Kidtoon Films, a Woodland Hills, California subsidiary of Sabella Dern Animation, started delivering family- friendly cinematic fare to kids on weekend mornings two years ago. And thanks to a new partnership with National Amusements, the program’s reach is getting a sizeable boost.
The cinema chain with more than 1,500 screens across the U.S., U.K., Latin America and Russia, has turned to Kidtoon in an attempt to capture the three to nine year old demo and its parents. National took on the program that features a monthly weekend morning screening of a G-rated release in May, moving it into 17 theatres.
Michele Martell, COO of Kidtoon Films, says the program was born from a desire to connect an under-served market (there are only four or five major studio G-rated releases a year) with appropriate content. As the films are shown at 10 a.m. (a time when most theatres aren’t normally being used) the movie houses benefit as well.
For around US$20 a family of four can take in a flick culled from a lineup of animated films based on popular properties and franchises with more modest bugets than those produced by the likes of Disney or DreamWorks. Some titles on the upcoming Kidtoon sked include Arthur’s Missing Pal from Lions Gate, DIC Entertainment’s Strawberry Shortcake, The Sweet Dreams Movie and My Little Pony: The Runaway Rainbow produced by Hasbro and Paramount.
The screenings are only part of the offering. Kidtoon commissions film critiques and accompanying discussion points from noted children’s entertainment expert Dr. Donna Mitroff, who acts as an independent consultant to the company.
‘There are fewer and fewer opportunities for adults and children to have a media experience that they share,’ Mitroff says. The movies, she notes, provide one of the key ways for families to connect. And Mitroff’s film guides help get parents started.
The write-ups are available for download on kidtoonfilms.com prior to the film’s release date, so parents can get prepared. For last May’s headliner, The Secret of the Sword starring She-Ra Princess of Power, Mitroff’s missive encouraged families to consider the characteristics of the heroine with their kids and suggested children imagine and then describe her next adventure.
Since the selected films run in digital theatres exclusively, the program’s further growth is contingent upon the adoption of the tech. The program is currently available in 11 states and plans are in the works to land screens throughout the Southern U.S., with possible deals in Canada and Latin America in the offing. An interactive host as well as feature wraps and interstitials will be added to the theatre experience along with a comprehensive promotion and marketing strategy in the coming months. The new material will debut alongside the October selection, Strawberry Shortcake.