Sofia, Day 2 – changing our mindset

Thursday 23rd March 2023

Javi Pachón kicks off the 2nd day of the Innovation Lab with saying that he doesn’t want to sound like an Instagram lifecouch, but nonetheless, we need to talk about the need of resetting our mindset. We as cinemas need to learn new things in order to survive.

VOD platforms may have sky rocketed during the pandemic, but in the end we’ve learnt that a ‘black box’ containing all the films ever made is actually not the answer. “The abyss of infinity is not as nice as we thought”. Curation has become very important, and that’s where we as cinemas come in. We’re part of an industry that pushes change and so we must adapt to the new reality. The challenge is to finding a balance in the way we go about it. We can run our cinemas as ‘MacGyvers’ and patch things up, or we can make a business plan and get access to funds, but the 3rd and new way might be to find a balance and find help with our plans, research, listen to our audience’s wants and needs, but also our team’s wishes. 

The first session of the day was focussed on how to create demand. Kristi Porila from Thule Kino in Estonia has worked in distribution and in a cinema and suggests, that distributors and cinemas should engage more in communicating with each other. For instance, if an exhibitor sees there are a lot of releases in one week, suggest other dates. A cinema should have an active role and see potential in certain films and discuss the options with distributors.

Alicia Nieto from Cines Renoir presents the implementation of a new project. Podcasts are the hot new thing nowadays, that’s why they started a collaboration with a podcast. This has proven to be interesting and successful way to reach new audiences for certain films. The results: films have better exposure for films, they’ve created a better relationship with distributors and a nice bonus is that every party involved shares the podcast on their own (social media)  platforms and websites .

In the second session it was time to get into the marketing and communication strategies of a few cinemas. Ida Hauge Johannessen from Vega Scene in Norway tells us how they’ve built an audience from scratch. They saw how the weekdays were not the best days for screenings, and chose to make ticket prices cheaper on Mondays. Which was the worst day, and now it’s the best day of the week. Their previews on Monday are always sold out and distributors even ask them to screen their films on these days.

Jana Trnková from Svetozor takes us through their social media strategies. The focus on Facebook and Instagram is to promote their own screenings of certain films and not the film itself. Facebook has proven to be perfect as an advertising space for the screenings whereas Instagram is to show the feeling and vibe of the cinema space and people working there.

Marijana Bosniak explains the niche marketing of Kino Urania in Croatia and how they got to create an audience of young people up to 25 years for their cinema. The trick is not to focus on the film itself but using films to make tailor made programs. Don’t just expect the audience to come because you program a certain film, ask questions about your audience and give them a reason to come. Shift the focus to them instead of doing things from your own ideas of what people should come and see.

The most important marketing tool for KINO Rotterdam has proven to be their custom made trailers for their classic programming. However, there is no clear cut way to go about this creative process, every program is different and deserves a different treatment. What if you hit a creative block? Züleyha Azman screens two different trailers that didn’t work out and how they eventually threw out what they had and started over again. The result, a trailer that works to reach the audiences and creating a few new marketing tools along the way.

Andres Kauts from Tartu Elektriteater in Estonia kicked off session 3 on optimizing our means and tools with presenting an inspiring collaborate to innovate project in which they managed to create a ticketing software for themselves and to share with other smaller venues called Kinola. Good news, other venues can still join this initiative if they would want to.

Eva Demeter from TISZaPART presents two case studies in which they funded special events in the cinema. Her advice is to dream big and to go for it. If it doesn’t work right away, adjust your plan and keep trying to find new ways and partners for your projects. This turned out to be the way to find a new audience for their cinema.

This session ended with Javi Pachón presenting tech sites and tools you already use in your cinema and gives you all sorts of information, if you just use it differently. But also, tech apps and tools you might want to implement in your cinema. These were mostly focussed on making your day to day work more easier for us exhibitors, from cloud services to internal communication (goodbye to communicating with co-workers through Whatsapp and hello to using Slack) and from free graphic design apps to AI…

During the following mini-group discussions the attendees were asked to think about subjects that were discussed during the day:

1- programming strategies
2- marketing + communication
3- optimization
The results:

During the open slot session Marta Innocenti from Cinema Giotto inspired everyone with presenting their weekend events they host to attract groups who normally might not go to the cinema. Their goal is to rebuild the habit of going to the cinema. The result is that these audiences keep on coming back to their cinema, even though they struggle to book films as a small cinema in a rural area in Italy. Of course, for this spirit and pushing though, she had to be awarded with the Pitch of the Day Award.