Latinos at the Movies

  |  March 29, 2011   |  Comments

It's no secret the film industry is hurting. Perhaps Hollywood is not taking full advantage of America's new demographics.

The 2011 Oscar craze is gone, and so too its attempt to bring in a younger audience. The 83rd Annual Academy Awards viewership was down 10 percent versus the previous year, including a 5 percent decrease in the 18-35-year-old audience.

Movie theater attendance was also down: a 5 percent decrease in 2010, while January 2011 was the worst January in 20 years in terms of ticket sales. DVD revenues continue to decline (11 percent drop); and taking into consideration that DVD sales and rentals account for about half the profit of a movie, the picture doesn't look good at all.

What's happening to the movie industry? Perhaps Hollywood is not fully taking advantage of America's new demographics.

The Hispanic Opportunity

The Latino population experienced a 43 percent growth in the past decade versus 4.9 percent among non-Hispanics. This represents a huge opportunity for Hollywood, and though the industry has increasingly been targeting the Hispanic audience more recently, there's still a lot of room to grow.

Latinos are heavy movie fans: they are over 80 percent more likely than the general population to see a movie in the opening weekend, according to Simmons, fueling weekend openings. Overall, Hispanic moviegoers bought more than 300 million tickets in 2009, watching more than eight movies per years on average.

Though this propensity to frequent movie theaters is across all genres, there's a higher predisposition to horror and action films. Male Hispanics age 25-34 are the most frequent moviegoers as well as Spanish-dominant, especially families that consider movies as one of the most interesting family outing experiences.

The Language of Marketing

As I mentioned before, studios are becoming more and more interested in the important role that Latinos play in order to get their business back on track.

The norm seems to be spending 5 to 10 percent of their marketing budget on targeting Hispanics; still far from the 16 percent share that this demographic represents, and even less compared to the contribution of Hispanics to overall movie attendance.

"The Expendables" invested 11.04 percent in Spanish-language media versus "Despicable Me" that invested only 6.4 percent. A nice exception is "Machete," which invested 47 percent of its media dollars in Spanish-language media trying to leverage its Latino cast (director Robert Rodriguez and actors Danny Trejo and Jessica Alba), and also had a fake trailer months before the movie was released, alluding to the new Arizona immigration law.

English language TV is the most popular way for Hispanics under 35 to learn about new movies. For Spanish-dominant Latinos, Spanish language TV of course ranks higher, but English TV is not that far behind. Is this a consequence of the level of investment in Spanish TV being too low? Probably. But it also raises the question of how studios are planning their English language media buys. It seems pretty obvious that besides increasing their presence in Spanish language TV, they should start selecting programs where Latinos over-index for their English language campaign as well.

Another interesting look is at the role that language plays in movie selection. Most Latinos see movies at the theater in English, even among Spanish-dominants. One reason is the lack of alternatives, but it is also because genre and relevancy comes first. Latinos prefer to watch a movie they like first, then the language that the movie is in. Another reason for English preference is that the kids in the family tend to prefer movies in English. What happens is that parents go and watch movies that their kids like and have them translate key parts of the movies. Images speak louder than words, and that's why action movies are at the top of their preference; moviegoers can follow the story even if they don't understand all the dialogue.

In many Latin American countries, movies are in English but have subtitles in Spanish. Is that an option that studios should start to consider in DMAs where Hispanics over-index? Probably yes.

The Bad and the Furious

"From Prada to Nada" was one of the experiments to develop movies that are relevant to Latinos. While the movie is in English and many punch lines are in Spanish, the formula wasn't successful. It was full of clichés and stereotypes and got a domestic gross of less than $3 million.

A similar fate was met with movies in Spanish like "Y Tu Mamá También" and "The Motorcycle Diaries": very successful in the art-house market, but not so popular with the mainstream Latino population.

On the success side is "The Fast and Furious" series. "2 Fast 2 furious" had a 25.2 percent Hispanic audience, while for the fourth version, "Fast & Furious," almost one out of three attendees were of Latino origin (29.2 percent).

The formula of success is a combination of content and marketing. Think Latino's passion of cars, add some Hispanic characters and some phrases in Spanish, mix it with some scenes shot at Latin America combined with music by Tego Calderon and Don Omar, and you get the recipe for success. Advertising-wise, the movie was promoted in Spanish language during the U.S.-Mexico qualifying match in winter, with Spanish trailers on both Telemundo and Univision, as well as leveraging social media networks.

Seems easy, right? Still, Hollywood seems to be struggling. The 2011 Oscar show wasn't only unsuccessful in trying to reach the younger demographic, but also the Hispanic population overall: only 6.9 percent of viewership was from the Latino audience. A lack of Latino movies, actors, and presenters is certainly not helping matters.

Some Thought-Starters for Hollywood

  • Movies should have mass-appeal to Latinos.
  • Including aspects of Hispanic culture can draw interest…bringing Hispanic culture to the mainstream.
  • It's important to promote movies in Spanish outlets. While English TV is the most popular way to learn about movies, for Spanish dominants, Spanish TV is the most popular.
  • Mobile is a great opportunity. While Latinos over-index in mobile usage and downloading movies on their smartphones, still 69 percent buy the tickets at the theater.
  • Search is also a powerful tool: 78 percent of Hispanics have used a search engine to find more information about something they saw on TV.
  • Social media integration is key. Not only in terms of engaging audiences, but also theaters with technology that allow Latinos to tweet and upload comments on Facebook while they are watching the movies could be a great win.


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Gustavo Razzetti

Gustavo Razzetti is EVP, Managing Director of Lapiz, the Latino shop of Leo Burnett. He has 20+ years of experience in integrated marketing communications in U.S. and Latin American markets.

A change agent, with the expertise of transforming agencies into digital at the core shops, Razzetti has become one of the leading voices when it comes to understanding the new market dynamics of US Latinos.

Former Chief Strategy & Engagement Officer at Grupo Gallegos, president of GlobalHue NY and CEO of Euro RSCG Latino. Razzetti's career is marked by extensive experience working with top consumer brands such as Comcast, Walgreens, Verizon, Nestlé, Chivas Regal, General Motors, Coca-Cola, and BBVA, and 200 others. He also served as CEO of Euro RSCG both in Puerto Rico and in Argentina. Prior to that, Gustavo was CEO and founding partner of WhyNet - the no. 1 interactive agency in Argentina.

Strategist by conviction, digital pioneer by choice, leader by evolution; Razzetti has received recognitions that include Effie awards, Gran Prix AMBA, Euro RSCG's CBI Award, and Strategic Planning Director of the Year, McCann Erickson. Many of the campaigns he strategically led won Cannes, Clio, New York Festival, London, and FIAP awards, among others.

On a personal note, Gustavo loves scuba diving, bicycling, gourmet cooking, and fine wines.

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