EUROPA CINEMAS AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT & INNOVATION LAB REPORT
HOW CAN CINEMAS REMAIN VITAL SPACES FOR THEIR LOCAL COMMUNITIES?
Sustainable Practices and Strategies to Attract Audiences
Seville – Thursday 10 to Sunday 13 of November, 2016
Europa Cinemas held its third Innovation Lab of the year in the frame of the 13th Seville European Film Festival. Looking at ways of attracting and retaining audiences through sustainable practices and strategies, the question at the core of the Lab was: How can cinemas remain vital spaces for their local communities?
Led by Jon Barrenechea (Head of Marketing & Projects, Picturehouse Cinemas, United Kingdom) together with Marynia Gierat (Exhibitor, Kino Pod Baranami, Poland) and Barak Epstein (Exhibitor, Texas Theatre, Dallas, USA), the Lab welcomed 36 film exhibitors from 14 different European countries, as well as 9 observers from various institutions.
The Lab was opened by José Luis Cienfuegos, the festival’s director, and Fatima Djoumer, Head of International Relations and Events at Europa Cinemas. During this session, participants were invited to be active members of the network and to take advantage of all the opportunities offered by the joint activities to exchange practices and to work collaboratively to build new strategies. In this respect,
In this respect, Fatima Djoumer also invited the participants to take part in the new ‘Next/Change’ support initiative which offers exhibitors the opportunity to share knowledge with one another through visiting member cinemas.
The seminar began with an interactive exercise in which participants had to introduce one another and to present both the strengths and weaknesses of their venues. The most frequent areas for improvement identified were: the disparity between the amount of work and human resources of small cinemas, the challenge of bringing young audiences to the cinemas and the lack of strong online communication policies.
At the end of the first afternoon, participants were divided into six teams and were presented with the project that they would have to work on for the remaining 2 days: build their ideal cinema theatre (name, general concept and identity, audience, loyalty initiatives, budget, communication policy, etc.) and present it during Saturday’s last session.
Day 2 – Friday 11 November
The second day kicked off with a visit to the local cinema Avenida 5 cines, a pioneer in Seville for films in original version. During the visit, participants filled out a questionnaire where they were asked to give constructive input on the cinema. Afterwards, a rich debrief session allowed participants to share their opinions and suggestions to the exhibitor.
CASE STUDIES: Creating Cinema Spaces and Brands
Barak Epstein from the historical Texas Theatre talked about how they inherited an old brand from the 30’s and molded it to build a new one. He also explained how they use the space of the cinema likewise to build a renewed identity, highlighting the cinema’s 30’s and 60’s eras.
In the same vein, Eugenio Fuschini and Cara-Lynn Bauer shared their experience renovating the cinemas Odeon (Italy) and 3001 (Germany). In the first one, they prioritized the visual identity, working with local artists to decorate the spaces with artwork and to properly design the merchandising. In the second cinema, they enhanced the favourite features of their audience, identifying them by collecting the terms used on social media to describe the cinema. They then used this data translating words into shapes to remodel the venue.
Afterwards, the group tasks were set up and participants worked in six different teams.
CASE STUDIES: Identifying and Talking to Your Audience
Jakub Fürst from Kino Světozor (Czech Republic) opened the afternoon session by bringing into light an original way of brand building and audience communication with humorous jingles played at the venue. For example, the cinema broadcast its identity regarding the popcorn free culture or their programming policy, playing jingles about national filmography’s clichés such as the French new wave. The following speakers, Mats Gillmor, Folkets Bio Växjö (Sweden) and Barbara Pluch, Kino im Kesselhaus (Austria) highlighted the importance of communicating with the audience. By simple means such as being present in the cinema during and after the screenings to interact with the public and establish genuine conversations. But also, by setting up special offline and online information like periodical newsletters for targeted groups.
Open Slot and Picture of the Day Challenge
At the end of the day, the Open Slots session allowed Javier Pachón from CineArte (Spain) to introduce the Spanish arthouse cinema network and invite the Spanish exhibitors to join it. Gintarė Žaltauskaitė grasped the opportunity to ask her fellow exhibitors what the focus of the communication policy in a cinema theatre should be.
The winner of the first Picture of the Day challenge was Joanna Duncombe with her Instagram publication on the cinema visit.
Day 3 – Saturday 12 November
CASE STUDIES: Retaining Your Audiences Engaged (Programming & Marketing)
The first session of the third day began with the presentation of Marynia Gierat who shared 4 strategies she uses in her venue to retain audiences: Film cycles for targeted age groups, “small bribery” with free food after screenings, loyalty card and programming for niche audiences.
