When it comes to The Coca-Cola Company’s longstanding ties to the cinema industry, Stefanie Miller has one of the best seats in the house.

The 19-year Coca-Cola veteran leads a global strategic partnership division overseeing the company’s relationships with airline, hotel/lodging, theme park, cruise line, college/university and, yes, theater customers. Miller’s contributions to the cinema industry at-large will be recognized this week in Miami when she is inducted into the ShowEast Hall of Fame.

We caught up with Miller to learn what this award means to her, how her team brings value to cinema customers that extends beyond beverages, and why nothing beats watching a movie with an ice-cold Coca-Cola – or in her case, a Diet Coke with orange – and hot-buttered popcorn in hand.

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What does your induction into the ShowEast Hall of Fame mean to you personally, and what does it say about Coke’s commitment to the cinema industry?

It means a lot to me. The partnerships I have across the cinema industry mean a tremendous amount to me. And the Hall of Fame recognition, while a personal honor, also speaks to the role our company plays in bringing value to the industry. It’s not a cinema customer-specific award; it’s an industry award. So it speaks to the role the entire team plays. It’s a very meaningful representation of the time I’ve been fortunate to spend with my Coca-Cola colleagues. The level of collaboration, commitment, teamwork and professionalism they bring to work every day is inspiring.

Aside from beverages, what value does Coke bring to its cinema channel partnerships? How are these relationships unique?

I challenge my team to think about how we bring value across the entire business, and from that beverage opportunities will transpire. I like to say “Smarketers” understand sales and marketing. They can talk to the CMO, CFO or CEO and think intuitively. For example, we know that movie-going attendance is highest on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are softer for our cinema customers, so we look for ways to create another reason beyond movies for people to think about going to the theater. We have a partnership with League of Legends where we team with our cinema customers to simulcast the World Championships of the popular eSports game. So we’re helping to drive incremental revenue to our customers. All concessions – not just Coca-Cola – are exponentially higher on a per-cap basis during events like these, and cinemas can create unique experiences fans can share together. The challenge for us is thinking much broader than beverages and across the landscape of opportunities for our cinema partners.

How has Coke’s relationship with cinemas evolved over the years? What has changed and what has remained constant?

Coca-Cola and popcorn have always been a fundamental part of the movie-going experience, and how most consumers want to enjoy movies has stayed the same. But as our time is now stretched thin, and social media, mobile devices and other technologies have fragmented our focus, our approach to partnerships with cinemas have evolved. We’re still focused on the foundation, but equally important to us is how we creatively weave our brands throughout the movie-going experience. For example, movie fans love watching the coming attractions, and we want to be associated with that special moment right before the feature movie begins. We create content with our cinema partners that’s projected right before the main attraction – which helps us and our cinema partners create an intimate connection with the audience and remind them of why they decided to come to the theater.

Technology has enabled fans to catch their favorite flicks and other premium video content in a number of ways – from on-demand streaming, to social media. How is the experience of watching a movie on the big screen unique, and why has it retained its popularity?

We’ve seen for years that the cinema is a top out-of-home leisure activity for teens. And I think it’s because going to the movies allows you to escape. Again, we’re all stretched for time. Social media surrounds us 24/7. And while teens embrace this multiple-screen reality, there’s something unique and special about the experience of going to the theater with friends that cannot be replicated on a phone or at a computer. And today’s amazing filmmakers bring their art to life with the multisensory cinema environment in mind. Consumers of all ages, continue to seek moments of escape where they’re not able to multitask. Because in a hyper-extended world, it’s great to immerse yourself in a story unfolding right in front of you on the big screen as part of an audience riding an emotional wave together.

Coca-Cola and the movie-going experience have, and always will, go hand in hand. What about the pairing is so special?

Part of it is ritualistic, and part of it is the balance of flavors. There’s a ritualistic enjoyment of eating popcorn at the theater… it’s a bite-sized snack you can take your time enjoying in a dark room. And the sweet-and-salty combination of Coke and popcorn is great, but even for moviegoers who buy a Dasani from the concession stand or pour a Powerade from a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine… it’s about the refreshment our beverages deliver, combined with bites of popcorn over a few hours. For me, there’s nothing better than my Diet Coke with Orange and popcorn at the movies. The taste is magical… the zestiness of Diet Coke married with salty popcorn cannot be beat.


Coca-Cola is bringing back the student filmmaking program this year, now with Regal as a partner. Why is it important to support the industry’s up-and-coming talent?

Filmmakers are really dedicated to their art and building a career, and film schools are loaded with talent. For us, this is a way to help the most talented students break through and get the experience and exposure they need. Think of it as a mega internship. And it’s not just the grand-prize winner who benefits; up to five finalists can have the opportunity to have their scripts approved and receive funding to bring their ideas to life. It’s a tremendous resume-builder. We’re thrilled to be working with Regal on this program.

What does the ideal movie-going experience look like to you?

It starts before I get there. I love picking my seats early with my family, which makes it easier to enjoy time at the concession stand. Or, for me, at the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine because my go-to movie beverage is Diet Coke with Orange. And then to kick back, recline and escape into the story of a filmmaker and step away from it all for two hours is just heaven for me.