'Innovation and the Big Screen': UNIC publishes report on European initiatives

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Cinemas Features

The European cinema market remains a key building block of the global film industry, drawing strength from its multitude of languages, cultures and audience groups. And it is one that continues to grow.

In 2016, cinema-going increased by 2.5 percent across the 36 territories represented by UNIC, accounting for more than 1.27 billion cinema visits. Admissions increased in most national markets, including France (3.6 percent), Spain (6.5 percent) and Poland (16.5 percent), bolstered by strong local titles and a wide-ranging film offer.

While Europe is perhaps a uniquely diverse film region, European operators face a number of shared challenges and opportunities in a world characterized by globalization and change.

Industry consolidation continues to progress here as it does globally, driving further efficiencies and growth across the industry. Alongside this headline trend however, highly successful independent operators and dynamic local producers and distributors continue to ensure the resilience of the wider sector.

Creating and promoting an unparalleled experience at a time when consumers have access to a wealth of entertainment alternatives available at their fingertips remains paramount. But European cinema operators are rising to the challenge of building new audiences by experimenting with a range of audience-engagement initiatives and ongoing investment in state-of-the-art cinema technology.

In a recently published report, Innovation and the Big Screen, UNIC explored how cinemas large and small were continuously improving the customer journey and turning cinema-going into an ever more engaging, diverse and immersive experience.

The report touched on three main strands of innovation in cinema: creative audience development, the big-screen experience, and social innovation. (It is available in its entirety on the UNIC website, unic-cinemas.org.)

The purpose of the report was to demonstrate to policy-makers and industry leaders how cinema-going has evolved into an increasingly eventful and digitally connected journey. In an era in which continuous experimentation and innovation in cinema will be a strategic imperative, this ability to adapt will be a key competitive advantage.

As highlighted in the report, there is huge potential for growth in attendances across Europe. Creative and collaborative use of technology—combined with exclusive theatrical experiences and the long tradition of showmanship in the sector—offers a unique opportunity to significantly increase audience reach as well as frequency of cinema visits.

Digital cinema has delivered on its promise of fundamentally changing the economics of the sector, leading to the establishment of a more diverse cinema offer, enabling operators to respond to increasingly fragmented audience tastes. This paradigm shift not only brought massive improvements in sound and projection quality, but also more flexible and efficient operations and sophisticated audience-engagement strategies.

Cinemas are now engaging with those who love the big screen in an ever more personal and seamless fashion, as operators and their business partners increasingly shift marketing investment and innovation efforts online. With the help of digital innovation, cinemas have turned into smart venues, enabling exhibitors to track, analyze and predict behavior throughout the customer journey.

A key milestone to introducing further innovation in cinemas will be to transform the relationship between cinema operators and film distributors. Cinema operators increasingly possess deeper and more personalized customer insight, while distributors are responsible for the majority of marketing efforts around a film release and have a detailed understanding of the box-office performance of different types of films. Both parties would stand to reap major benefits were they able to share data as well as resources with a view to make cinema marketing even more fine-grained and personalized.

Further to this recent report, UNIC has commissioned a major research project examining youth audience preferences regarding cinema-going across three key territories (U.K., Germany and Spain). Research results are currently being tested with young consumers in co-creation workshops to further develop and understand innovative ideas and concepts.

Results of this study will be shared during the upcoming edition of CineEurope, UNIC’s official annual convention, where we will get the chance to further discuss many of the above topics as well as other trends and developments in the international cinema industry. We hope to see you in sunny Barcelona June 19-22!

Phil Clapp, CEO of the U.K. Cinema Association, is president of UNIC (the Union Internationale des Cinémas/International Union of Cinemas), the European grouping of key cinema associations and operators across 36 territories. UNIC promotes the value of cinema-going and ensures that cinema operators across Europe are able to speak with one voice on key issues. Mr. Clapp will address CinemaCon delegates on Monday, March 27.