CT View: Modern cinema: immersive, frictionless… or both?

We want our audiences to be taken out of this world when they watch the films in our theatres, but as  Alastair Balmain argues, the cinema experience isn’t down to projection alone.


 Anyone involved in marketing in the cinema world is probably a little tired of the word “immersive” by now. It seems to be the only show in town when it comes to things cinematic. Technology is nothing if it’s not immersive… While it is heavily used in our world, we all know what we’re driving at: an experience that is captivating, enveloping, enthralling, engaging, and spell-binding. Roget’s Thesaurus is a pretty handy reference tool, but I’m not sure that “immersive” is enough on its own.

When we talk about immersion, we’re only describing one part of the cinema experience. And there’s that word again… “experience”. The cinema experience doesn’t have to be improved solely by making it more immersive, though I acknowledge it is fundamental to draw the audience into the story on screen.

You don’t want to be distracted by the exit lights or poor quality projection. Sharp pictures, greater contrast and amazing audio all play an enormous part in making the cinema experience better, but outside of the auditorium, there are other technical elements at play, ranging from the ease and speed of ticketing through to the environmental quality of the cinema. All these play their part in making the entertainment experience an enjoyable and repeatable one.

There’s another word that’s creeping into the cinema marketeer’s lexicon: frictionless. It describes efforts to make the overall cinemagoing smoother. Faster F&B service, imperceptible dynamic ad scheduling, better signage in the foyer and seamless algorithms that prompt genuinely relevant future content to potential customers online, all these lead the cinemagoer down a path of ease that ultimately winds up in the immersive auditorium. To quote Aleksandr Orlov, technology makes things simples.

On page 66 we look into the launch of a new company — Extended Cinema — whose aim is to transfer knowledge gained in the theme park world and transfer it to the movie theatre. What’s most fascinating about the concept is the way in which they and others like them look at the whole consumer pipeline from initial audience interest through to delivery of the experience (in our case the movie), and the subsequent follow-up. Nothing is outside of their scope.  

Whether it’s the poshest popcorn around (see page 72), luxury hotels moving into the exhibitor sector (see pages 35 and 76) or the drama of a movie truck’s whistles and bangs as it transforms into a full cinema, the whole experience is about much more than the content that’s up on screen.