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The Staggering Reach of Nicole Kidman's AMC Ad: A Statistical Analysis.
The Nicole Kidman AMC promo is everywhere, all at once. How many times have we collectively watched this thing?
Intro: Nicole Kidman Wants You to Go To the Movies.
I have been to the movies four times in the past month. Yes, that's right, I've left my house four times in the last thirty days to sit in squeaky reclining chairs, buy overpriced bottles of Dasani water, and, most importantly, watch a one-minute advertisement where Nicole Kidman convinces me to go to the movies while I am presently at the movies.
Since September 2021, AMC Theaters has been airing a one-minute advertisement where Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman waxes poetic about the magic of movie theaters. This promotion typically aires after twenty to thirty minutes of previews and is the last obstacle separating you from the film you came to see. Quite surprisingly, against all odds, audiences love the promotion.
Cheers and sing-a-long style recitations often accompany airings of the promo. In one instance, a dedicated fan saluted the ad for a full minute as if propelled by patriotic duty.
The promotion has inspired kitschy clothing tributes and various Etsy paraphernalia, allowing fans to broadcast their connection to this one-minute advertisement.
And, in what can be considered a crowning achievement of pop cultural awareness, the Kidman ad was spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Somehow, an overly-sentimental and functionally redundant promo has resonated with millions—which begs the question of how.
So today, we'll explore the AMC advertisement's mind-boggling reach and deconstruct the affection it inspires in moviegoing audiences.
How Many Times Have We Seen Nicole Kidman’s AMC Ad?
How often must we hear an advertisement before it hardwires a Pavlovian association in our brains? What degree of awareness inspires cult-ish dedication to a seemingly banal promotion?
For a sense of scale, I compared Google search traffic for the AMC promo to that of numerous American figures—presidents, members of Congress, baseball mascots, etc. Ultimately, I found the Kidman ad generates search traffic similar to that of Denis McDonough (the current U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs) and Miguel Cardona (the current U.S. Secretary of Education).
Said otherwise, Nicole Kidman's AMC ad is as well-known (and essential) to American discourse as a lower-level member of Joe Biden's cabinet. So how did an advertisement instructing moviegoers to do what they're currently doing generate such substantial awareness? Well, AMC took a brute-force approach to syndication, airing the ad relentlessly across its network of 10,500 screens.
Assuming the advertisement has run before every AMC screening since its release, we can backsolve the promo's reach by working off the company's earnings data from the past two years and 2023 box office sales. Using these ticket sales projections, we calculate that the Kidman ad has received over 420 million impressions (to date).
Put differently, audiences have spent a combined 292,115 days being told how great the movies are while sitting inside a movie theater.
And what about the monetary implications of the Kidman ad? Airing the promotion bears no direct cost to the theater chain, but what about the opportunity cost of AMC not selling that time slot to another advertiser?
Assuming a price tag of $60 per 1,000 impressions (CPM), AMC could have grossed an estimated $25M in advertising revenue by selling that promotional slot.
At first glance, using movie screens to encourage cinema attendance could be considered a waste of precious real estate. But this assumes that AMC gleans no value from the Nicole Kidman advertisement.
Instead, people love the ad—some with an irrational zeal. Somehow it’s omnipresence and campy appeal have turned a bizarre marketing decision into a memorable pop culture artifact.
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Final Thoughts: A National Anthem for the Movies.
I grew up loving Baltimore Orioles baseball games. My favorite part of any game was when the crowd would yell "O!" during the national anthem right before the line "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave." The team name started with an "O," and the song had "Oh" in it, so it was a logical way to engage the crowd and build a sense of community.
The first time I attended a non-Orioles baseball game, I yelled "O!" during the national anthem, assuming that's just what people did at baseball games. I remember feeling a tinge of sadness, bummed at the absence of this much-loved tradition. Would the game even begin without a spirited chant from the crowd?
Likewise, I now expect a Nicole Kidman advertisement at the onset of every moviegoing experience.
In December 2021, AMC screened a reduced 30-second version of the Kidman ad, omitting the promo's signature "heartbreak feels good in a place like this" line. The decision sparked (very minor) outrage from fans, including a playful Change.org petition demanding that AMC air the "Kidman cut." In response, AMC restored the advertisement to its one-minute runtime, and fans rejoiced.
If you look at the advertisement's Youtube comments, you will find a genuine ritualistic appreciation for the ad.
Through heavy exposure, people have begun associating the promo with a film's commencement, like the national anthem at a sports game, the Netflix "swooshy" logo animation before its original content, or a Better Help advertisement at the beginning of a podcast. Familiarity breeds comfort—a sense that things are functioning as they should.
All my movie-watching experiences this past month were at AMC theaters. The first time I saw the Kidman ad, I thought, "Not this shit again." Then I saw the promo again, and again, and again. By my fourth viewing, I felt at peace, delighted to see an old friend, and primed for the magic of the movies.
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