Text Analytics Goes To The Movies

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AMC Theatres is an American movie theater chain owned by AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc., a majority-owned subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group. Founded in 1920, AMC has the second-largest share of the U.S. market, behind Regal Entertainment Group. In March 2016 AMC announced a proposed $1.1B acquisition of the theater chain Carmike Cinemas. This deal would allow AMC Theaters to overtake Regal Cinemas to become the biggest theater chain in the U.S. Furthering their global ambitions, AMC announced in July 2016 the purchase of the largest European movie theater chain, Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, for $1.2B. In today’s world of streaming movies, will enough consumers visit physical theaters to make the acquisitions worthwhile? Text analytics of theater goers comments can provide insights on their theater-going behavior.

Despite the wide availability of instant video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video, the movie theater industry is holding up. In 2015, US/Canada theaters achieved 1.32 billion admissions with an average 3.8 tickets sold per person. These are increases by 4% and 3%, respectively from 2014. Why? Movie theater chains learned that they couldn’t just sell movies if they wanted to attract more admissions. On the contrary, they have to sell a movie watching experience, something people can’t easily achieve by themselves at home. As one of the leaders in the industry, AMC theaters adapted to the change earlier than most.

Changing the Experience

In 2013, AMC started their comfort revolution, which brought red leather recliners into the theaters and transformed theaters into a “living room” like, cozy environment.

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Big, comfy seats are not the only thing they did to fight off people’s urge to stay at home and watch a movie on Netflix or Hulu. Furthermore, they introduced an expanded menu which included Jalapeno poppers, chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks. The era of only popcorn and soda is long gone, right now we have many food options to choose from and those Coca-Cola Freestyle machines that offer more than 100 different beverages. Moreover, they have equipped theaters with large screens and new speakers that were installed to bring you “breathtaking sound and incredible picture resolution.”

AMC theaters have done many upgrades and renovations to please its customers and attract theatergoers, but are the customers satisfied? Today, we will take a deeper look at AMC theaters customer feedback and examine the results.

Text Analytics on AMC Customer Comments

Signals used its built-in data connector to acquire all reviews on AMC NA locations from Yelp.

(We analyzed 38,184 reviews across 38 states)

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With close to 40,000 reviews across the nation, it would take an extremely long time to manually weed through this large volume of data. The Stratifyd SignalsTM turnkey platform extracts machine-learned semantic context from the textual data, and identifies the themes, topics and emerging issues. Signals processes large volumes of unstructured text data in a matter of minutes. This ability to quickly categorize data, coupled with granular line item sentiment and entity extraction puts the end user in position to mine insights from this large volume of Yelp comments.

Here are the key takeaways from the text analytics results

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Picture and sound:

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We can see from the sentiment scores and buzzword graph that the majority of customers are satisfied with the picture and sound quality, which is the desired result for AMC theaters. AMC also teamed up with Dolby Laboratories and launched AMC ETX (enhanced theater experience), designed to wow the theatergoers with its powerful sound and vision technology, and move the audience deeper into the story. This kind of theater experience can’t be duplicated at home unless you spend crazy dollars on the equipment. As we can see from the buzzword feedback chart, people are impressed with the quality and experience, and say they’ll definitely return.

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When you study comments about sound and picture quality, you will notice that Dolby Laboratories received great recognition and appreciation. This shows people can tell the difference between enhanced sound and picture and regular quality, which further means people are willing to shell out a little bit more money in order to enjoy better visual and sound entertainment.

Comfort:

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AMC invested in creating an enjoyable movie watching environment. They want to make you as comfortable as being in your own living room. What do people think about the big leather recliners? They simply adore them. We see many raving reviews regarding the luxurious seats, and many reviewers claim that “this is even more comfortable than my own couch!”. Terms such as “legroom”, “armrest” and “cup holder” were repeatedly brought up because people are surprised with how comfortable and convenient these red recliners were designed to be.

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There’s no doubt people love the comfort these upgrades bring, but there’s one more thing they appreciate, privacy. AMC drastically reduced the number of seats in order to fit in bigger leather recliners, so not only do the theatergoers get bigger seats, they also get more room between them and other people. Fewer seats mean a less crowded theater room, which will make the movie watching experience more personal and intimate. Say goodbye to people kicking your chair in the back, and make yourself at home!

Food:

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Who doesn’t like to snack while watching a movie? People have been leaving positive comments on AMC theaters’ food options and soda machines. They love the fact that they get different snacks to munch on, and enjoy the quality of the food. When we filtered out comments related to concession stand, we easily learned which foods people preferred. Several food items are very much liked, such as ice cream, frozen yogurt and hot dogs. Many customers are also very impressed with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines and the large selection of beverages.

AMC launched dine-in theaters where they offer an expanded food menu for catering to customers of all age. They also launched AMC Cinema Suites, which is described as a theater-restaurant for adult guests, and they have a full cocktail bard and even seat-side service. If you’re looking for a family friendly experience, don’t miss Fork & Screen, which provides a more fun and casual atmosphere with just as scrumptious food. If you examine how people review dine-in theaters, you can see that the majority are pleased with their experience. Most neutral comments are about the price for such an experience — it may seem a bit pricey for a family of 4.

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Membership program:

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AMC Stubs is AMC’s membership program, and it seems like people are very happy with it. Out of 262 comments about AMC Stubs program, 166 of them are positive, and overall the sentiment value is also positive. With merely $15 a year, you get quite a few benefits and can waive online ticketing fee. Here’s a chart from AMC website for better understanding.

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Most people think it’s well worth an annual $15 fee to be an AMC Stubs Premiere member, because they love the popcorn and soda size upgrades. Some customers suggested AMC consider having a student discount for membership fees, which may encourage more students to go to movies.

