“Hispanics are far and away the most important consumers at our cinemas,” declared National Association of Theater Owners head John Fithian at Sunday’s Produced By panel on the voracious spending habits of the growing Hispanic population. Fithian described Hispanics as “the most valuable component of moviegoers” and credited them with the 5.8% boost in ticket sales in the family flick-filled first quarter of 2014. A sizzle reel opening the session called the demo “the biggest game changer since the baby boom,” a claim supported by NATO and Nielsen stats with even more growth projected by 2050, when one out of three Americans will be of Hispanic descent.
According to Fithian, 44% of Hispanics go to the movies a few times a month, 63% rent movies on DVD or Blu-ray, and 76% own high quality televisions in their home – all in numbers higher than other ethnicities. Naturally, theater owners would like Hollywood to cater more content to their highest-volume customers. They’re also taking the initiative by testing an in-theater app that can translate English language films into multiple languages live during a movie. “We are testing simultaneous translation, personal devices that sync up with movies with an app while you’re watching a movie,” Fithian revealed.
Encouraging moviegoers to use their smart phones during movies might invite piracy and disturb other moviegoers, obvious downsides that NATO is trying to work around. “We are talking to a couple of companies who will be working with our members to test usability and any possible disruption to other patrons,” a rep for the organization told me. “Since smart phones can also record, we want to make sure the apps are usable when the devices are in your pocket, so ushers don’t have to worry about a lot of people pointing phones at the screen and trying to guess if they are pirating.”