At the same time as thinking about the hook or selling point of a film, the distributor will also be considering who the target audience for that film will be. The target audience is best defined as the specific largest group of people who might want to go and see a film. Defining the target audience will affect the ‘where’ and ‘how’ of the marketing campaign -
Where to advertise and promote the film?
How to reach that defined target audience?

Kezia Williams | Head of Theatrical Distribution | Entertainment One UK

Task 1: Reaching You

Although the cinema audience is broadening, 16-24 year olds are the segment of the population that goes to the cinema most frequently, so how could a distributor reach YOU?


Each film has to be positioned through considering the selling points against an understanding of age, gender, lifestyles and activities of the audiences available – all of which inform the later decisions on how and where a film is promoted. Films have to compete for audiences’ time as well as disposable income.

Task 2 – Genre and Audience

Let’s first look at target audiences in general terms. Who do you think the main target audiences are for the following genres:


Kezia Williams | Head of Theatrical Distribution
Entertainment One UK
Chris Besseling | Director of Marketing | Pathe UK

The target audience can vary considerably from film to film, for example from families with young children to teenagers to older audiences. It is the distributor’s job, through research, comparison with previous films and their audiences, commercial experience and professional judgement to define who the audience for any particular film is. Each film has to be treated as an individual product.

Task 3 – The Hook and Audience

Click on each of the film titles below, read their synopsis, then decide on their target audience.


Task 4 – Reaching the Target Audience

Having defined the target audience for the five films you should now choose three of the films and decide how best you can reach those audiences.



While it is important never to lose sight of the target audience, the distributor will always try to attract as wide a range of people as possible. They will sometimes refer to films as ‘cross over’ or ‘break out’ films – those which attract more than just the main target audience.

Marketability and Playability

Two critical factors must be assessed for every film: marketability and playability.


Refers to the film’s potential to be marketed effectively, e.g. having a good hook, such as stars, genre or director that can be turned into a strong advertising campaign.


Refers to audience reaction to the film. If an audience is satisfied and pleased by what they have seen then they will encourage friends to go and see the film. This allows the film to grow and sustain itself in the marketplace.

Playability has nothing to do with attracting audiences to the film. It is about the outcome once the audience has purchased their ticket and has seen the film.

Testing playability and marketability research

Distributors will often carry out market research in the form of pre-release test screenings. These aim to measure an audience’s reaction to the film (playability) or may try to evaluate different marketing campaigns (marketability).

The audiences at these screenings are usually asked to complete questionnaires which rate the film as well as giving the distributor information about what the audience particularly enjoyed– the story, the stars, the genre. Audience reaction to a preview of a film might well influence a distributor’s final marketing campaign.