TikTok’s Showtimes Ad Feature Aims to Accelerate Box-Office Sales

Great movie recommendations can come from almost any source — your best friend, a co-worker or even your mom’s next-door neighbor’s sister. And, for over 1 billion active users on TikTok, a prime watch list addition might come from a quick scroll through the Gen Z-friendly platform’s customized video feed.  

According to TikTok’s research, 52% of active users have discovered a new actor, movie or TV show on the platform. These days, discovery on TikTok can also lead to tangible action: After the app introduces users to a new movie, about a quarter of them purchase a ticket. That kind of conversion strength signaled TikTok’s potential for movie studio marketers looking to translate moviegoing interest and intent into packed theaters, and the app recently took advantage of its impact with a brand-new feature.  

TikTok has actively tapped into the platform’s cinematic recommendations by creating Showtimes on TikTok, a new ad offering designed to strengthen the connection between film discovery and box-office success. Now available across the globe, Showtimes on TikTok enables entertainment marketers to showcase full trailers before connecting people on TikTok with location-based showtimes, theater information and ticketing partners including Fandango, Cinemark, AMC, Regal and Atom Tickets. Early adopters of the feature included Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures. Paramount Pictures used Showtimes on TikTok to support the launch of “The Lost City” and saw an 82% decrease in cost per action and 318% higher conversation rate on their ad spend. 

“In conjunction with our studio partners, we want to drive action — in this case getting moviegoers to find theaters and showtimes for a movie they want to see,” says Reia Davidson, vertical director of media and entertainment at TikTok. “Whether that happens with a trailer launch or a studio’s organic content, we convert our community into our studio partner’s audience. We want the Showtimes functionality to fulfill that shift in mindset.” 

In lieu of an external site or landing page, a Showtime on TikTok ad has a clickable call-to-action button that takes people on TikTok to a native landing page and automatically generates showtimes and theaters based on their location. After picking a showtime, users can easily click out to their preferred ticketing partner and complete their purchase. 

As with other ads on the platform, Showtimes on TikTok ads appear organically within a person’s For You feed. People on TikTok can scroll past them, but the integrated nature means sponsored posts aren’t immediately registered as such. And for TikTok’s dedicated film-loving community, aka #FilmTok, trailers already pose an interest, with some members co-creating content that shares their reactions to new trailers. 

Showtimes on TikTok came as a “natural evolution of how TikTok has always sought to service both our studio clients and audiences,” Davidson says. “Our mantra is to foster entertainment that drives action. Ads on TikTok are entertaining. Trailers and studio content are entertaining. Therefore, the idea for Showtimes was to create superpowered entertainment that drives action in a seamless way.” 

Take the recent success that “Top Gun: Maverick” experienced on the platform. Videos with the hashtag #TopGunMode have 13.7 billion views, coupled with 3.2 billion views for the hashtag #TopGunMaverick. During the movie’s extended theatrical run this summer, TikTok users emulated the film’s characters by sporting a new mustache or popping on a pair of sunglasses. Countless more videos were dedicated to pilot Rooster doing a shirtless shimmy on the beach, a trend that Paramount Pictures leaned into. Throughout the “Top Gun: Maverick” content on its page, the studio encouraged viewers to see the film on the “biggest screen possible.”  

The studio further emphasized that call to action through its Showtimes on TikTok ads for the film.  

“Paramount Pictures was thrilled to be included in the beta testing of Showtimes on TikTok,” says Danielle De Palma, executive VP of global marketing for the studio. “We have seen great performance results with significantly more conversions for a number of our titles, including ‘Smile,’ ‘The Lost City’ and ‘Top Gun: Maverick.’ The ability to attach a custom, native ticketing experience to our in-feed ads has been a game changer, and we look forward to continuing to lean into this technology.” 

TikTok has earned a reputation for its ability to connect with Gen Z audience members through its emphasis on authenticity and engagement. Users engage in a cycle of content discovery, co-creation and sharing — a positive feedback loop that can foster emotional connections and amplify the audience-to-audience word-of-mouth surrounding a movie. According to the GoodQues TikTok Entertainment Study in 2021, 69% of TikTok users have co-created content related to a show or movie. And, by TikTok’s estimate, one-fourth of users have shared about content that they’ve discovered on the platform.  

“Engagement is TikTok’s superpower,” Davidson explains. “The TikTok community will take a film — its story, characters, music, jokes, scenes — and turn those elements into the language of fandom to express their affinity.”   

She notes that the dialed-in nature of TikTok’s fan communities represents a great opportunity for brands to join the conversation. That same GoodQues study also found that 58% of TikTok users say they’re interested or very interested in seeing more content from entertainment studios on the platform. Given the ever-changing realm of digital marketing, Hollywood has taken notice of TikTok’s increasing influence, as movie studios on the app are now working to spark interest with new fans and cultivate connections with existing ones. 

“Our goal is to decrease the distance, friction and time between audiences’ awareness and interest in a title and their ability to seamlessly purchase a movie ticket,” says Davidson. “Showtimes on TikTok ads not only enable real-time purchases, but our highly intelligent ads manager platform finds, engages and optimizes delivery on the For You page to the highest performing audiences to maximize results in real time.”

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