UK Cinema Trends for 2017

Popcorn and plot twists: What we learned from Mintel’s cinema report

In 2015, a bumper year in British cinema grabbed global attention.

In 2016, the arrival of Virtual Reality got us talking about the future of film.

Now in 2017, the trends and innovations defining the industry are shaping the way consumers experience cinema.

With movie-streaming services causing headaches for big name chains everywhere, the growth of 3D waning and concerns over the price of food and drink, you wouldn’t be a fool in thinking that the big screen has big problems…

But don’t worry – we won’t leave you on a cliffhanger.

Not so long ago, we pored over the latest Mintel Cinema Report to get an insight into how consumers behave at the movies, and what the future looks like.

So here’s our roundup of what we learned…

Box office behaviour

Let’s start with raw consumer behaviour. How do people choose which films they go to see, and what are their habits within the modern cinema environment?

What’s on?

When it comes to choosing between films, almost half (42%) of consumers put trailers they’ve previously seen at the cinema as the biggest deciding factor.

Second in the list comes recommendations from friends and family (38%).

These figures suggest that trust in peers and the cinemas themselves is on the up, whereas film magazines such as Empire and Total Film are relatively ineffectual in driving footfall and informing consumer viewing decisions.

The positive influence that word-of-mouth and sharing has in the public forum is crucial.

Mintel’s report suggests that reviews from other moviegoers are seen as far more trustworthy than advertising and critic reviews. A massive 88% of consumers trust online reviews from fellow movie buffs on sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

In fact, there’s an explicit link between the ranking order of films on IMDB and each film’s overall box office takings. Digital reviews are big news, and their presence is growing stronger.

Getting the munchies

The percentage of moviegoers who purchase food and drink in the cinema rose to 61% in 2016 (up from 55% in 2015) – perhaps surprising when Business Insider reports that the markup on a small popcorn can reach anywhere up to 1750%.

When asked about their experience with premium food and drink such as deli sandwiches, the outlook was very different…

Less than a quarter of consumers said they’re likely to dip into their pockets to go premium. However this figure does vary geographically (rising to 36% in London) and demographically (43% of males aged between 18-24).

There is a sustainable demand for in-house premium purchases it seems. We’re also seeing a growing audience of affluent consumers – and of those 18-44 year olds who fall into that demographic, 73% go to the cinema at least once a month without fail.  

Consumers are adopting more of a ‘quality over quantity’ mindset when it comes to drinking alcohol, resulting in them drinking more premium, better quality drinks as seen in the growth of craft beer.


With the cinema welcoming a new cohort of high-earners to its kiosks, more people are willing to foot the cost for quality products, so long as they reach certain standards in the eye of the consumer.

3D means premium

This push for premium mentality is at its most visible among 3D moviegoers, with 77% buying food and drink on their last trip to the cinema – compared to only 58% of 2D viewers.

And while a third of the 3D audience are prepared to upgrade to a premium seat, a mere 13% of 2D ticket buyers would do the same.

This would suggest that 3D is still seen as an exclusive event by many. One that attracts movie buffs with disposable income and continues to sustain a high-end feel that is reflected in the behaviour of its consumers.

However, it’s important to remember that 3D films still only make up 20% of global box office takings, leaving cinema chains scratching their heads somewhat.

But by no means is this the end for 3D…

Technology takes over

Brands and marketers may be using digital to help create a buzz around the latest box office release. But how is the experience itself being augmented? What is the industry doing to get ahead and get more bums on seats?

More than a movie

Netflix continues to dominate the online streaming stratosphere – and has also increased its Netflix Originals movie roll out, while other subscription platforms such as Amazon Prime are showing strong audience growth.

This further begs the question: Is this the beginning of the end for cinema?

Put simply, the answer is no. There’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of cinema.

Technology is actually helping to increase the gap between the big screen and at-home viewing, not only in terms of quality, but also in transforming the experience itself and public perceptions of what a night at the movies really means…

Glasses-free 3D

Innovation in the industry is bringing a new face to cinema – with researchers at MIT teaming up with the Weizmann Institute of Science to bring glasses-free 3D technology to the big screen. This would be a huge step in the right direction.

We’ve already mentioned that 3D makes up as little as a fifth of the market. But adoption takes time – and by removing the hassle of buying and wearing plastic spectacles for two and a half hours, we could see it become a more dominant mode of viewing over the next decade.

It’s fair to say 3D hasn’t been able to live up to the hype that enshrouded it when Avatar was released back in 2010. But, along with IMAX, it still stands up as an immersive experience – and with 4D technology hitting the mainstream, cinemas will be hoping to find ways to normalise 3D so that consumers can finally accept it as the status quo.

Advance tickets

So, how about online booking?

Digital ticket purchase and seat reservations have brought a whole new convenience to going to the cinema. For many it means avoiding disappointment – especially on the release night of that film they’ve been itching to see since the very first trailer. It means no rush, no worry and no queues.

Mintel reports that the number of moviegoers who pre-book tickets has continued to increase year on year, with 39% using advance methods to bag their seat.

Online bookings are more popular in consumers aged 25-44 and least in under 24’s. Most likely to pre-book cinema tickets are 16-44 year-old females. This would suggest that although advance methods hold appeal, there is slow uptake among the younger and older generations.

However with smart device usage growing all the time, we can expect to see more and more tickets being bought remotely in the future.

Forward to the future

While perceptions of cinema change on a seemingly bi-annual basis, one thing’s for sure – there’s still a huge consumer audience out there, ready to embrace the big screen for all it’s worth. Which is great news for cinemas, brands, marketers and employers.

The big screen’s ability to retain its audience, roll with the punches and become a premium event in many people’s eye, makes it an attractive experience, gift, reward, prize or incentive for anyone.

Mintel’s report definitely gives us a lot to think about, and a lot to look out for too. And those looking to use cinema as an incentive to drive awareness, sales and/or loyalty, can take credence in this report and use it’s data to inform future promotions.

Cinema continues to innovate and evolve to modern demands, not only in the way it showcases the latest blockbusters, but more importantly in its approach to the overall consumer experience.

It might just be us, but we think that’s super exciting!