In 2012, when Paul Yanover became president of Fandango.com, it was a site purely for buying movie tickets, as it had been for over a decade. Today, the site 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, including some exclusives.
“We have established an ongoing user panel–tens of thousands of 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, Fandango is also considering prop replicas, advance purchases of digital downloads and, per Yanover, experiences. “Not necessarily everything comes in a box,” he said. “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 combination 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 as well as 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. “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 the point of entry into the e-commerce funnel.” Yanovers says it paid off. “What we saw was our ability to significantly expand the number of people and the amount of content that they were consuming.”
Fandango has also acquired 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. “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.” he says. “They’re planning an event around [going to the movies,] in many cases. A date, a family outing, many such things. 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. “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,” Yanover says. “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.