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Building a blockbuster campaign: How movie studios are changing the face of cinema

In case you missed it (and how could you?), 2023 was an absolute blockbuster of the year for the box office. Barbie and Oppenheimer have been credited with saving cinema, with Barbie stealing the title of highest grossing film of 2023, generating $1.38 billion in revenue worldwide.

But the best is yet to come. 2024 started off strong with the release of Saltburn across streaming channels, plus major Oscar wins for Poor Things, Anatomy of a Fall, and The Zone of Interest. In a previous spotlight, we explored how agencies and entertainment brands have been working together to light up the silver screen. This time, we’re returning to the movies to understand the way we watch now.

What exactly do we mean by that? With an increasing number of films also launching as limited release – a strategy where a movie is initially released in a select number of theaters rather than in a wide or nationwide release – then moving directly to streaming platforms, consumers are able to access major films from the comfort of their sofa faster than ever before.

Let’s take a look at the current state-of-play in the world of cinema and streaming:

  • According to PWC’s entertainment and media report, competition among digital content and service providers is on the rise in 2024 and it plays a major role in overall revenues, with consumer spending expected to reach a total of $903.2 billion by 2027.
  • Despite 2023’s box office boom, a recent study found that Americans aren’t attending movies as frequently as they did pre-pandemic, off by close to a third from pre-pandemic levels. In fact, consumers are actively embracing home comforts, with two-thirds of Americans prefer watching movies at home (64% at home vs. 36% in theater) versus 2018, when the preference of cinema viewing outpaced that of the home (57% theater vs. 43% home).
  • The video streaming industry is booming. It’s currently valued at $544 billion and it’s expected to grow to $1,902 billion by 2030. Plus, competition for subscribers is getting fierce, with the top three streaming sites being Netflix (260 million), Amazon Prime (200 million), and Disney+ (150 million).
  • According to Forbes, streaming services have achieved a near-ubiquitous presence in US homes, with 99% of U.S. households saying they now subscribe to at least one or more streaming services, with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV topping the charts.
  • Long-term, it actually costs less to subscribe to multiple services than to go to multiple movies a month. According to FilmTrack, this is major factor in why people are choosing to watch from home. The average cost of a movie ticket at the theater is $10.45, compared to $6.99 for a basic monthly Netflix subscription.
  • But despite this preference, theatrical releases are still crucial for the industry. According to the IBC, a movie released to cinema generally turns over more than its weight in dollars returned. That said, more studios are willing to test exclusive, but shortened, theatrical windows to get films onto streaming services faster. According to the CEO of Cineworld, “the exclusive window is in the interest not just of the exhibitors but the studios… the bigger a movie succeeds in the cinema, the bigger it is on the auxiliary markets.”

In this month’s spotlight, we’ll be taking a closer look at how studios are changing the face of cinema with blockbuster marketing campaigns and careful targeting. We’ll examine the campaigns behind Dune: Part Two and Saltburn, as well as exploring how Borderlands and Wicked are reaching movie-goers in 2024.

Audience analysis: Dune: Part Two, Saltburn, Borderlands & Wicked

Last year, we wrote a piece on how brands could find their next Barbie movie. We’re taking a similar approach here, looking into potential opportunities for Borderlands and Wicked, as well as evaluating the potential audiences the marketing brains behind Dune: Part Two and Saltburn were trying to reach. We ran affinity reports for each movie, as well as Affinio reports. 3, 2, 1… action!

