A new report finds that movie attendance by Latinos is up. (Photo/Getty Images)

Want a box office hit? Reach Latinos, who watch more movies

It turns out that the secret to achieving box office success is rather simple: reach out to Latinos, who are steadily buying movie tickets while growth among mainstream movie audiences has slowed.

According to a new Nielsen report, the number of Latino moviegoers in 2012 increased by 12 percent and Latinos accounted for 25 percent of all movies seen, even though they are 18 percent of the moviegoing population.  Research by the Nielsen National Research Group also found that U.S. Hispanics saw more movies in 2012 than any other demographic group – 9.5 on average, up from 8.5 in 2011. That’s one movie roughly every six weeks: significant when movie attendance by people between the ages of 25 and 54 accounted for 52 percent of movie goers, “down from 56 percent in 2011.”

Nielsen found that younger audiences between ages 12 – 24 account for 30 percent of movie goers, an increase from 29 percent in 2011. There was also a small increase in movie attendance by movie goers between 55 to 75, at 18 percent from 15 percent.

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“Latinos have accounted for a high percentage of movie ticket sales for years,” comments Roberto Orci, chair of Hispanic marketing organization AHAA and the CEO of Acento Advertising. “Latinos over-index on mobile use and social media, which leads to greater exposure to information about new film releases. We’re interested in that type of entertainment, we’re exposed to the marketing and our culture is very family oriented, which makes activities like eating out and going to the movies very typical.”

As Orci remarked, Nielsen researchers found Hispanics tend to think of a trip to the cinema as a family affair. The 2012 report – which used online, phone and in-person surveys of over 3,000 Americans ages 12-74 – found that Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanics to consider use the movies a way to spend time with family and friends (86 percent vs. 77 percent).

“We like to go to the movies as a family almost every weekend,” says Kellvin Chavez, who reviews films at LatinoReview.com.  With three teenagers, he and his wife have found that “it’s something fun to do, with new releases that appeal to all of us.”

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And don’t think for a moment that a Latino movie star needs to headline a film to create box office buzz. Chavez says that he’s found that for Hispanic movie goers, an overall “Latino sensibility” matters most for those looking to drop their hard-earned dollars on a movie ticket.

“Families don’t see movies just because they’re marketed as Hispanic with a Latino cast,” says Chavez, who credits the success of horror film “Mama” –  which has earned $50 million at the box office – to its story line and the popularity of its director, Guillermo del Toro. “The story matters and we want to see stars who appeal to us even though they might not be Latino. “

Chavez says film franchises like “Fast and the Furious” have been popular with Latino movie goers because of lead actor Vin Diesel’s huge Hispanic following. Spanish dialogue in the films, a lead role with bombshell Michelle Rodriguez and a soundtrack featuring Pitbull helped too, explains Chavez, as did film movie cameos by musicians Tego Calderón and Don Omar.

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“At the end of the day, my kids are English dominant and the media we consume is in English,” says Chavez, who says that Ben Affleck’s “Argo” – based on the story of CIA agent Tony Mendez – is a good example of a story that appeals to both mainstream and Latino audiences. “And more and more, what will matter is the presence of Latinos shaping the overall product.”

With more Latinos behind the camera than ever before – think directorial powerhouses del Toro and Robert Rodriguez – as well as actors like Jennifer Lopez(“Parker”) and Javier Bardem (“Skyfall”) holding court in Hollywood, Orci says that it’s time for movie studios to recognize Latino power at the box office.

“With few exceptions, movie promotion to the Latino audience has been an afterthought,” remarks Orci.

“More than ever, these numbers prove that the Hispanic audience is where the dollars lie.”

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