This weekend sees the easing of many restrictions across the UK and with that is the re-opening of a number of cinemas, an experience I personally cherish and have dearly missed!
For me, it was therefore fascinating to listen in to the “Return to the Big Screen” webinar, hosted by Pearl & Dean, to see how the film industry has adapted to these challenging times, and what we can expect in the near future. We got to hear from four guest speakers, representing Everyman Cinema, Lionsgate, Cinema First, and Luna Cinema all of whom gave us a great insight into the current mind-set of the industry, covering areas including exhibition, distribution, communications, safety, and more. There were lots interesting points to take away from the webinar, and below are four key areas which really stood out…
An industry united
There has always been a special relationship between film distributors and exhibitors, as one cannot thrive without the other. This was evident throughout the webinar, and it is great to see how the industry has united during these difficult times, sharing ideas and working together to give consumers the best entertainment possible, even at home.
Cinemas, distributors, and industry bodies like the UKCA, BFI, and Cinema First have all been in contact to develop safeguarding measures and best practice to ensure a smooth re-opening. This resilient attitude and comradery bodes well when cinemas start to re-open, and collaboration will be vital to ensure audiences and stakeholders are satisfied.
Naturally, the top priority for cinemas has been the safety and welfare of its consumers. Working with various stakeholders, cinemas are actively working to put measures in place to ensure government guidelines are adhered to, and customers feel safe and confident to visit cinemas once re-opened. Social distancing will be enforced, while other ideas are being discussed as to how best to re-introduce the cinematic experience including extra spacing in screens, limited capacity, extra time between screenings, and more.
Luna Cinema has even explored the possibility of drive-in screenings, an idea which they were once opposed too. The industry is in agreement that communications around the re-opening must focus on safety to reassure customers.
Like most industries, the film industry has been faced with challenges in adapting communications in the face of COVID-19. Naturally ad-spend from studios has decreased due to uncertainty in terms of the release schedule, however whilst cinemas have been entirely closed during this period, this hasn’t stopped them from engaging with audiences. Striking the right tone in any communications has been crucial, with many firms putting an emphasis on safety, but also retaining their core function i.e. to entertain audiences. For example, boutique chain Everyman Cinema have used a “we’re in this together” message to generate a positive outlook, reassuring the community that they can all get through these difficult times.
Alongside this safety messaging, they have also managed to do what they do best – entertain. They have done this through hosting watch-parties, conducting Q&A’s, and being consistently active on social media, with organic engagement remaining high throughout lockdown.
As cinemas start to re-open, communications will need to be tailored towards different types of consumers (film fans, casual cinemagoer, etc) depending on the appetite consumers have. It is crucial for the industry to understand consumer expectations, and ensure these expectations/worries are addressed, both in marketing materials and in cinemas too.
Content is key
Content is arguably the most important aspect in re-opening, as without content, there is no cinema. Cinemas need to have confidence in the film slate when they re-open their doors so they can entice audiences back to the big screen, whilst studios must provide clarity as to their content plans.
Organising the release schedule amidst this pandemic has taken great cooperation from all parties, with cinemas likely to screen a variety of older films along with recent blockbusters when they first open. Although there have been multiple delays so far, Christopher Nolan’s much anticipated film, Tenet, is still on course to be the first major blockbuster to be released post-lockdown on August 12th, with Mulan, New Mutants, and more on their way soon after.
The re-opening of cinemas is something consumers have been eagerly anticipating, and many efforts are taking place behind the scenes to ensure a smooth re-opening process. As with everything right now, consumer safety is the number one priority of cinema chains, and how they reflect this in their marketing will prove decisive as to how audiences react going forwards. It’s been fantastic to see the industry coming together and supporting one another during these difficult times, and I’m sure this will only have a positive impact as we now look to a post COVID-19 world.