The discussion was wide-ranging and in-depth at the ECA’s annual conference in October. Peter Knight reports on a day that sought to steer the future direction of the event cinema sector.
Over 130 of the world’s leading event cinema specialist headed up the steps of the EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam last October to attend the Event Cinema Association’s annual conference.
The second time in its 10-year history that the ECA has travelled outside of its UK base for its annual conference, this event drew in a diverse range of attendees from far and wide. The presentations showcased an extensive array of data and information about the sector, offering many insights that have been lacking in this area.
The day started off by celebrating the successes of the past year of event cinema content and their box office takings, acknowledging the record-breaking success of NT Live’s “Fleabag”, now the biggest event cinema title of all time in the UK and Ireland.
Sarah Lewthwaite from Movio kicked off proceedings with a presentation that provided a comparison of the audience profile in the UK and the US and how they differed — or not — across the two countries.
Sarah’s information demonstrated how data can be best used to help understand the cinema audiences going to event cinema presentations. The critical message to come out of this presentation — repeated across the whole day — was the continued need for better, more consistent audience data. Sarah highlighted that female customers dominate audiences in both markets for event cinema content, yet live concerts over-index for the under 25-year olds. The presentation also looked at frequency, spend and crossover attendance to mainstream theatrical content. The session concluded noting the opportunities for the sector to enhance further understanding on audience behaviours around event cinema.
Box office performance
Joe Spurling from Showtime Analytics and Fantine Mordelet from Comscore teamed up to give an interesting insight to event cinema performance across four territories — UK, Germany, Netherlands and Italy — combining their data from the past eight years to get a deeper understanding on market trends. The metrics analysed box office, market share, percentage of screenings and unique titles played across cinemas in their territories. It was a fascinating way to present data to better understand the market performance and opportunities.
The session concluded with a teaser around the next steps of the partnership with the ECA to examine the impact of event cinema on overall box office. The next wave of data will look to demonstrate the value and uplift that event cinema can bring to overall box office.
Surveying the sector
Guillaume Branders from UNIC presented a summary of the recent event cinema survey that was conducted by ECA in association with EDCF and UNIC (see page 82 for more on this subject). The survey, which was completed by 113 cinema operators from across Europe and North America, explored the various trends and developments. Most importantly, it provided extensive detail about the technical challenges related to the distribution of event cinema content- both live and recorded. Among these, sound levels, accessibility and the wider availability of subtitling were all highlighted as areas in need of improvement.
The ‘tech-talk’ from the panel discussion after highlighted the need for bespoke training for cinema staff, the desire for more live content but also the call for improved mutual support between providers and exhibitors to better facilitate delivery of live events. Omnex managing director Simon Tandy steered the discussion panel, linking to the results and looked to see how some of these areas could be improved.
Test broadcasts were a key part of the discussion. They allow for complete end-to-end testing on the day, which is important for the broadcasters but less so for many cinemas who are now used to the equipment and are often using it on a multiple weekly basis. Some IP-based companies, such as Gofilex, are able to offer 24/7 testing.
Building a marketing plan
Jen Lim from Powster got the afternoon started with an animated presentation around the use of data to build a successful marketing platform.
The session looked at ticket conversions by genre and territory, with music having the biggest engagement with audiences. According to her date, traffic on sites is busiest on a Sunday with the most active times being after 4pm. Jen talked through a number of recommendations around website engagement and the best campaign launch times to help maximise the impact and drive ticket conversions.
The afternoon went on to explore the marketing findings from the survey, in which ECA board director Jan Runge hosted a round-table discussion with representatives from Kinepolis, Pathé Live and Cineplex Canada.
The discussion emphasised the importance of partnerships, effective targeted marketing and also what lies ahead — how are we engaging young audiences, how can we help increase food and beverage spend and what will 2020 bring?
The coming year promises to be a defining one for event cinema, particularly with the advent of more streaming platforms, many of which seem to be actively competing to capture not just feature films, but also the cultural content that has previously defined the event cinema sector
Indedeed, redefining the event cinema sector was the subject of the very next session. Moderated by Patrick von Sychowski, from Celluloid Junkie, Luke Williams from Comscore, Rickard Gramfros of Folket Shusoch Parker; Movio’s Gabriel Swartland, Alice De Rosa from Trafalgar Releasing and Angela Malvone from Yelmo Cine all got heavily enaged in a lively discussion around the future of event cinema and its role in the wider cinema business.
There is little doubt that this is a growing area and that those working in event cinema content have successfully packaged and delivered a fruitful model that is proven to attract new audiences to cinemas.
Those audiences that want to enjoy a shared experience of magical moments — whether it be opera, ballet, music or gaming — find in event cinema entertainment that sits outside of the traditional forms. And that is the sector’s ultimate selling proposition. The term event cinema is a useful one, a shorthand phrase used within the industry to define the ecology and performance of the category — but to the wider audiences we should be content-led in terms of marketing and promotion of the experience it offers.
The recurring themes
Throughout the conference a number of key themes came out that will help to feed developments over the coming years. The biggest of these was around consistency of data, and the need for better and wider information from a range of sources. Everyone talked about it in one form or another, and the results of the survey the ECA carried out definitely pointed towards this.
Initial findings from the ECA’s Annual Report demonstrated how there are a great deal of inconsistencies around the ways in which event cinema is segmented and reported. There is a wider discussion to be had around the need for a universal — and agreed — categorisation of event cinema to help gain better transparency of the sector’s overall performance.
There is little doubt that event cinema has evolved and is mainly defined by content and/or by its methodology of release — even within these categorisations, it is not always clear what is considered to be “event cinema content”. This is a much-needed discussion that the ECA is best-placed to steer and develop.
About the Eye Film Musueum
The EYE Film Museum is internationally acclaimed for its knowledge of and expertise in the field of film restoration, research, and education. The organisation has 165 employees who do their best to make everything you would want to know about film accessible. For young and old, for film enthusiasts and professionals, and from constantly changing perspectives, EYE focuses on film as an art form, as entertainment, and as part of digital visual culture. EYE was founded in 2010 as a result of the merger between four organisations: the Filmmuseum, Holland Film, the Filmbank, and the Netherlands Institute for Film Education. The museum itself is located on Amsterdam’s harbour right in the centre of the city, where a collection of more than 40,000 films from all genres represents a sample of the film history of the Netherlands. It is well worth a visit if you find yourself in Amsterdam!