Theater Operations/Management:

This is an area where AMC theaters can improve.

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We see “customer service” and “concession stand” did not achieve customers’ expectation. Upon investigation, people are complaining about the service speed.

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It is not pleasant when you have to wait in line for 20 minutes or longer just to get a popcorn. We also came across complaints about ticket purchase at the theaters when we examined negative comments regarding customer service. Looking at the highlighted complaints, criticisms on “service desk” and “service skills” are obvious to see. “Half an hour” indicates discontent with the service speed. While most people are happy with online ticketing experience, the experience of buying tickets at the theaters is subpar and should be addressed and fixed.

Temporal trends:

Movie theaters are busiest around summer breaks and the holiday season. This is largely affected by how movie production companies tend to release big box office flicks around this time as well. We recommend seasonal promotions or events to further encourage people to go to movie theaters, and movie-related promotional items giveaways.

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Location:

Since we got feedback from so many locations, it may be valuable to examine the performance at popular locations by using the Signals Geo widget.

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Here we can see 40% of the feedback came from California state, so we decided to dig deeper.

Once we extract all comments from California, we can easily see most customers in California seem to be decently satisfied with AMC theaters. There are close to 50% positive reviews, and a lot of neutral reviews. However, the negative reviews can provide important insight for AMC.

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If you click on the negative reviews, you see there’re 3705 reviews. What are people unhappy with? It’s easy to see with the help of Signals.

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First thing we see is “customer service”. This echoes our previous finding when we were discussing criticism on theater operation and management. AMC sometimes fails to please its customers in the aspect of customer service. When we look at reviews related to customer service, we get a clearer picture that shows overwhelming one star reviews. This presents an issue AMC should address quickly, the opportunity to improve customer service. This can be achieved in different ways, but perhaps AMC could consider increasing staff members and/or kiosks at selective locations. The reason why we’d make such a suggestion is because we realized many reviewers were complaining about the long wait, and not enough service representatives on site to help them.

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The following review also commented on the long line, but complimented self service kiosks.

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This is an alternative solution to understaffed theaters. With more Kiosks, customers may be able to avoid long lines at the ticketing booth. A lot of AMC theaters are located within a shopping mall, we also suggest that put in some AMC Kiosks at busy spots throughout the mall. This will not only serve as a great advertisement, but also solve the problem of long lines at the theater.

California is the state that got better than average reviews, what about locations with lower ratings?

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Based on this sentiment value heat map we determined that Texas is worth studying.

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Out of 971 reviews sourced from Texas, 313 are negative. Let’s take a look at why people are dissatisfied.

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While we do see complaints about customer service, there is a bigger problem stopping people from enjoying their experience here. Theater cleanliness and sanitation. People complained about how dirty the theater was and some even claimed they saw rats at the concession stand. From the Buzzwords above, numerous rants regarding theater cleanliness caught our eyes. Trash everywhere, sticky floor, and even people smoking? These can be deal breakers when customers decide which theater to go to, and dirty movie theaters can cause some health hazards as well. (6 Health Hazards Of A Dirty Movie Theater)

AMC Theaters vs. Dolby Cinema at AMC (AMC Prime)

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AMC has more than 20 Dolby Cinema at AMC locations (AMC Prime), and tickets are a couple dollars more at these locations. If you compare AMC Theaters against Dolby Cinema at AMC, you may be surprised that AMC Prime theaters have an overall lower rating. The sentiment value shown above indicates people are less satisfied with AMC Prime. We can dig deeper and take a look at the Buzzwords Signals sorted out.

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Interestingly, AMC Prime received more complaints when it comes to customer service. We can assume that when people pay more money, they expect better quality. So, if they’re pay more for a “prime” experience, they’ll have a higher expectation of everything. Both theaters were complained about their environment maintenance, as we can see the term “toilet paper” popping up in both columns. Theatergoers were annoyed with situations such as restrooms ran out of toilet paper, and no paper towels at concession stands and many have complained about floor being sticky. This may sound cliché, but moviegoers expect a comfortable and clean environment when they go to a theater, and daily upkeep of the theaters can not be overlooked.

Company Image:

Now let’s shift over to AMC’s Facebook page comments. While Yelp comments are focused an theaters’ performance and customer feedback based on their experience, Facebook page presents more on how people regard AMC’s company image.

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It’s hard to miss the harsh criticism on the cell phone policy that Adam Aron (CEO of AMC Entertainment) brought up in April. Mr. Aron said the company was toying with the notion of allowing texting during certain films, and almost immediately, people went bonkers on all social media to complain about this idea. People didn’t even try to hide their annoyance, they called this idea stupid, horrible and absolutely ridiculous. Not long after, 2 days to be exact, AMC announced that they would not be incorporating the policy, and there would be strictly “NO TEXTING”rule at all AMC theaters, which was a great relief to many people.

We understand AMC wants to get more “millennials” in theaters, but allowing cell phone use may not be the answer — we already witnessed how the idea backfired. If AMC wants to attract more millennials into going to movies, they could consider the suggestion we mentioned earlier, student membership discount. A lot of students (aged 14~22) are unemployed, and while they may like to be able to text during a movie, they will probably enjoy discounts more. Also, if AMC really wants to please heavy cell phone users, maybe come up with special screenings where people are allowed to use their phones, like we know there are some special movie screenings designed for parents with young children and babies.

Customer comments are extremely insightful. As AMC continues in its quest to become the world’s largest theater chain, it would serve them well to regularly analyze the voice-of-customer on the user experience. Fortunately Signals makes it a quick and easy process that anyone can use.

If you would like to run text analytics against the comments customers are leaving on your business, contact us for a free trial account. Reach us on chat, email (clientsupport@stratifyd.com), or on Twitter or Facebook. We’d love to work with you!