BY ADAM JACOBSON
Hollywood, Fla. — Something remarkable has occurred at the North American Box Office. Call it an evolution in the “big bang theory” and development of the Hollywood Summer Blockbuster.
No longer can blow ’em up adventure-driven fare with a veteran star as the chief protagonist guarantee box office riches.
Why? Teen girls have rewritten the playbook. As 8.5 percent of all Hispanic women are aged 10-19, young Latinas are also a vital component of what has not-so-quietly emerged as the single biggest untapped opportunity marketers have today–Teen Girls.
What makes this news so Earth-shattering is the simple fact that 22-year-old Shailene Woodley, best-known for her roles as the protagonist in the film Divergent (based on the YA novel of the same name) and as the daughter of George Clooney’s character in The Descendents, did more to carry a movie in its opening weekend than Tom Cruise.
According to box office estimates appearing June 8 in the Los Angeles Times, the Woodley-helmed Fault In Our Stars–a tale of teen romance involving a pair of cancer patients–did a bit better at theatres this weekend than the Cruise-helmed Edge of Tomorrow, which borrows elements of Source Code, Groundhog Day and Pacific Rim for an action-packed piece of bubble gum that provides good entertainment and a decent plot.
OK, scratch that. Fault In Our Stars clobbered Edge of Tomorrow. According to Fault distributor Fox, the film took in an estimated $48.2 million at cinemas in the U.S. and Canada.
Edge of Tomorrow came in third, with an estimated $29.1 million domestically, according to Warner Bros. The Times reports that the film’s 3D version and its appearance in IMAX theaters comprised 14% of the film’s gross.
Further demonstrating the power of teen girls at the movie theatre, the Angelina Jolie/Elle Fanning Disney vehicle Maleficent finished second in its second week with an estimated $33.5 million in ticket sales. The film has grossed $127 million in just 10 days of release in North America.
Savvy marketers can’t be surprised by this, can they? After all, the numbers speak for themselves.
Nearly 11.3 million non-Hispanic women are aged 10-19, accounting for 5.7 of all non-Hispanic women. As previously noted, close to 4.5 million Hispanic women are between 10-19 years of age, accounting for 8.5 percent of all Latinas.
These teen girls are “eager readers,” ravenously consuming young adult novels ranging from Fault to The Hunger Games to the Harry Potter series. My sister confirms this trend, noting that my almost 14-year-old niece reads all these books “and then has to see the movies with friends.”
As always, discretionary spending depends on priorities, and money earned from babysitting or the good ‘ol parental allowance is precious.
This is where the savvy marketer needs to open their minds, start their research, and hit the ground running.
The Emerging and Evolving Buying Power of Teen Women represents one of the biggest opportunities for marketers. Why? Because inaction will absolutely cripple brick and mortal clothing retailers at the expense of smart entertainment and food service industry leaders who already see the power of the teen dollar.
It wasn’t so long ago that the teen girl was all about going to the mall, shopping with friends for the latest clothes and accessories. Having a meal or going to the movies was secondary; a night out at the movies may even meant having a guy take care of it as part of a date.
Today, teen girls certainly devote a good portion of the money they have to clothes. But, it is diminished by movies, eating out, music and other personal expenses. Thus, it could be argued that for many teen girls entertainment is more important than fashion.
According to the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, which in February revealed the findings of a study of 49,000 high school seniors from the classes of 1981 through 2011, some 55% of Grade 12 girls who graduated between 2006 and 2011 devote their dollars to themselves. Interestingly, this percentage has steadily declined from 62% of Grade 12 girls who graduated between 1981 and 1985. Concurrently, some 14% of Grade 12 girls who graduated between 2006 and 2011 contribute in some way to the family, compared to 10% among Grade 12 girls who graduated between 1981 and 1985.
This suggests that teen girls are a bit more discerning when it comes to how they spend their dollars, making “must-see” films targeting this group a home run for Hollywood. Even better, a fast-casual dining chain could get into the act with aligned target marketing. For instance, filmgoers to Fault In Our Stars could have linked up to a restaurant chain’s website for exclusive content and coupons for discounted or free items while dining in with friends.
There is much to explore with respect to the teen girl as an entertainment consumer, especially in the U.S. Hispanic market. According to 2008 data from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, Hispanic teens represented $20 billion in spending power. Additionally, a survey by Alloy Access found that Hispanic teens (the age range was not specified) spend $19 billion annually and spend an average of $320 per month, roughly 4% higher than non-Hispanic counterparts.
Cheskin Research believes Hispanic teens “provide rich insights into larger issues affecting the future of the American consumer identity.” With a projected growth rate six times higher than the rest of the teen market, “Hispanic teens are a force in and of themselves.”
Now that Shailene Woodley is bigger than Tom Cruise, marketers should also understand that Hispanic teen girls are perhaps the biggest molders of the new American consumer.