The following presentation showcased the project Cinemazero Young Club, a co-curation model created in 2015 and developed by Cinemazero (Italy). Manuela Morana took inspiration in young people’s hobbies (creating and transforming environments, visiting cool places and meeting directors, actors and people alike) to initiate this project in which the cinema acts as a mentor guiding club members through the organisation of screenings and the promotion of their club. They even have their own Facebook page!
In the same spirit, Film Wunder, Gerald Knell’s new scheme set up in 2016 in Filmcasino (Austria), programmes special screenings for kids and involve them in running the cinema. He created the “Wishing Wall” (Wunschwand) in which the kids are invited to write the films they want to watch in the future. Gintarė Žaltauskaitė presented Good Cinema Club and Subtitrai carried out at Kauno kino centras ‘Romuva’ (Lithuania). Both initiatives encourage the cinema audience to actively participate in special screening
s organised by the cinema and to share their point of view about the films on their website.
CASE STUDIES: Working With Partners to Reach New Audiences
Saturday afternoon was full of initiatives to build partnerships. The presentations of Javier Pachón, Joanna Duncombe from ICO (United Kingdom) and Antonio Volpone, Cinema Lumière (Italy) enlightened participants about the importance of adding content to movies in order to reach new and niche audiences, since the urge of movie-watching is no longer enough to bring people to the cinemas. They believe, the best way is to look for key influencers and other trustworthy entities (brands, associations and sectors leaders) who already know the targeted audiences and work with them, in order to pop up the content through the right communication tools.
The case studies sessions ended with Marko Drandić’s presentation of the successful Film in School project, implemented at Kino Valli (Croatia) in 2009. Its goal is to educate children and youth about films, giving them the opportunity to discover European films. Over the years, Film in School became one of the cinema’s most important projects in terms of audience development, becoming the informal film education programme for many schools in Pula and wider.
In the afternoon, the six groups presented their projects in six minutes each, followed by a set of questions from the three workshop leaders. Very inventive and diverse projects were presented (renovation of old cinemas, construction of new ones, single screens with cosy atmospheres, multiplexes rebranding, among others) all with the same core priority: developing sustainable community cinemas willing to create a comfortable and intimate atmosphere for the audience.
The winner of the Lab was the Delphi team with an innovative project proposing the construction of Kai-Kino (pier-cinema) in HafenCity (Hamburg). A two screens cinema located in a waterfront with a restaurant, a bar and a multifunctional screening room for events. With an eco-friendly identity and an online community building marketing, printed materials and cool merchandise. Finally, the objective and solid financial projection was the project’s icing on the cake.
Open Slot and Picture of the Day Challenge
During the Open Slot session, 4 participants presented their projects: José Chica from Foco Henri Langlois film education association, Daniel Biltereyst from Gent University, Esperanza Moreno Guerra from the online platform Youfeelm and Miquel Cerdà Gener from FILMCLUB.
Bernhard Primschitz in charge of PR & Marketing at Schubertkino (Austria), won the second Picture of the Day challenge with a black and white picture illustrating his fellows working during the group project session.
Day 4 – Summary and Next Steps
The last day of the seminar was devoted to an open discussion on which ideas were likely to be taken home. Which actions the participants were planning to implement in their venues? What potential solutions and partners could they find? Some ideas were already underway, especially regarding the marketing strategies unveiled during the case studies, such as understanding how people feel about the cinema through social networks observation. This method used by 3001 Kino (Germany) to remodel the venue was one of the most popular initiatives among the participants. The projection of jingles by Kino Světozor (Czech Republic) for brand building, also inspired many exhibitors. Even the simple technique of establishing real conversations with audiences by the permanent presence of the team at the cinema to gather data and create a community sense, was a source of knowledge for those wanting to create habits within their audience. As Mats Gillmor said: “when our audience comes to our cinema they won’t even wonder about the film they are going to watch because they come to their cinema and they know that the film will please them”.
Saturday morning session also inspired many participants to start involving young ambassadors in their cinemas and creating clubs with targeted audiences such as those created at Cinemazero (Italy) and Kino Pod Baranami (Poland) respectively. Finally, the success of the Lab was measured by the commitment of the participants and the richness of the exchanges of ideas and practices. It allowed them to find renewed inspiration and to look at their venue’s challenges from rejuvenated perspectives, enriched by the strategies presented by other fellow European exhibitors.
Irene Angel Echeverri