Dune: Part Two audience

  • Entertainment franchises set in space never go out of style, as demonstrated by the enduring success of Star Wars. This becomes especially true for franchises, both TV and film, based on books. Dune: Part One, based on the bestselling epic science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, already had a huge baked-in fan-base that was dying to see the book hit the big screen.
  • So, what can audience data tell us about Dune’s audience? According to our insights, approximately 71% of Dune’s fanbase is male, and almost 50% is aged between 25 and 34 years old. We also see that the audience is very much global, with fans based in the US, UK, Canada, Brazil and France.
  • Looking at influencers and brands, we see film franchises and streaming services dominating! Star Wars, Marvel Studios, and Netflix all appear, alongside actors associated with these brands including Ryan Reynolds, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Hamill, Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya. Interestingly, we also see space-related interests, including NASA and SpaceX.
  • If we break the Dune audience down into segments, we see an interesting mix of creative professionals, pop culture enthusiasts, movie buffs, gamers and artists. This gives Dune’s marketers several routes to their audience, including creating pop culture moments and working with fan artists.
  • What drives them to purchase? According to IBM personality insights, this audience is excitable, sentimental and helpful. They’re most influenced by product utility when it comes to making purchases (which makes perfect sense), but they’re also motivated by digital advertising.
  • Where are they spending time? Compared to a global audience, this audience is an incredible 42 times more likely to be on Reddit and 32 times more likely to be on Discord, two text-based forum style channels where users can connect and share opinions on things they’re passionate about.

Audiense blog - Dune: Part Two audience

Saltburn audience

  • Whether you love it or hate it, Saltburn has caused a serious stir on social media. Its peculiar blend of dark academia, sexual deviancy and Talented Mr. Ripley vibes has created a viral hit, from Jacob Elordi edits on TikTok to Rosamund Pike memes. It also has an incredible noughties-inspired soundtrack which led to 23-year-old pop song by Sophie Ellis-Bexter climb the charts in January 2024. It really *was* murder on the dancefloor in the halls of Saltburn.
  • What can we learn about the demographics of a Saltburn stan? This audience is split 50/50 in terms of gender, with men accounting for 52% of the total audience. Much like Dune, half of the audience consists of 25- and 34-year-olds, and it’s a global audience with fans in the US, the UK, Brazil, Mexico and Spain.
  • Looking at influencers and brands, we see that this audience is much more likely to be a general fan of film and entertainment. We see accounts such as Netflix, Film Updates, The Academy, Discussing Film and Variety all appearing prominently, alongside other streaming services such as Prime and Disney+.
  • If we break this audience down into segments, we have four distinct types of consumer the Saltburn team can tap into. We’ve got music fans, film enthusiasts, LGBTQ+ advocates and musical theater lovers. This gives the marketers behind the movie a lot of room to play when it comes to partnerships and PR, particularly around the queer love angle.
  • What drives them to purchase? According to IBM personality insights, they are excitable, sentimental and social. Word-of-mouth is hugely important for this audience, with friends, family and influencers more likely to persuade them to make a purchase. Social media is also a major factor.
  • Where are they spending time? Compared to a global audience, this audience is 35 times more likely to use Spotify, and 32 times more likely to be browsing TikTok, suggesting a younger music-obsessed audience will be the most engaged with Saltburn’s marketing.

Audiense blog - Saltburn audience

Borderlands audience

  • Video games have been a huge source of inspiration for the entertainment industry in the last few years, with The Witcher and Halo both getting the TV streaming treatment. And of course, who can forget Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider? Borderlands is coming this year and with it comes the hugely enthusiastic gaming audience. But who else might be tempted into the cinema?
  • What does a Borderland movie-goer look like? The audience skews significantly more male than the other movies we’ve looked at, with men accounting for 84% of the total audience. It’s also much more US-based, with 40% of the total audience based there. This audience is also passionate about gaming, with the keywords ‘gamer’, ‘gamers’, ‘fan’ and ‘Twitch’ appearing in many of their social media bios.
  • Looking at influencers and brands, it’s no surprise that the social media accounts for both the game and the movie appear at the top. We also see Gearbox, Xbox, Play Station, alongside gaming studios such as Rockstar Games and influencer-platform Twitch.
  • If we break this audience down into segments, we see gamers and artists, gaming industry enthusiasts, movie and Marvel fans, wrestling fans and a Borderlands specific segment all appearing as potential audiences. The wrestling and gaming enthusiast segments could be significant for influencer marketing opportunities, working with Twitch streamers and wrestling influencers to create collaborative content.
  • What drives them to purchase? According to IBM personality insights, they are excitable, genial and helpful. Product utility, aka what the product actually is, is the strongest purchase influencer for this segment, closely followed by brands. This is expected, as a gamer will buy a game they’re excited about based on its features, and they may also buy different types of games from the same studio.
  • Where are they spending time? Compared to a global audience, they’re 104 times more likely to use Discord, 48 times more likely to be on Twitch, and 44 times more likely to use Reddit.

