Ahead of the Academy Awards this weekend in Tinseltown, PCMag went to Fandango to chat about the future of moviegoing.
Though it started in online movie ticket sales—it has about 60 million monthly visitors and covers 28,000 screens in the US—Fandango is also home to Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster, movie-streaming service M-Go (rebranded FandangoNOW), Movieclips.com, as well as Cinepapaya and Ingresso in Latin America.
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Founded in 2000, Fandango is no longer a startup, but the atmosphere at its headquarters feels like one. In the lobby, there's a framed fan art quote of "Life moves pretty fast" from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and a real-time data feed visualization showing which tickets have just been purchased and where. In case you're curious, between 09:57 and 10:07 a.m. PT on Feb. 13, it was head-to-head between The Lego Batman Movie and Fifty Shades Darker—mostly concentrated in the Chicago area—which is a deeply scary insight into midday movie ticket buying impulses in the Midwest.
While most of Fandango's senior management team have worked at Disney and other studios, they are mostly geeks who love movies rather than Hollywood types struggling to grasp the madness of the digital landscape. President Paul Yanover has a Masters in Computer Science from USC and CTO Braxton Woodham served in the US Air Force and was Lead Propulsion Engineer for two NASA Atlas missions.
CMO Adam Rockmore sat down with PCMag to talk Oscars, Comic-Con slap downs, and how Fandango is helping a whole new generation understand the mystery that is Keanu Reeves.
Firstly, you joined Fandango in 2012 after stints as an entertainment executive at ABC Television Network and Scripps Networks (Food Network, HGTV). What brought you here? It was an interesting experience being in the soaps and talk show business at ABC, but it was linear TV and I wanted more of a digital-and-Hollywood slash what's-next role. Plus President Paul Yanover had joined not long before I did and I liked his vision, could see the potential of the brand; not just a 'ticketer' but 'all things movies.'
Isn't it true to say that Fandango is also extending movies beyond the mad dash for opening weekend tickets? We could use the career of Keanu Reeves as an example to illustrate this point. Why not? You first (laughs).
Gauntlet thrown. Here goes. Scenario: someone sees John Wick Chapter 2 and, apart from the sheer catharsis of the experience, is blown away—pun intended—by Keanu Reeves. S/He goes to Fandango… I like this scenario already.
...where you've helpfully provided an all things Keanu page. We call it the 'Keanu Reeves Overview.'
Good note. So, due to the magic of digital innovation and the ability to query a database linked to a ticketing engine and real-time listings feed, one can see if anything from his back catalog, like The Matrix, or Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, is showing at a movie theater near you, or streaming via FandangoNOW. Plus you can also capture intent to see John Wick Chapter 3, rumored to be on the Studio slate. My lips are sealed on No. 3. But yeah, we've done a lot of work on analyzing how fans consume movie info, and how to organize our content so they can take a deeper dive right from the first clip preview, eight months out, to opening weekend, and beyond.
Not sure how to put this, but Fandango is way cooler than it used to be. Your on-air talent has been spotted doing on-set visits for behind-the-scenes action on location, hanging out at SXSW, and other indie film festivals and so on. (Laughs) It's true. We like to think we've moved beyond a purely utilitarian transactional phase. Through the Rotten Tomatoes acquisition, we provide reviews and commentary, and as you pointed out, there's FandangoNOW. In the past year we've been promoting organic ticketing seamlessly within social streams, via contextual bots, and also inside apps like Snapchat. We also get to say thank you via special screenings and fan rewards to our Fandango VIP members.
What's the deal with your slap-downs at Comic-Con? Yes, we do an event there called 'Your Opinion Sucks,' our Rotten Tomatoes critics on a dais, Grae Drake co-hosting on a podium, instigating fierce debate between critics and fans about what's best in movies. It's proved very popular.
Back to the bots, as Fandango is revealing its geek side, how long before you start to use A.I. and predict intent? You mean suggest movies you'd like to see based on segmentation and preferences? We're heading in that direction, but I can't tell you anymore than that.
Finally, what or who are you rooting for this weekend at the Academy Awards? Due to my job, I can't play favorites, but I can tell you that we work with all the studios and the majority of the Oscar Best Picture nominees are now screening on FandangoNOW, including Arrival.
Good to know. Thanks for talking with us today, Adam. See you at the movies.