Is VR really for cinemas? As Ollie Kilvert, director of the360view explains, it is when it’s used to get the audience through the front door.
Words: Ollie Kilvert
IN A LANDSCAPE OF competitive leisure interests, progressive exhibitors need to explore innovative ways to draw their paying audience members in. Customers use their time at the cinema as a means of escapism, but the one thing cinema owners can’t escape from is that, as with most sectors, there will always be competition both between venues and leisure activities.
Cinemas depend not only on competitive ticket prices and the right content, but also on customers having a degree of familiarity with the facilities on offer. People are often willing to spend more if they feel they are getting good value for their experience. For a venue to stay relevant, upgrading its facilities is vital — as is promotion of these upgrades. Put another way: if you changed your hair colour, but never went outside, how would anyone know? It may not be the perfect analogy, but the point stands — if you make improvements to your cinema, or open a new one, you need to do what you can to tell people about it.
Imagine the advantages of a virtual visit to your venue, before you get there. You can select your ideal seat and check out the foyer, the bar area or the restaurant before you get there. For owners, it’s a way to showcase your venue and demonstrate your advantages. For customers, notably those with special needs, this facility provides a positive bonus allowing them to explore a venue’s accessibility.
The360view is a Matterport and multimedia service provider. We have worked with several cinemas, giving a unique insight into their venues, using the latest 3D technology. The360view virtual tours provide a 3D online experience that lets the viewer see every angle.
A newly opened venue provides the ideal opportunity to showcase a virtual tour. From their computer or tablet, viewers can ‘walk’ around and get a sense of the facilities on offer before even setting foot in the building. The ‘dolls house’ and ‘floor plan’ options give users a sense of the venue. There is an option to embed video and/or images and URL links, so tours can remain relevant and up-to-date. Each tour has a URL which can be shared via social media.
To create a virtual tour, a full photographic scan of the venue is made — including the toilets if that’s required. The resulting Matterport scan data is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Computing Services. For a high quality 3D showcase, many scans are needed. The more that are carried out, the fewer ‘holes’ there will be in the final model. Once a 3D model has been previewed, any remaining holes can be filled by taking further scans. For a smooth cinema walk-through experience, scan positions are carried out from a consistent height and spacing to provide the most realistic virtual experience.
Time to get social
From a social media perspective, virtual tours deliver a perfect example of good content marketing. A tour’s URL can be shared on a venue’s Facebook page, and from there the possibilities are endless. Paid posts promote higher levels of engagement and with interesting, relevant content such as this, it will ensure more people end up visiting the box office. A complex which has undergone refurbishment is highly likely to gain an increase in footfall — if they are able to show-off improvements they have made. We are creatures of habit and will often stick with what we are comfortable with — even if it’s not always the best. If a customer has made the decision not to patronise a particular cinema, its refurbishment will have to be hammered home in all its glory to entice them back in again.
With the unrelenting use of social media, a virtual tour is an obvious platform to use to promote a brand to a wider audience. Facebook has over 2.1 billion monthly active users worldwide, representing a 14% increase year-on-year. Statistically, this means it is too big to ignore. An average of 1.4 billion users log in to Facebook daily. With such a huge (and growing) audience, this is a promising foundation for any targeted marketing efforts.
It’s not all about Facebook, either. Google has recently announced a partnership with Matterport, launching the next generation of Street View tours. These will integrate panoramic images with 3D geometry data to create tours with a higher level of realism on computers and VR devices. When someone finds your listing on Google they will most likely have clicked onto you and not your competition because you have a button called “See inside” which allows someone to take your virtual tour. Visitors from your listing will stay longer and explore an immersive view of the venue which they may have overlooked otherwise had you not had a tour. Publishing tours onto Google provides a great opportunity to get noticed by potential customers.
There is an abundance of competition in today’s leisure and entertainment industry and an online presence is a necessity if you want to keep up. As well as cinemas, the360view virtual tours are suited to associated venues: restaurants, bars, hotels and so on. Standard 2D photos of a business provide a basic idea of what an area looks like. A 3D walkthrough is the ultimate way to explore and get a sense of a space. If your customers know exactly what to expect, there’s no reason for them to be disappointed… So don’t be afraid to show off your venue!
To find out more, visit www.the360view.co.uk
Case Study: Empire Cinemas, Ipswich
In March 2017, Empire Cinemas opened a venue in Ipswich. Working in collaboration with the360view, they shared a link to the tour on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/empirecinemasipswich), the ideal platform to reach an audience of new customers ahead of opening. The link to the tour leading to the cinema’s website, which in turn provided all the extra information needed to know about the venue.
Jon Nutton, Marketing Director of Empire says; “There have been cinemas in Ipswich for years and we knew Empire would need to provide something special to attract new customers. We have a great location in the town centre and have used Facebook as a way of engaging with, the community. The virtual tour we shared online has proved very popular. People seem to appreciate the transparency of us showing exactly what we have to offer them and hope that we will continue to reap the benefits of this new technology by keeping the tour link available on our Facebook page and website.”