Audiense blog - Borderlands audience

Wicked audience

  • First it was a novel, then it was a wildly successful Broadway play and box office record breaker, now it’s going to be a big budget movie starring Cynthia Erivo, Ariana Grande and Jeff Goldblum. Wicked has all the makings of a blockbuster, but how can the studio use audience insights to go the extra mile?
  • What do we know about Wicked fans? Musical theater appears to all, with a 50/50 gender split. It also skews very young, with the 18- to 24-year-old audience making up 20% of the total audience, and the 25- to 34-year-old audience making up 50%.
  • Looking at influencers and brands, it’s clear this audience are music lovers. Alongside the Wicked movie, we see celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat and Lady Gaga. Plus, we see some brands such as Netflix, Disney+ and Pop Base, a pop culture news site.
  • If we break this audience down into segments, the musical influence becomes even clearer. Amongst this audience there is an Ariana Grande specific segment, plus musical theater lovers, Disney & Marvel fans, and interestingly, Japanese theater fans.
  • What drives them to purchase? According to IBM personality insights, they are excitable, genial and social. Social media is the biggest purchase motivator for them, alongside digital advertising. Evidently, this audience is highly susceptible to a well-placed TikTok video or Instagram Reel.
  • Where are they spending time? Spotify is a major platform, which they are 42 times more likely than the general consumer to use, alongside TikTok, Snapchat and SoundCloud.

Audiense blog - Wicked audience

Building a blockbuster: What can we learn from these movies?

We could write an entire novel (or musical) about how each of these campaigns have been orchestrated. But alas, we only have so many words. So, we’re going to cherry pick some of the highlights from each campaign and how they were perfectly tailored to the intended audience. In the case of movies still to come, we’ll suggest partnership opportunities that could help them build a blockbuster.

Dune: Part Two

In Dune: Part Two, movie goers are immersed in the desert planet of Arrakis. Think blazing heat and sandstorms in space, plus the odd sandworm to keep things spicy. Warner Bros have taken it one step further, working with Snapchat to create an augmented reality (AR) lens and custom Cameo stickers, which are running alongside targeted video advertising for the film on the platform. The filter enables fans to become Fremen and ride a sandworm.

Snapchat didn’t appear in our data as a popular social platform for the existing Dune audience, which actually makes this activity even smarter. According to Snapchat, their users are almost 2 times more likely to see a movie on opening weekend than non-Snapchat users. Using Snapchat allows them to tap into a younger audience of potential fans with exciting, immersive content that they can snap and share with their friends – making use of both digital advertising and word-of-mouth to continue building the fans behind the franchise.


Warner Bros. have also been busy securing interesting collaborations and merch. They’ve partnered with watch brand Hamilton to create the Hamilton Ventura XXL Bright Dune Limited Edition, a wrist-mounted device used by the indigenous people of Arrakis. If it’s good enough for Timothée and Zendaya, it’s good enough for us. Warner Bros. also hit the standard movie fan, with branded promotional popcorn buckets available in AMC Theaters which went viral, though admittedly for the wrong reasons. Still, all publicity is good publicity.


The Talented Mr. Ripley meets The Secret History in Saltburn, the social media sensation that got everybody talking when it landed on Amazon Prime after a limited release. What the MRC marketing team got right was the drip-feed of content, shared largely via social media, which turned the whole thing viral – including 00s pop song Murder on the Dancefloor by Sophie Ellis-Bexter.

@fortress THE jacob elordi edit has taken over even our venue now 😔 1 like and we fire her #jacobelordiedit #jacobelordi #saltburn #fortress ♬ original sound - oorsz
@gillianerin Back by popular demand… brother's friend reacting to SALTBURN!! #saltburn #saltburnmovie ♬ original sound - gill


It was completely unmissable across social media, with the campaign featuring mysterious teasers, clever one-liners and truly excellent memes, drawing in viewers of all ages firmly into Saltburn’s web. This quickly spiraled into many TikTok edits of leading men Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan and some hilarious reactions to the movie’s most stomach-curling scenes (we will not be taking questions about the bathtub at this time). Although apparently Lush are willing to address the disgusting elephant in the room with the limited edition launch of Saltbomb, designed to create ‘salty, milky bath water’.

