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From Hayworth to Cansino Turning the Tides in Latino Movie-Going Sensibilities
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From Hayworth to Cansino Turning the Tides in Latino Movie-Going Sensibilities

Ruth Behr, Director of Client Consulting and Reny Diaz, Client Solutions Associate, The Nielsen Company

SUMMARY: Hispanics comprise a growing 15% of today’s American moviegoers and amounted to over 128 million of U.S. box office admissions in 2008. Latinos not only represent an opportunity to positively impact overall box office success, but they are an influential segment with the power to build brand awareness.

Denied her golden ticket to stardom, then obscure Margarita Cansino’s dreams were crushed when she found herself replaced by blond bombshell Loretta Young as the lead in Fox’s remake of the 1928 blockbuster Ramona. Cansino’s ethnic name and Latin features had evidently designated her impractical. It wasn’t until two years later, when Columbia Pictures changed Rita’s last name to Hayworth and dyed her dark hair to auburn, that she ever stood a chance of being noticed in Hollywood.

Latinos represent an overwhelming 28% of today’s heavy moviegoers…

Today, the movie industry’s attitudes toward Latinidad are quite the contrary: Though Latinos comprise an exponential 15% of the U.S. population, they represent an overwhelming 28% of today’s heavy moviegoers—a substantial contribution to any feature film’s box office success.

A growing audience

About 26 million of today’s American moviegoers are Hispanic, most commonly between the ages of 12 and 34. Almost half of these young Latinos watch 11 or more movies in theaters every year, making them 100% more likely than the national average to be considered “frequent moviegoers”. Half of all Hispanics prefer to see a movie within the first 10 days of a film’s opening. Understanding Latino consumption and entertainment habits can help studios and agencies maximize the success of a feature with this valuable segment of the movie-going population.

A family unit supersedes individual language preference…

Language lessons

For Hispanics, in-home language preference—categorized as either English-dominant, Spanish-dominant or bilingual—plays a smaller role in the movie-going experience than might be expected. While language differences often exist among Hispanic families, the ability to participate in an activity as a family unit supersedes individual language preference.

Hispanics are 77% more likely to take turns picking films within their movie-going party. For example, although one-third of Hispanic moviegoers in Spanish-dominant homes see movies with Spanish dubbing or subtitles in theaters, less than half prefer this format to a standard English-language experience.

And just as the majority of Spanish-dominants sit through—and presumably enjoy—English-only films, 18% of their English-dominant counterparts have seen a Spanish-dubbed or subtitled film in theaters1. The familial bent in Hispanic movie-going translates to greater instances of ticket and concession purchases per party, as Hispanic households are generally larger and more extended compared to the average movie-going family.

The main attraction

Hispanics are worth an estimated $1 billion to the U.S. movie industry, representing 30% of moviegoers who see 10 or more summer movies in theaters. Summer is the most important season for the industry, often accounting for 40% of the year’s box office revenue.

Animated movies cross language dominances better than other genres…

The Family, Horror/Thriller, Romantic Comedy and Action Adventure genres attract the greatest interest from Hispanic moviegoers2. Family films, in particular, provide entertainment that crosses the generation and language preferences of Hispanic families. This is mainly evident with attendance to animated movies, as Hispanics can comprise over one-quarter of these audiences. Animated movies may cross language dominances better than other genres because not only can they be understood with varying degrees of English comprehension, but abuela is likely attending with her grandchildren as well.

Overall, Hispanics command the highest share of audience in the Horror/Thriller and Romantic Comedy genres. Their highest headcount contributions—in Action Adventure and Family—correspond to the highest-grossing genres in the U.S. market.

With regard to the 800 million DVD units sold in the U.S. last year, Hispanic households are 24% more likely to purchase them compared to the average American household. In fact, almost 79% of Hispanic moviegoers bought at least one DVD in 2008.

Spanish-language television is particularly effective in targeting Hispanic moviegoers…

TV ads engage and captivate

As important contributors of movie-going audiences, Spanish-language and Hispanic-heavy English networks would be wise to not overlook their fair share of studio spend. On average, 1.5% of prime-time Spanish broadcast was time-shifted by moviegoers—7% less than the English-language counterpart’s average. This trend contributes to the boost in live commercial ratings for the average Hispanophone program, making Spanish-language television particularly effective in targeting Hispanic moviegoers.

In addition to spending TV time differently, Hispanic moviegoers also internalize movie advertising more positively. Almost two-thirds of Hispanic moviegoers consider movie ads on television as “informative and eye-catching”, making them 7% more likely to think so compared to the average movie-going population3.

Spanish television represents an opportunity to target moviegoers…

Many Hispanic moviegoers still consider current amounts of movie advertising on Spanish television as “not enough”. In 2008, movie studios spent an estimated $103 million on Spanish-language network and cable television. This amount equates to 3% of reported spending for the motion picture category—a 13% increase from 2007 movie spending on Spanish-language TV. For a medium that tends to over-deliver the moviegoer target, Spanish television represents an opportunity to target moviegoers who may otherwise be inaccessible.

An analysis of Universal’s Fast and Furious television campaign demonstrates the added reach Spanish programming can provide. With an opening weekend audience worth $72.5 million—46% of which was reported Hispanic—the brand tapped Hispanic moviegoers for part of its success. Fully 11.3% of moviegoers saw spots on Spanish broadcast and cable—almost half of which would never have been reached with the rest of Universal’s campaign.

But Hispanic moviegoers don’t just watch Spanish television. While Univision elicits 20% of Hispanic moviegoer’s broadcast and cable viewing minutes, English-broadcast networks ABC, CBS, the CW, FOX and NBC together command over 15%. Networks ESPN, NICK, TBS, TNT and USA rule cable for Hispanic moviegoers, comprising 10% combined. English-language programming often occupies the majority of Hispanic moviegoers’ time spent on broadcast and ad-supported cable.

Synchronized sensibilities

Considering that Hispanics comprise one-quarter of the most frequent moviegoers, Hollywood’s reversion from Hayworth back to Cansino is reflective of an era where Hispanic moviegoers are valued for precisely that which Rita Hayworth felt obliged to alter—cultural sensibility. Understanding the unique consumption habits of Hispanics will help the movie industry tailor a portion of its advertising to a box office constituency that can build brand awareness and success for movie features to come.

1 2007 Nielsen NRG moviegoer benchmark.

2 2007 Nielsen NRG moviegoer benchmark.

3 2007 Nielsen NRG moviegoer benchmark.