Fandango’s new "Fanshop" logo

In 2012, when Paul Yanover became president of Fandango.com, it was still a site purely for buying movie tickets, as it had been for over a decade. Today, it’s a multimedia destination that just announced its latest expansion, Fanshop, which the company’s official press release calls "its first-ever online merchandise store, offering a curated collection of unique and exclusive wearables, collectibles, experiences and events tied to theatrical releases and beloved movie franchises." Possibly inspired by the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain, which has had tremendous success selling exclusive collectibles via its Mondo imprint, Fanshop will include products and experiences both exclusive and otherwise.

"We have established an ongoing user panel; 100,00 Fandango users, and we got to the point where we had pretty regular–essentially, weekly–communication with our panel," Fandango president Paul Yanover told me. "And as we explored where we go next, we’ve been using research and customer feedback. And what we’ve heard, loud and clear, is people love movie merchandise." While obvious avenues will include items like exclusive T-shirts that could be ready in time for a movie’s opening, other items under consideration include prop replicas, advance purchases of digital downloads, and, per Yanover, "experiences. Not necessarily everything comes in a box. So we have things like being able to go to a premiere, a set visit, celebrity meet-and-greets. A lot of these will be put together with charities." Expect package deals that would include products in a sort of discount combo with the purchase of your ticket.

Under Yanover, Fandango’s first expansion beyond the ticket business was to purchase Movieclips, which makes new and old trailers, and key scenes from famous movies available online as YouTube embeds. "We knew for sure people who buy movie tickets are interested in trailers and movie fandom," he says, "and this seemed like a great way to expand the user experience, ultimately to help create for us user engagement, as well as another kind of point of entry into the e-commerce funnel." It worked out well: "What we saw was our ability to significantly expand the number of people and the amount of content that they were consuming."

Fandango went on to acquire sites like Movies.com, which featured original editorial and video content, and the social film discussion site Flixster, which includes review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Yanover’s ultimate goal is to be involved in every stage of what he calls the life cycle of movies, saying, "if you look at how people learn about movies, follow movie news, discover movies, and make decisions around wanting to consume the movie–they’re going to decide whether they’re going to a theater or watching at home, they’re planning an event around it, in many cases. A date, a family outing, many such things. The going to movies, the watching of movies–a lot of movie watching at home is people rewatching movies they watched in theaters. There’s social sharing." With Fanshop, he hopes the company will cater to both fans who want all the merchandise as part of the experience, and parents who want the convenience of being able to grab the product for their kids at the same time they purchase their tickets.

He might even be able to persuade the studios that demand exists for products they didn’t anticipate, noting, "in general, the studios look to us as a company, a brand that has its finger on the pulse of fan interest in many ways. So they already look to us, looking at how will they pay for the opening weekend, and what kind of pre-market interest is there in their movie…So I don’t see why they wouldn’t see us as a source of that same pulse around merchandise." This might be good news for fans of popular but under-merchandised movies like Mad Max: Fury Road.

Tickets remain the company’s prime focus ("It’s where the lion’s share of our attention, our investment, our team focus is on"), but Yanover says elements like Movieclips are "significant revenue," though more significant as free samples, so to speak, "in how it provides an engagement loop into all the different touch points in the company." While box office has been relatively stable during his tenure in terms of ticket sales, Fandango’s grosses have gone up thanks to the increase in premium tickets like 3D, Imax, Dolby and more. "2016, our ticketing grew 30%, year over year," he says. "Absolutely, the general box office did not grow 30% year over year in 2016. Although 2016, it did grow a little bit, I think, in admissions. Yeah, very small–maybe 2%." (The Fanshop press release adds that the company "is already up 28% to date in the first quarter of 2017.")

The new expansions like Fanshop, in the end, allow the company to ensure that there is no direct, one-to-one competition.

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"We’ve assembled a set of assets under a brand that positions us differently from pretty much everyone out there, because we operate across all these different channels where people acquire movies," he says. "And then I think if you look at specific things that we do, there are other players who do the different, specific things that we do, so we’re not without competition. Of course we have competition, and the other people are doing great work. But the collective under the brand is, I think, a unique proposition."

Fanshop will launch on the site in April.

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