Cineworld auditorium

Opinion: why cinema remains an important part of the community

Rob Arthur has worked as a Senior Consultant at The Big Picture since 2014, having worked in the UK and International Cinema sector for 27 years with companies such as Vue Entertainment, Curzon Cinemas, Apollo Cinemas, Warner Village and Warner Bros.

Recently he was appointed as an Advisor to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development as well as co-founding the Emerging Cinema Markets Conference based in Istanbul, Turkey.

Here, he reminds us why cinema remains an important part of the community…

Rob Arthur, The Big Picture
Rob Arthur, The Big Picture

Residents of City Centre’s across Western Europe (and across the world) put cinemas at the top or near the top of their wish list of leisure facilities they would like to have in their area.

Final 2018 admission figures were 1.2 billion which were 3.3% down on 2017 figures.

Several countries had exceptional years! Escapism from politics, economics and the feel-good nature of the films released last year contributed to a very successful year at the box office at the UK box office.

Since the early 1980’s and the rise of the multiplex, the European Cinema Industry has seen a steady period of growth particularly in Western Europe. A second phase of growth in central and Eastern Europe as well as Turkey continues at a pace.

As the largest of the Western European markets mature there are different stories to be told…France and the U.K. continue to be robust markets with a strong concentration of local content, as well as Hollywood.

The German, Italian and Spanish markets have declined significantly from their peaks and are now back to levels of ticket sales last seen in the mid-nineties:

2018 box office figures. Source: UNIC
2018 box office figures. Source: UNIC

The growth of cinema in Russia, Poland, Turkey and other Emerging Markets in eastern and Central Europe has masked an under-lying issue which needs to be addressed by the under-performing markets.

Many argue that the issue is a lack of investment in cinema interiors including seats; high ticket prices; lack of use of new technology; or the lack of customer insights. Others, that there is a lack of local content. All are most likely true, but the key under-lying issue is that customers, property investors, operators and distributors have a responsibility to best understand the market-place and evolve to meet customer requirements.

Operators and distributors need to maintain the confidence of all stakeholders and as cinemas are leased over a long period of 20 – 25 years to ensure that the Property Managers believe in cinema over the long-term. While that is the case in the UK and France, they do not have the same confidence in Spain and Germany!

While we should celebrate successes such as the UK, Netherlands, France, Russia, Poland and Turkey, we should also spotlight areas where there needs to be an improvement or turnaround in fortunes.

Why are cinemas so important to the Cities, Towns and Rural Communities they serve?

Cinema can be a catalyst to for re-purposing and regeneration of a city or town centre and create a cultural hub. Refurbishment of existing facilities has led to significant uplifts in trade.

A cinema will screen a range of content from blockbuster films from some of the world’s most famous entertainment brands to documentaries and educational screenings; live relays of theatre, popular and classical music, comedy, opera, ballet, museum tours and the regular cinema programme.

The venue should no longer consider itself just to be a cinema – it is an entertainment and multi-arts venue with an ever-broadening offer, driven by the developments in technology, flexible distribution, and new types of content and local demand.

Innovation has provided an opportunity to deliver greater customer choice which is in turn driving greater consumer demand.

Cinema is about an experience, it’s about customers engaging positively with film, entertainment and cultural events as well as with a mix of food and drinks.

Customers should be able to relax, engage, and enjoy time together. Whether that’s through live event screenings, latest blockbusters, weekend late-night and occasional all-night shows, independent screenings or lounging in the Café Bar.

Cinemas aim to be at the heart of the community with a team which has the skills and drive to deliver this.

Live theatre, conference, music and comedy programmes can be delivered by the cinema operator.

A town centre will be welcomed by those of who have stayed in the area for many years and also those who are recent or new arrivals. Cinema adds value, vibrancy and credibility.

The venue should be a welcoming place, designed to accommodate a variety of customers at all parts of the day and week; and at prices which reflect local income levels and they can range in size from 400 square metres to 1000 square metres of NLA.

Local traders, clubs, societies and community groups will be welcomed at the cinema and they have a significant economic impact in the 6pm – 9pm time period.
The cinema will give local people the opportunity to see a film; provide employment in a key industry sector; and enable staff to reach out into the community to work on projects and initiatives that will ensure that the venue becomes a Cultural Hub in the Town Centre.

In Summary, a cinema venue in the City or Town Centre should:

Be Open for Business every day and programme films at times that are convenient to all parts of the community.

Be the place to meet for a film, live event, coffee or meal.

Provide a flexible, affordable and transparent box office and on-line booking service so that all parts of the community can access the venue.

Be a high quality venue which is continually refreshed, updated and adds vitality to the area.

Create local jobs directly and in-directly (local restaurants and shops) which will have an economic impact all year round.

For more information about Rob and The Big Picture, visit the website – The Big Picture

Source: Ferco Seating guest blog

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