Our industry is littered with acronyms — HDR, WCG, DCP, KDM, LED to name a few. Our world can appear, to the uninitiated, like an alphabetical assault course, but there are some acronyms, such as the likes of the UKCA, the FACT, the MPAA and BAFTA that are considerably more important to the cinema business than others when it comes to the promotion and protection of the medium we cherish. Of these, ECA is one such acronym that I believe deserves a fuller explanation.
The Event Cinema Association (of which I am proud to have been recently appointed a board member) has, in just five short years, set a tempo that many similar trade bodies in other industries should eye with a certain degree of professional jealousy. Apart from anything, the ECA’s success is proof positive that cinemas have the ability to adapt and thrive outside of their core business model.
A glimpse of the new world
Digitisation gave access to more than just films. In its early guise, Alternative Content needed a path to find its audiences. Cinemas recognised this, but did their customers? Bringing people back to the cinema and letting them know that cinema was about more than just the movies, was central to the mandate of the ECA: it promoted engagement to Enjoy Cinema Again. Similarly, within the arts world the ECA has been fundamental in helping to position cinema as a place for serious theatrical entities such as the Royal Opera House and Exhibition on Screen to broadcast their content. It has helped confound the fear that event cinema productions might in some way cannibalise live audiences.
There has been a lot of speculation over the place for event cinema and its importance, but while the high-level box office sees some 3% of the industry’s total revenues, it’s fair to admit that the magic is not just at the movies — it’s at the heart of the venues that truly nurture and understand their audiences, with some sites seeing event cinema receipts account for 50% of their total box office. But that is the case only for a few truly engaged locations. In short, you really do get out what you put in.
The event cinema sector, like others within our industry, is fortunate to have an incredibly passionate mix of skills and professional experiences. And it’s those — largely volunteered — skills that have nurtured the sector’s own association to be the recognisable brand for event cinema. It’s the community of experienced colleagues and members — advocates in their own right — that have helped forge a path for increasing box office revenues and gaining access to a broader range of content.
An industry that can handle change So what are the lessons we can glean from all this success? First, the cinema industry itself has the ability to adapt. Second, the industry has a wealth of talent on the distribution, exhibition and technology sides that can support that transformation and finally it is the positive, creative and engaged venues and distributors — and their customers — that stand to benefit the most.
It has been amazing to witness worldwide distribution colleagues create, test and share in the spread of genres and their boundaries. From E-gaming delivered live from the US to the UK, to the recent Shark Week or even Woody Harrelson’s ground-breaking Lost in London Live broadcast simultaneously to more than 500 cinemas in the US (and one in the UK) early this year, in January. And as we head into the new season of event cinema productions, it is the community of these knowledgeable cinema owners, bookers, marketeers and technologists that the ECA is the advocate for.
Stepping up to the plate
This paean for event cinema is all well and good — it’s one of my specialisms in my day job at Motion Picture Solutions — but the ECA is not unique. There are, of course, many societies, associations and committees staffed by people, motivated by the desire to improve cinema’s standing, whether on the technology side, the exhibition side, or the distribution side. If you feel you have something to offer, then give back.
Consider the etymology of the words. ‘Society’ comes from the French societé, meaning originally ‘companionship’; while ‘association’, has its roots in Latin, meaning ‘united in purpose’. Finally, ‘committee’, from late-15th-century English, in its early form, literally meant ‘a person to whom something has been entrusted’. Don’t let the future of your industry be entrusted to someone else… Join today!