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Cineplex offers a free movie with General Mills cereal: watch a subpar movie with subpar cereal

13 February 2011 No Comment

During a recent coffee break at work, a coworker shared that he bought a box of Oatmeal Crisp with a free Cineplex movie pass. Movie tickets usually go for $12 these days, and this particular cereal box cost $4. Based on those economics you could keep the movie coupon, throw out the cereal, and still save money in the end.

Like any coupon, there are restrictions which were outlined on the side of the cereal box:

  • Only valid on Sunday – Thursday
  • Free general admission ticket in February
  • Free small popcorn or candy in March
  • Buy one get one free general admission in April
  • Free small drink in May

The restrictions got me thinking about the value of this promotion, and the following questions:

  • When are most good movies actually released?
  • When do movies make the most money?
  • And, was it worth it to buy a cereal I didn’t care for?

The Analysis

Excel iconAnalysis in Excel (Right click to Save As).

  • Movie data was taken from the-numbers.com: box office data, movies stars, idle speculation
  • Blockbuster movies were defined as movies grossing over $250M worldwide
  • Analysis was conducted on US and worldwide sales

Movie Release Dates

If movie releases throughout the year were purely random, any given month would have 8.3% of the movies released in a year (100% / 12 months). Based on these graph below, we can say with confidence that movie releases are random.


  • The 95% confidence interval is shown in the dotted black line
  • The movie releases also include a large number of independent films

If we include a filter for blockbuster movies, which I have defined as gross sales in excess of $250M, the distribution begins to change (see below). On average most years have at least 20 blockbuster movies.

  • 1st peak releases occur in May and June (summer blockbusters)
  • 2nd peak occurs in November and December (Thanksgiving and Christmas)
  • 3rd peak occurs in March (Easter, March break)

We begin to see why Cineplex has offered free movies in February and a BOGO in April. Along with January, September, and October, these two months have fewer blockbuster releases than what would be expected.

Movie Sales

Another metric you can use to gauge a movie’s population is gross sales. The graphs below do not show movie sales that occur in the month, but the sales that occur for movie released in the specific months. What are the graphs telling us? Even though movie are randomly released throughout the year, their sales are not equal. Movies that make a lot of money are mostly released in May, June and July. Sometimes they are also released in November and December. Unsurprisingly, the difference becomes more exacerbated with blockbuster sales. (Can you spot where Avatar was released?)

The 80-20 Rule

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, states that 80% of a company’s revenue comes from 20% of its customers. This principle also finds its way in the film industry, especially in the American audience. Based on the charts below, 20% of movies released account for 90% of American sales and 80% of worldwide sales.


My thoughts on the free movie tickets in select General Mills cereal boxes:

You are buying cereal you would probably never eat, to watch a movie you would probably never see. Consumerism and marketing at its best!

I plan to use 2 free tickets to see the King’s Speech and Black Swan (December 2010 releases). Now if I could just figure out what to do with the 4 of my 6 remaining boxes of unsatisfactory cereal. Good job, General Mills and Cineplex.

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