Opinion

How Cinemas Can Overcome the “Sofa Trap”

The media are currently full of reports on VoD, (“video on demand”) services. These reports hardly distinguish between pay-per-view and subscription services or between these and the streaming of live events. Nevertheless, this trend, combined with the ever-improving quality of normal smart TV devices – never mind that of integrated home entertainment systems – would seem to suggest that cinema is in grave danger.

BY CHRISTOF PAPOUSEK

The convenience of home entertainment is certainly impressive, especially in markets with high purchasing power and good development of the general private living environment. How can cinemas overcome the “sofa trap”?

Here is a brief presentation of three success criteria for cinema and the “out of home experience”:

Blockbusters

2015 has been characterized by major film successes like “50 Shades of Grey,” “Fast and Furious 7,” “The Minions,” and “M:I5 Rogue Nation.” And the grand finale of the year is yet to come. “James Bond – Spectre” and the beginning of the new Star Wars trilogy are also just about to be released. These large films bring millions of people to the movies, create excitement, and attract consumers to come back. The years 2016 and 2017 are expected to be successful ones for film as well. Big franchise productions like “Ice Age,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and James Bond and Star Wars will continue to be produced. Of course, the entire industry is now waiting for “Avatar II,” as well, which will come to cinemas in 2017. The attraction of major film productions has created increased attention to medium-sized productions and arthouse films, which can thereby import solid visitor numbers.

Quality and technology in the cinema

A recent GfK study from Germany clearly shows that quality in cinemas is a particularly important factor. Comfort, cleanliness, friendliness of the staff, and a pleasant indoor climate are required and are an influencing factor for the cinemagoer. Of course, the film remains the focus. When the environment does not match, however, then cinema as a leisure activity gets subsumed by something else. A very interesting result from the study is that the younger target group between 14 and 19 (the first age group that comes to the movies without accompanying adults) pays special attention to the above-mentioned quality aspects. Teens communicate intensively via social networks and maintain friendships at home. In order to motivate them to a visit to the cinema, apart from the film, the appeal of the cinema location – and therefore often that of the shopping mall in which it is located – must be first class.

In one of the past editions of ACROSS, I referred in detail to cinema technology and premium screens. I can only repeat at this point that a cinema’s technological excellence must stand out against the home entertainment offer. Premium features like IMAX or Dolby Cinema – both now with a laser projection in the market – are the top segment. But even “normal” cinemas must be equipped with first-class digital projection, very good quality 3D systems, and state-of-the-art sound.

Attractiveness of the surroundings

Another obstacle to cinema suggested by study participants was the organizational effort and the environment needed to enjoy the cinema experience with friends – i.e. in a group. It is thus very important that the environment around the cinema is attractive. This includes the foyer, but also the environment immediately beyond. Here, of course, is where shopping malls come into play. Gastronomy invites you to linger and plays a major role. Food court solutions intended to feed rapid hunger or sometimes to provide food at midday to connected office buildings can only motivate people to a limited extent to complement cinema-going or another planned recreational activity by visiting the mall. It is therefore necessary to provide self-contained – depending on the geographical location including outdoor offerings – that provide the appropriate atmosphere. Moreover, it is important that the cinema is not positioned at the end of a shopping mall, accessible only via dark and unattractive entrances after the shops have closed. Cinema is entertainment and successful shopping malls with the attractive additional offer and welcoming atmosphere described here are an important key performance indicator.

When a big blockbuster opens in cinemas, the quality and technology in the cinema are excellent, and the movie theater is built into an attractive shopping mall, then the cinema experience, and with it the revenue share for film production, will remain top-of-the-line. We at Cineplexx therefore do not see cinemas as in danger, cinemas just have to meet the three criteria for success!

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