Day 2, Session 3 Workshop 2: Roadmap to recovery and renewal- winning back the audience

Day 2 of the conference began with two simultaneous workshops. Moderated by Frank Groot from Kino Rotterdam, the network’s roadmap to recovery and renewal included a workshop focused on winning back the audience.

Valerio Carocci from Cinema Troisi in Italy talked about reopening the historical movie theater in Trastevere which, in September 2021, was given its new lease of life through shared private funds and support from the ministry for culture. It’s a single screen theatre that attracts a mostly young audience – 60% of their attendees are under 35, of which 70% are under 27 – thanks to its special study area for students. Carocci attributes the success of their new venture to “Our identity – not because of the film being screened, but to enjoy the location, the venue. We’re lively in the area, we have a study that attracts young people and do a lot on social networks.” A positive and very encouraging story from a country that is otherwise experiencing some of slowest recovery in all of Europe.

Valerio Carocci, Cinema Troisi, Italy

Unnur Sande, Manager of Vega Scene in Norway also spoke about young audiences, who have been eager to return. Vega Scene offer a ‘Student Day’ on Mondays where tickets are reduced (from €15 to €10) which has increased their audience attendance by 300%. The distributors have come on board and offer preview screenings on Mondays for young people which helps Vega Scene build special events, leading to their motto, “A day without a special event is a day without meaning.”

Andres Kauts, Director and programmer for Tartu Elektrikteater in Estonia presented a series of illustrations of their audience profiles based on research carried out by a third party company who conducted interviews with 25 people, and spend four days in their cinema lobby making observations to categorise their cinema-goers. This helped them rethink the customer journey through their largely non-intuitive space from layout down to smaller details of how they display posters and screening information on the walls. It has also led to their biggest change in communication approach which Kauts says means, “We try to think of them as single people more, not just 1000 views on Facebook. We think of speaking with humour to a single person.”

Marvin Wiechert, Digital Marketing Lead for Yorck Kinogruppe in Germany and Hannele Marjavaara, Cinema Manager at Kino Tapiola in Finland, both spoke about mini surveys they carry out to improve customer experience. For Yorck Kinogruppe it’s about simplicity – having three simple fields, two of which are star ratings out of five and third of which is free text field where customers can give unsolicited feedback, which Wiechert says often results in the smaller insights people wouldn’t otherwise bother to comment on. For Kino Tapiola it’s finding out whether or not their bar opening times are best serving their audiences and, during the pandemic, how audiences felt about safety protocols including keeping or removing ‘safety seats’ when restrictions eased. With 428 people voting to keep the safety seats and only 127 happy for them to go, Kino Tapiola kept theirs in place, making them the only cinema in Finland to keep distancing in place, which in turn led to higher attendance figures.

Wiechert also spoke about the importance of adding a ‘search’ function to their website, not only for insights into which films their audience wanted to see but also to discover what else they weren’t offering that was an active audience demand. Finally, Noortje van de Sande, Managing Director at Picl (streaming platform) in the Netherlands, talked about audience behaviour in terms of viewing films both online and in cinemas. Their research indicates that audiences do both and so investing in one doesn’t have to mean ignoring the other. Much like Curzon in the UK and Yorck Kinogruppe in Germany, a custom platform means ease in offering additional content such as Q&As and discussions around films. It also means you can track the customer journey but can be labour intensive. Another option is to oursource solutions – something Picl offers – so that the cinema doesn’t have to worry about things the platform handles. Or, as a lot of cinemas are already doing, there is the partnership option with platforms like MUBI, who offer MUBI Go in several countries, giving subscribers access to one free film at the cinema every week. Picl are continuing to research these solutions and will share their future results in due course.

Summarising the new hybrid way in which people across Europe are experiencing cinema, Groot said, “People really want to go back to the cinema but people are also used to watching films at home.” Forever adapting and adding to the offer, cinemas are once again in flux, “It could be interesting,” he continued, “to think about offering it online as well. It’s an extra service and a way of keeping audiences loyal.”

Photographs © Francesco Clerici