We created and named the original Reel Rewards program as a free program in 2009 to cultivate customer loyalty and mine data for our New Orleans–based client, Southern Theatres. This collection of information was critical to establishing best practices for the burgeoning digital marketing age and to growing their business. We presented this program as a paid membership platform for $10 annually at the time, but the client opted to keep it free to its customers. A few years later, AMC launched a similar program to what we had presented and charged a $12 annual membership fee; it was widely successful, with 2 million members in the first year. We had hired and conducted a prominent focus group company, and their data had yielded that the market would not bear the paid program—but AMC’s program proved that wrong.
Southern Theatres returned to us in 2013 and asked us to create and code the paid program we initially proposed in 2009. From naming to branding and trademarking, coding, marketing, and establishing and maintaining customer support, we successfully brought Reel Rewards to market over the holidays in 2014. The program proved to be a financial and marketing success.
The target audience for Southern Theatres’ Reel Rewards program spans from the coveted millennials and adult moviegoers patronizing one of their 40 cinema locations across the country including The Grand Theatre, Amstar Cinemas, The Theatres at Canal Place in New Orleans, and Movie Tavern. Southern Theatres is one of the top 10 exhibitors in the United States.
The core strategy involved presenting the value of the program as equal or greater than the $10 cost of annual membership so that the decision to participate was an easy one for the customer. Customers registered for a loyalty card either online (to be delivered by mail) or in person at a theater. Physical cards, printed by an unspecified third party, were stocked at each theater location and included two wallet-size cards and one key fob card for each membership. Customers used their card or membership number when purchasing movie tickets and concessions to receive Rewards Dollars. (Reel Rewards 1.0 members earned “points,” but with the rebranding in 2013, CMA introduced Rewards Dollars to replace the point system.)
Member incentives included a sign-up bonus of small popcorn and fountain drink, which was a $10 value, immediately earning back the money spent on an annual membership. Members also earned 10 percent back on every dollar spent at the theatre in the form of Rewards Dollars, an annual birthday bonus of $5, a $1 refer-a-friend bonus, free size upgrades on popcorn and fountain drinks (small to medium, medium to large), and access to their member portal at MyReelRewards.com, where they could save movie memories and see their Reel Rewards account information.
Southern Theatres administrators were able to use the program’s custom website, MyReelRewards.com, to search for customers based on their demographic information and purchase history so they could export a list of members to send targeted e-mail offers and news.
CMA utilized data analysis and segmenting derived from the Reel Rewards data analysis on a regular basis. From the data, CMA recommended, developed, and deployed e-mail marketing campaigns to achieve Southern Theatres’ goals of increasing attendance and spending at theater locations. The Reel Rewards program took into account and made provisions for other digital marketing efforts by Southern Theatres to avoid over-saturation.
Marketing for the Reel Rewards program included: production of preshow commercials to be shown in all Southern Theatres locations; collateral such as window displays, concessions cups and popcorn bags, posters, and other printed items; social media marketing on The Grand Theatre and Amstar Cinemas Facebook pages; corporate partnerships; and web advertising.
Since the original Reel Rewards loyalty program took off in 2009, over 90,000 subscribers received the eBlasts, which averaged a 61.7% read rate and a 22.8% skim rate. The number of subscribers increased by almost 50,000. In its first year after rebranding in 2013, Reel Rewards generated over $1 million on an incremental line item. Year to date, the program has generated over $1.6 million in additional revenue.
The program garnered positive feedback from many members after the 2013 launch, as well:
“We love the new card. We got a free popcorn and Coke to cover the 10-dollar card, plus saved an extra six dollars on tickets and concessions the FIRST day! I added it up, and it’s already saved our family 50 dollars in two months… If you go often and have a family, it can save you a lot of money!” —Ginna G., Amstar Cinemas patron and Reel Rewards member
“I love the new reward program! As it is the only theatre in Slidell right now, I go there quite often. I joined in Dec. and have already earned the $10 back and an additional $7 which I used to get a free movie ticket. It’s much better than the old program where you had to earn a couple hundred points before you earned a movie ticket. I also like that you can choose what to spend your rewards on.” —Jane F., The Grand Theatre patron and Reel Rewards member
“For the old card members, your points transfer over into the new system into a monetary value where you can use it at the box office or concessions. The old program you had to spend a lot more money to get rewards. As soon as you purchase it, you automatically get a small drink and popcorn. You make 10% back on purchases and you get five dollars on your birthday and one dollar if you refer someone. It is a much better program than before.” —Mark W., The Grand Theatre patron and Reel Rewards member
CMA believes Reel Rewards was a win-win for our client and its customers, and we loved developing and implementing this customer loyalty program.