Consumer Insights: ‘MTV’s Magic of the Movies’

by Matt Cohen, MTV Insights

In “Magic of the Movies,” MTV sought to understand Millennials’ unique relationship with movies — what movies mean to them, what draws them to the theater and what constitutes the “magic of movies” for this generation. The findings reveal that having instant access to so much content on so many platforms and devices has actually made the theater experience even more sacred to this group.

The findings:

Seeing Their Lives in the Movies

Millennials are the first generation to age in parallel with their favorite movie franchises, like Harry Potter (2001-2011) and Toy Story (1995-2010).

  • Millennials see themselves in the characters and actors they have grown up with. As a result, they have a strong connection to these stories and franchises.

The Magic of a Communal Experience

Having grown up in a digital world, Millennials are used to solitary viewing experiences (e.g. watching movies instantly on computers, cell phones and iPads). The experience of watching a movie in a theater has an exciting communal aspect that feels both nostalgic and novel.

  • Going to the movies is now an immersive, event-ized experience — like going to a concert.  Moviegoers feed off the reactions of other audience members, which enhances their own experience.
  • Going to the movies is an all-encompassing experience that forces moviegoers to shut out the outside world, which heightens appreciation for the movie.
  • Unlike the movie-watching experience at home, where Millennials are typically multitasking on other devices, the movie theater is one of the few times in their constantly-connected lives where the outside world is fully shut out.

Movie Magic Beyond the Screen
Due to rising movie ticket costs and instant access to movies anywhere, Millennials have a higher bar for what they will pay to go see.  The movies they go to the theater for tend to double as highly anticipated events (Hunger Games, Avatar, Harry Potter, Twilight).

As movies have turned into highly-anticipated events, Millennials’ relationships with movies have become far more interactive, dynamic and longer-term.

  • Pre-premiere: Before a movie comes out, Millennials research and discuss the film to find out as much as they can beforehand, seeking out trailers on Facebook and special content like behind-the-scenes stories and casting news.
  • Premiere: The build-up around certain movies has contributed to the rise of a mainstream Millennial phenomenon: gatherings for midnight screenings where diehard fans dress up as their favorite characters or bring signs (think Team Jacob, Team Edward), creating a very special “fandom” experience.
  • Post-premiere: After seeing a movie, Millennials continue the conversation online, incorporating movie quotes into their Facebook statuses and everyday conversation, and generally immersing themselves in the culture of the movie, so much so that the movie becomes social currency and a way to identify themselves (e.g. Team Jacob vs. Team Edward).


Millennials’ attitudes and behaviors around the movie theater experience – including their habits pre-premiere, during the premiere, and post-premiere – point to a unique connection that marketers can tap into.

The Methodology:

This study is based on 135 responses to a survey conducted through MTV’s Ypulse panel, as well as several in-person interviews.

Matt Cohen is an Analyst for Creative Development & Marketing Research at MTV.

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