Panel 2 – Cinemas: The Audience Creators

Christoph Freier from Media & Entertainment GfK showcased the results of market research and ticket sales data; to identify critical groups and understand the barriers that effect cinema-going. Though price plays a part, it’s not the only factor, he said. Going to the movies in a group – cinema-going as a social experience – is still important but, more notably, so too are issues of attention and limitations on free time.

One key finding was that “The cinema is not currently perceived to offer sufficient value for money, as important leisure requirements such as relaxation…”

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What exactly does that mean?

Well, according to Freier,”Relaxation is associated with the home because sitting in the dark is associated with being alone.” Moreover, home entertainment is cheaper, more comfortable, and has greater flexibility for the viewer; how much noise they make, how deeply they engage, how often they want to pause or interrupt the experience is, at home, entirely under their control. This is something traditional cinema-going does not offer.

The research also indicated that cinemas need to become better integrated into the everyday lives of younger audiences if they want to hold, not just catch, their attention. The data showed that they want to be engaged on an individualised basis because they appreciate the personal approach;

“The cinema does not gab my attention, there are hardly any promotions. I keep getting handed flyers for other activities. The cinema seems to have really distant advertising.” (market research finding, person aged 18-25)

But not everyone is panicking about how young people are splitting the focus of their time. Clare Binns, the Director of Programming and Acquisitions, Picturehouse Cinemas, UK, also talked about ensuring that their ‘offer’ is good enough.

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Picturehouse Cinemas have opened three cinemas this year, including Picturehouse Central, with seven screens, where they can run diverse formats including 2K, 4K,35mm and 70mm. They run bigger blockbuster titles alongside smaller art house and European films.

Chair Michael Gubbins, while constantly bringing the discussion back to quality in European film, surmised that including conservative options in film programming isn’t necessarily something to be criticised; sometimes the blockbusters create the commercial viability a cinema needs to enable taking on smaller, creative projects, which is certainly true for the UK’s Picturehouse Cinemas.

What works, then, is clear cinema branding. Establishing and maintaining audience trust helps to further engage those audiences with diverse content. But, Gubbins was keen to press, how beholden are cinemas to the economy of film? Does that eclipse quality? The short answer, this panel seemed to suggest, is yes.

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Also keen to establish a connection with audiences through cinema branding was the Yorck Kinogruppe. They work not only with film but also with print and online media partners, including having their own magazine to help further the reach of their brand.

Jaume Ripoli, Co-Founder and Head of Content and Development, Filmin, Spain, said that from as high as one million viewers, Spanish audiences used to watch Fellini, Pasolini and other art house auteurs. However, now, filmmakers like Haneke and Sorrentino are receiving less than 250,000 viewers for their more successful titles.

One reason is that these films were already available illegally online. They were not, however, available on web platforms legally. Working with festivals and cinemas is important, but, Ripoli feels, also having a web only festival fills a gap in the market and broadens their audience. Not enough of the big film festival titles are finding their way into cinemas in Spain which gives Filmin the opportunity to capitalise on that gap.

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Filmin, much like Mubi, Fandor and other online curated platforms, are not just streaming destinations, they are also hubs for film news, reviews, community and cultural engagement.

Multi-Platform and combined revenue streams, the panel agreed, is one way in which films can re-coup costs. It’s not an instance of one platform being solely successful above the others.

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Susan Wendt, Head of Sales for TrustNordisk, Denmark said there is still a great importance in keeping up Creative Europe’s support. Otherwise, those bigger platforms will eat up a portion of the market, leaving the niche of the niche to fend for itself.

And finally, Brian Newman of Sub-Genre, USA, says we are all still recovering from cinema as built on scarcity. But at the same time, it’s not necessarily about quality because we are now beholden to an ‘attention economy’. In light of this, branding and trust offer a more stable model.

Photography courtesy of Eva Kořínková.

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