Event cinema: time to scale new heights?

The event cinema sector has enjoyed success, but certain content is now considered a box office staple. The ECA’s Simon Tandy asks if it’s time to push the boundaries?


With statistics showing early signs that the event cinema sector has, potentially, reached a market plateau and with more event cinema content being released year on year, is it do or die for the sector? Event cinema, in varying forms, has been around for over 30 years. Whilst the Metropolitan Opera was seen as the springboard to the modern era in 2006, the past nine years have given us more than 1,000 live broadcasts with countless encore opportunities helping to raise revenue at the box-office. Keeping pace with the number of broadcasts is a rise in their quality, the quality of productions and, indeed, the stock of continually improving cinema venues.


The quantity of event cinema titles is growing at a similar rate with film content — estimations put the likely value of the event cinema business at $1bn by 2021 — so ours is a significant sector in global box office terms. With more content coming to the market, something’s got to give. The battle for screen time has never been so evident.


Whilst no-one is labouring under the impression that event cinema budgets equate those of Hollywood Studios, content owners and cinemas now have a nurtured audience — that helps to capitalise on a product tailored for their business. Locally, owners and operators understand which products work in their cinemas. Certain event cinema content has come to be seen as a safe bet — so is that now the first question content owners and programmers are beginning to ask themselves? Is there is a safe bet in one ballet over another, a safe bet in one actor playing Hamlet over another ­— is there a risk that a lack of experimentation is contributing to a market plateau? Surely there is diverse content that we are missing. Technologies and social media enable us to better engage and understand audiences. As each genre grows, so too does the opportunity for brand engagement. This may be the key to prosperity, the key to making more of an event out of event cinema.


We are all familiar with how stage, theatre and opera houses are “easily” replicated in the cinema, but through social engagement and interaction we could see tried and not yet prevalent alternative content sweep an upturn in the event cinema sector. Indeed, many persist in calling it “alternative content” for a reason — let’s have more of the alternative, more of the event and less of the conformist.


Cinema lets us explore our love of genres, of characters. It allows audiences that perfect place to escape. Is event cinema a means of heightening that escapism? We should be exploiting further the opportunities that event cinema programming can bring through live director and cast interviews or the potential of new genres such as e-gaming.


CineEurope: time to talk of the future

The early years of the Event Cinema Association offered a great resource for those in the sector to meet, and whilst the sector has many familiar faces, we don’t know all the answers. At CineEurope, you can meet the ECA team and members. We aim to explore some of these questions and showcase the best content to keep the sector on the box office map. The ECA believes it’s time to flourish!