Measuring The Economic Impact of a Film Festival

Michael Harker of the Enigmia Research Corporation speaks at the recent Film Festival Summit in New York City.

Michael Harker of the Enigmia Research Corporation speaks at the recent Film Festival Summit in New York City.


At the recent Film festival Summit in New York City, Sr. Partner at Enigma Research Corporation Michael Harker spoke about the very hot topic of how to measure the economic impact of a film festival.

Enigma Research Corporation from Toronto is a specialist in statistics and research. In fact, Michael has himself personally attended more than 300 events, including festivals, fairs, sports events, shows, and trade shows. He is considered a “hands-on” researcher.

In the 1990’s, the hot topic seemed to be Sponsorship. Today it is Economic Impact. To put it simply, Economic Impact is a measure of new money being spent by somebody else. This information can be used in press releases, and by politicians, and the festival organizers as a way to show sponsors and the community how much new revenue was generated by having the film festival,. For example this might include extra food sales, additional hotel room nights, tickets, and other merchandise sold. The bottom line is it is very important to know if the individual is local or non-local. Because when measuring economic impact you can only count non-locals. The local community would have spent that same money in town anyway, so we are just looking for a measure of new money and if the film festival was the “main draw” or main reason for the visit.

Here are some of the steps to creating a proper survey.
1. Data Collection
2. Sample Size
3. Process the Data
4. Interpret the Data and Report

It is important to identify the audience of the survey. Is this survey ultimately for the city or town, the funding organization, or for the media?

Select the method of data collection.
1. Telephone interviews (Difficult to do after the event is over)
2. on-site interviews (Preferred)
3. Self-administered (Including a mail back)

Verify permission to survey on-site. Are you allowed to survery attendees inside the movie theater while on-line? Or is it better to interview willing participants outside?

The purpose of the visitor survey is to measure the visitor expenditure, measure the percentage of non-locals, and to determine if the event was the main draw. Again, you are looking for “new money spent by someone else”.

Michael recommends using 12 expenditure categories. These are…
1. Accommodation
2. Restaurants and Bars
3. Concessions at the event
4. Groceries and other food
5. Admission and Tax
6. Other entertainment
7. Event Merchandise
8. Retail clothing (Local clothing stores not associated with the film festival)
9. Car rentals
10. Gas, Parking, and repairs while in town
11. Public Transit
12. Other Retail

It is recommended to use these twelve categories to assist the respondent to remember and helps aid in a sophisticated model to keep the categories separate.

When staffing for the survey it is important to have a mix of people conducting the interviews. Have a mix by gender, and by age. Age is a very important factor. Have people in their 20s 30s 40s and 50s. Pick event workers. On average if you do a phone interview you can usually reach and poll 3 people per hour, on-site is about 6 per hour, and self administered is usually about 20 per hour. Just try to get a reasonable cross section of people. Polling people while on line is recommended because it give people something to do and they are not in a “rush to get home”.

Study sizes are…
1. Small study 200-400
2. Medium stidy 500-800
3. Large study 1,000-1,500

The information to include in a media release should also include the Attendance, Total impact, Total Jobs, and Total Taxes. For a creative spin you can include quotes from local politicians, quotes from workers or merchants, and provide a comparision with a non-competeing organization like a factory opening.

Michael Harker’s tips for film festivals.
1. Use round numbers.
2. Be prepared for all types of questions regarding the study and outcome.
3. On-site interviews are best choice for research.
4. Be sure to hire a mix of on-site interviewers.
5. Self-administered questionnaire’s can work with and educated audience.
6. Don’t use too many figures. Keep it simple.