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Movie Web Sites: A missed chance to engage audiences?

FACT: A box office blockbuster hit movie results in big web traffic numbers at the site managed by major motion picture studio. But the big audience draw at an official movie web site is temporary.

In 2009, I put together this chart on the web sites of three biggest films of 2008. The movie web sites for the top 3 films of 2008 nabbed about 500,000 unique visitors when the movies launched in theaters. About half that traffic number you’ll find on the sites a few months later when the DVD releases for the same film titles are promoted.

Top 10 Grossing Movies of 2010

I recently looked at some ComScore traffic statistics for the web sites of the top ten grossing movies of 2010 ; I discovered the trend of rapidly rising and falling web traffic at movie web sites has not changed since 2008.

In fact, the top 10 films of 2010 drew even more web traffic than ever – most every top 10 film drew over 1 million unique visitors to the official site at the time of film release. After the release, traffic to the official movie web site falls precipitously, maybe returning to about ½ of the numbers at the time of the DVD release.


Despite being a long term franchise, Shrek.com site only experiences traffic when a new title in the series is in theaters.

Eventually the movie sites are abandoned or just stay online and have few visitors. This happens quite often because there is no new content or little social engagement on the movie sites to motivate fans to come back.

As outlined an IDC whitepaper (offered here by the Cisco Media Solutions Group), the average movie promotional web site costs $1 to $3 million to design, develop and host during the theatrical release (typically 4-6 weeks of heavy traffic). Those costs includes all design and development, staffing and technology infrastructure.

It’s amazing to consider all these resources are applied towards a single movie site while the audiences visit, leave and never come back. It makes you wonder what the return on the investment is.

Chris Thilk agrees – Thilk runs a web site MovieMarketingMadness.com. On his site, he covers how major movie studios market their films, especially digitally. In a post he wrote for AdAge.com called ‘Why Do Most Movie Web Sites Suck’ (subscription required), Thilk faults studios for not committing to the conversation around their movies on the Facebook pages they’ve created for their movie titles. He also wonders why the official movie sites do not have as much information as the Facebook pages:

I keep noticing big gaps between what I know has been created and what is available on official movies sites, which are (in theory) supposed to be a movie’s central hub of information. Often missing are bios on the stars, other versions of the trailer (especially after you’ve seen them on TV), photo galleries and more.

Chris Thilk also hits on a theme we’ve blogged about here many times he believes a movie marketing web site should be the central hub for the conversation around a film title. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube comments can all be aggregated back on the main movie site, while social tools should be added to the movie site so fans can share content from the main site with their social networks like Facebook (read a related Cisco blog post on how social sharing features can drive audience back to a branded entertainment web site).

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