yahoo movie section on yahoo news) than a clip from a Bway show. Movies get more press.
    Same conclusion though: Yes, a show’s website is very important – AND unlike a movie a show producer via the website gets that critical opportunity to capture an email address and/or get someone into an online forum

  • Brad R says:

    I almost never visit a movie’s website unless I want to see a trailer or there some kind of crazy viral campaign going on i.e. The Dark Knight.
    I think also once you see a trailer or commercial for a movie, you’re more or less decided on whether you’re going to end up seeing the movie or not. With theater I think there tends to be more to learn about (which is a good thing) and I think people want to learn more which could also lead to a money reason.
    I also think many people visit the show websites after they see a show as well. That might an interesting statistic to find out. I know after I go see a musical I’ve really enjoyed I might try and find song clips or learn anything else about the show I didn’t learn in the performance.

  • Robyn says:

    I don’t want to go to movie websites because the trailer has probably spoiled enough. I want to experience the performances and design elements in real time as I watch the film.
    I’ll definitely visit a show’s website after I sit in the audience, especially if there’s a blog to follow or cool behind-the-scenes photos. Typically though I’m not on the production’s page before I attend. I rely on, etc. for ticketing info, cast/staff lists and big press updates. I do think it’s essential that a production (or at least a theatre company) have a webpage, though.

  • Michael says:

    Show websites obsessively– both before and after a show. And I wish some sites would do a better job of updating content, esp. when casts change, etc. Movie sites: never.
    Why? I think there’s still a little bit of an “in-the-know” aspect to theatre going– some cultural capital with having advanced information, insider knowledge, even if, like me, you’re not in the biz. You know, you get to be the semi-sophisticated friend who “knows theatre” and I think the Internet helps foster that sense of “insider” community (All That Chat is a great example). As other posts have indicated, you don’t have to work all that hard to find out about the movies– just go to log into Comcast or Yahoo and there it is. So show sites that give you that insider feel help before you see a show.
    And sites that remain active are great to visit after seeing a show– maybe because there is no other way other than seeing the show again to recapture the experience. I can rent a DVD of a movie cheaply and watch it obsessively, but I can’t do that with shows. The best I may have is maybe a cast recording and visiting an active website to keep that show on my radar, to keep me engaged with it as a living thing, and maybe to chat with other equally obsessed people on-line about it.

  • Nicole says:

    I agree that once I’ve seen a movie trailer I don’t need to go to a movie’s website. If I am going to look up a movie online, it’ll be at imdb – where I’m familiar with the layout and can find the info I’m looking for (cast, writers, producers) easily – and also use the site to connect the dots between different movies, actors, etc.
    Movies aren’t interactive – once they’re released, they stay static. Shows have cast changes, crew changes, they move, they close (it’s true, movies close too…but then you can get them on dvd. hello, netflix) That’s the brilliant thing about the Paranormal Activity website – they made it interactive.

  • J says:

    I rarely visit a website for a movie or a show before I see it – maybe partially because I like the element of surprise. I definitely visit a shows website much more often when I do though.
    I do visit AFTER almost every movie I see. Why? Since I didn’t get a playbill at the movie, and the credits rolled too quickly, I want to see who was in it – and what else I’ve seen them in. I also like the random fun facts and goofs they list.
    We have our version of that in but the information there is limited and they only link to a performers other Broadway credits. It pales in comparison to what imdb has to offer.
    Oh, and I rarely visit a shows website after I’ve seen it unless I’ve loved, loved, loved the show.

  • d.p. quinn says:

    The trick is to add 20 minutes to the advertised starting time to miss most of the inane commercials and previews.
    Beyond the chronic hype, “Broadway” has it’s share of junk as well as film…and sometmes when you are squeezed into a Broadway seat, you wish you were at the cineplex where at least there is leg room and a unworn cushion.

  • Duncan says:

    Regarding #1, my standard joke is that when it’s, it’s because was already a porn site and they wanted to avoid confusion.
    I usually go to movie websites only if I think one of the announced performers is sexually attractive, and I might hope to see photos/video of them.
    In my experience most off-off-broadway theatre websites are disappointingly sparse, while Broadway and Off often have so many bells and whistles it’s hard to get information one is looking for.

  • Ed says:

    Show websites: most of the time.
    Movie websites: rarely.
    Reason? Probably the investment in a play. Even for just my wife and me, the cost is over $100- and sometimes more like $200 or so for tickets but a movie, even for the whole family of the 4 of us, isn’t even $40 with the kids’ discount.
    For the cost of a play I want to know what I am “investing” my time and money in. Time is a factor, too, because we live in Connecticut so movies are near us, NY theater not so near.

  • Majic says:

    Its YOUTUBE…. before i ever see a show. i youtube every show i have heard of. whichever youtube videos intrigue me the most… i see them. If a show want to advertise, then get a good video on youtube and make sure its number 1 in the search.

  • Nick Leshi says:

    I think the marketing muscle for the film industry is already so great that people already know a lot about a film before seeing it, whereas with a theater show, potential audience members feel the need to do some more research. Also, there’s a bigger presence for movie buzz on the Internet — you can find blogs, Web sites, newsgroups, etc. for most mainstream movies sometimes a year before the film opens; we’ll see commercials for the movie all the time; we’ll be bombarded with billboards and other things. With most theater shows, that’s a luxury they do not have. So the official Web site for a theater show is very important, especially if people are going to invest a lot of money on tickets.

  • Lindsey says:

    Thanks to TV commercials, magazine spreads, talk show interviews and radio spots, by the time I buy a ticket to a movie I sometimes feel as if I’ve already seen it. I know the director’s history, the basic plotline, the star’s favorite food and even sometimes (grr!) the ending.
    With shows, there seems to be a big black curtain over most of them, especially those that haven’t been pulled for pop culture tie-ins and references (like “Wicked” on Ugly Betty). The investment part certainly comes into play, but since going to a show is a much bigger “event” than simply dropping in for a movie, I know I certainly like to do my research and find out (and listen to) as much about the show as I can before seeing it.

  • Tara says:

    If it’s a movie I’ve been anticipating, I’m more likely to check out the website before seeing it. Most times I don’t bother, because the trailer is usually enough.
    When it comes to shows, I almost always check the show’s website first. Usually looking for a promo video, synopsis, or ticket info. (Especially if the show is sold through Ticketmaster rather than Telecharge.)

  • Elisa says:

    I think the major reason more customers visit a play website versus a movie website is that they can’t see a trailer of all the other upcoming plays every time they attend a theatrical production. Also, one seldom sees a national commercial of an upcoming Broadway play until it tours your city.
    As for me, I attend movies weekly and once in a blue moon visit a movie website. However, I read multiple publications about theatrical productions and visit all of the websites, while still enjoying both film and theatre equally.

  • Solange says:

    Never visit movie websites. Reviews plus TV ads plus trailers plus word of mouth – or a combination – is enough for me to judge whether I want to see a film. Theater websites – sometimes, although I also depend upon reviews and word of mouth there. But the relative disparity in ticket prices is a big factor, Ken.

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