Audiense blog - Lush Saltbomb - website

The soundtrack caused a particular stir, sparking nostalgia in millennials and introducing all-time classics to Gen Z (see: Perfect Exceeder by Princess Superstar). This led to the marketing team creating their very own Saltburn Spotify and Amazon Prime albums for viewers to stream, a fun extra that clearly resonated with the music fans among their audience. This campaign is a prime example of the perfect soft sell that generated authentic user-generated content.


Slated to release in August, the Borderlands movie has some famous faces getting the audience very excited for this long-awaited release. Cate Blanchett, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Hart and Jack Black will all appear in the science fiction comedy film. As we mentioned earlier, Borderlands joins the rank of many hugely popular gaming franchises that became silver screen sensations, including The Witcher and Tomb Raider, so the gaming audience is a given.

But of course, if you want to create a blockbuster, you need to go broader. So far, marketing promotion has included teaser videos on social media to get fans excited, meme content related to national awareness days, and intriguing, a phone number to text with a mysterious reply you may or may not get.

Marketing has been light at the minute, so here’s how we think Borderlands could reach even more movie-goers. We ran an Affinity report to explore potential partnerships, and we saw a huge crossover with energy drink G FUEL, a brand which has named itself the number one energy drink of gaming. Why not cross a gaming themed energy drink with a high-octane movie? Everybody loves a branded drink.

Audiense blog - Doritos & G FUEL affinity with Borderlands

Another option could also be to partner with major snack brand Dorito, who have created a playful social media presence for themselves. In fact, Doritos also has a great gamer tie-in while also offering broader reach. They previously partnered with the hugely anticipated Xbox game Starfield to create branded bags for die-hard fans who wanted a slice of memorabilia to mark this tremendous moment. Xbox also worked with Mountain Dew and Rockstar Energy to provide ultimate gaming fuel.

Audiense blog - Xbox worked with Doritos, Mountain Dew and Rockstar Energy to provide ultimate gaming fuel


We have a strong feeling that Wicked is gonna be pop-u-lar this November, with Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande at the helm of this iconic production. The movie has been in the works for almost four years, with the first cast announcements way back in November 2021. Existing fans are hugely excited, as the movie is rumored to include new music and some seriously impressive CGI budgets. Wicked the movie landed with a bang during the 2024 Super Bowl, giving viewers the first look at Elphaba and Glinda in action as well as the dazzling first glimpse of Oz.

With so many months until release, the marketing to date has been reserved, but we’re pretty sure the marketing team will go all out for this major theatrical release. Of course, we have thoughts about some exciting partnerships they could explore, and we’ll give you them for free (though if you want to offer us tickets to the premier, we’ll happily accept).

Given the music lover segments and the fact that the Wicked audience is 42 times more likely to actively use Spotify, it’s no surprise that Spotify popped up in our Affinio report as a potential partner. We’d like to see Wicked partner with Spotify to create branded landing pages, an exclusive listening party for the Wicked soundtrack ahead of release for fans to really get into it, and maybe even the option to listen to Glinda and Elphaba’s very own playlists.

Audiense blog - Spotify and Haus Labs affinity with Wicked

Another exciting crossover could be with Haus Labs, the beauty brand fronted and owned by the iconic Lady Gaga. HAUS is known for its bold pigmentation and artistry, as well as being innovative and cruelty-free. Perhaps the Wicked team could take a leaf out of Colourpop’s book and work with Haus Labs to create an exclusive line of Wicked-inspired lip and eye make-up for fans to create unique looks, tapping into the excitement, much like the fans that dressed up to see The Eras Tour and Barbie in cinemas. For extra credit, Wicked could even send out exclusive make-up boxes for influencers to share their own GRWM videos.

Ready to take the next step in audience intelligence for your marketing? With tools like Audiense and Affinio, conducting in-depth audience analysis and discovering actionable takeaways makes creating tailored marketing strategies easier than ever.

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