Cinemas Embrace Innovative Programs

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In Focus

All it takes is a walk through the halls of Caesars Palace during CinemaCon to realize how different going to the movies is today. There is absolutely nothing like it in the world. The immersive experience of seeing a movie in a well-equipped theatre cannot be created in the home or on a mobile phone.

The entire experience has changed dramatically over the past decade: from digital projection and sound to larger-format screens, reclining seats, motion seats, gaming, food and liquor service in auditoriums, and flashy film promotions in the lobby. All of this and more could be seen at CinemaCon, where theatre operators come to view the new technologies and gadgets that make up the modern cinema. In addition to the hardware, social media, in-theatre assets, localized marketing, PR outreach and marketing through loyalty programs have also changed the movie theatre business.

Another major transformation in cinemas has occurred with the pre-show and alternative content (aka event cinema)—all made possible now through digital. The pre-show is entertainment and advertising combined to engage the audience and sell a product. In our May edition, Film Journal International talks with the leading cinema-advertising companies to learn about their latest innovations and initiatives. One look at the article will assure you that creativity is alive and well at the three most popular and important screen-ad companies.

National CineMedia (NCM): Airbnb, the leading community-driven hospitality company, took its “Live There” campaign to theatres last June. Donning special glasses, movie audiences could view alternative travel experiences simultaneously. NCM also worked exclusively with AT&T to launch AT&T Ticket Tuesdays with AMC, Regal and Cinemark.

Screenvision Media: Screenvision has continued to evolve its pre-feature cinema entertainment program, Front + Center, by increasing the scope of its editorial focus. It has recently debuted “Reel Lifestyle” and “Reel Food” programming.

Spotlight Cinema Networks: Spotlight is already two years into a successful relationship with Vimeo, the popular video website that allows users to upload, share and watch videos. It also created a partnership with WMF/IMG’s Made To Measure (M2M), which produces unique art, fashion and design content.

Today’s cinema pre-show is much more than mere advertising. Our writer Bob Gibbons had a candid conversation with executives from NCM, Screenvision, Spotlight and Movio. He concluded that digital has allowed a more polished and professional pre-show. It is a blend of sight, sound and motion designed to inform, promote and entertain. We hope you enjoy Bob’s roundtable.

Tracking of cinema advertising spending started in 2002. 2016 represented a record year for the cinema advertising business, with revenue topping $755 million for the first time. Revenue increased 5.8 percent over the previous year, with more than 276 new brands adopting cinema advertising.

Event cinema is also a relatively new phenomenon that has proliferated in theatres across the globe. Again made possible by digital, event cinema has helped fill seats in auditoriums during off-peak times.

Another in-depth article appearing in the May edition of FJI surveys top circuits about their experiences with alternative events. It comes as no surprise that broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera are still among the most popular attractions. Here is a sampling of the theatre executives’ comments:

Brad LaDouceur, Cineplex: “Our programming is very dynamic and has something for everyone, but in generalour live or captured live broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera,the Bolshoi Ballet, and concert performances from ‘Monty Python Live’ to André Rieu have drawn our largest audiences.Sport remains popular with Canadian audiences and we’ve run everything from the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Toronto Raptors playoff season in 2016.”

Sonny Gourley, Marcus Theatres: “In the last few years, the Met Opera and faith-based events have really gained traction. In addition, a newer trend that has emerged in the past year is anime. It has become increasingly more popular and has established a following of its own.”

Mark Walukevich, National Amusements: “Our most successful events are usually the live events, with the National Theatre, the Met and Royal Opera and Ballet broadcasts attracting the largest audiences.”

Francesco Bertolini, CineArt Marketing/Kinopolis: “Our cinema group has for years had a big focus on kids’ events like ‘Bob the Builder’ and ‘Octonauts. We have had pretty good success with these—especially when we had live acts and a kind of event program around the screening.In the adults section, we have been rather successful with special screenings like our annual ‘Sharknado’ cinema event, a big preview of ‘Game of Thrones’ and the concert movie Rammstein: Paris.”

Dalton Brown, Paragon Theatres: “We have had tremendous success with the Met Opera and animation. We have also started showing film classics, which have provided an opportunity for new audiences to see movies as they were originally meant to be seen.”

Steve Bunnell, Regal Entertainment: “In February 2017, Regal debuted the Best Picture Film Festival, which showcased all nine Oscar-nominated Best Picture titles in a film festival-style schedule over the course of ten days. Customers had the ability to buy individual tickets to the festival showtimes or they could purchase a $35 pass that allowed them to see all nine films for one low price. Regal played the Best Picture Film Festival in 100 locations and saw amazing success, grossing over $1 million over the course of the ten days.”

One thing that all these operators agree on is that there needs to be awareness among the general public about the film or topic and that proper marketing support must exist to create interest and buzz. The formula is simple—filling unused seats and attracting new patrons. And it definitely works.