For decades, major movie studios have relied on pre-release tracking data from The Quorom to see what people think of upcoming movies. Cultique analyzes and translates culture in a constantly changing world for marketing and advertising companies. Fanthropology is a research, strategy, and creative agency passionate about the intersection of consumer desire and storytelling. Working together late last year, the three companies polled more than 2,500 pre-pandemic theatre goers to see if they have returned to the big screen or not. As their study, which was released last month showed, three driving factors have kept many former theatre goers from returning: concerns over safety, price sensitivity, and the feeling that going to the theatre doesn’t provide a great experience. I recently spoke via email with Cinionic CEO Wim Buyens to get his thoughts on the report’s conclusions. Here is our conversation.
Digital Cinema Report: The Quorum Report, issued recently, offers a decidedly mixed view of the current state of exhibition and, especially, its future. What’s your overall impression of the report’s findings?
Wim Buyens: Taken in context, the report’s conclusions are fairly in line with the moviegoer trends and sentiment we’ve seen for some time now. There is still an appreciation for cinema – 70 percent of respondents said they’d be upset if theatres went away – while safety and cost-value proposition remain top of mind.
One of the key takeaways is that theatres must increase the perceived value to moviegoers, something exhibitors have been working on even before the pandemic. Globally, we’re seeing upgrades throughout the theatre experience, including elevated presentation with laser projection and immersive sound, luxury seating, expanded food and beverage offerings, and the introduction of other premium amenities.
Similarly, the report’s emphasis on premium large format experiences supports the growing popularity of such offerings and their importance to audiences. Much work has been done around the premium space and developing new avenues and business models, such as Cinionic’s custom powered by CGS giant screen solution.
Essentially, the report’s findings can be broken down into two categories: upgrades to theatres and market education of moviegoers about the value of the cinema experience, including amenities, elevated presentation technology, premium formats, and loyalty programs. Overall, many exhibitors are aware of and exploring opportunities to address the former; it is interesting to note the importance this report places on also addressing the latter. Some exhibitors have launched marketing campaigns around their amenities, such as our collaboration with Cinemark around laser projection by Cinionic, but that is still a huge growth opportunity for the industry overall.
DCR: What role, if any, can technology companies like Cinionic play in growing the exhibition business worldwide?
WB: Collaboration and partnership are essential as we navigate the path forward. Together as an industry we’ve already achieved remarkable things, challenging what exceptional cinema presentation means and how to meet the evolving expectations of audiences.
As a company, we continue to work with our customers and partners across the industry to develop solutions and services that address their needs and prepare them for the future.
Future-ready technology, like our suite of laser projection solutions, delivers elevated cinema experiences for moviegoers, while providing peace-of-mind, reduced operating costs, and easier operations for exhibition. We’re elevating cinema for the moviegoer and helping the bottom line for exhibition.
The new visual and audio standards that are being rapidly adopted now also opens the door to explore new ways to integrate state-of-the-art technology to the theatrical experience.
DCR: What more could exhibitors do to restore the confidence of undecided patrons?
WB: Firstly, exhibitors should be acknowledged for the incredible work they’ve already done to bring back moviegoers. Theatres have overcome unprecedented challenges in closing and reopening, regaining audience confidence with thorough safety protocols, innovative marketing and programming approaches and forward-thinking theatre upgrades.
Some consumers may still need to be reminded about the special and unique value of moviegoing. They also want to feel confident that the cinema is a good value and that can be achieved through delivering exceptional experiences – something that can’t be replicated by at-home or mobile viewing platforms.
In recent years, a few trends have emerged that will shape the road ahead for exhibition:
The focus on premium amenities such as in-seat dining and luxury recliners
A rise in boutique settings and private rentals showed the on-going demand for cinema, while catering to patrons that may still be hesitant to return to large public entertainment venues.
Demand for large format and premium experiences, as well as elevated presentation and audio.
Overall, the key is differentiation and experience enhancement in every area of the theatre, across all screen sizes, and then messaging those attributes to potential moviegoers.
DCR: One surprise, for me, in the report was the fact that while vaccine mandates could be a positive in bringing people back to the cinema, it could actually deter a comparable number of people. What was your reaction to that?
WB: Theatres have prioritized the safety of their patrons while navigating market-specific regulations globally. The situation continues to evolve and we’re confident that exhibition will respond as needed and appropriate for their theatres to ensure moviegoers feel confident and comfortable returning.
DCR: Given the fact that the global pandemic could be with us indefinitely, how confident are you that cinema audiences will return to pre-pandemic numbers?
WB: While audiences today have more avenues to consume content than ever before, cinema remains a unique and cherished experience. Recent box office results are encouraging, and we are on a path to the return of pre-pandemic numbers. Exhibition’s focus on innovation, coupled with the release of exciting content that is best enjoyed on a big screen in a shared experience, will entice audiences to return and keep them coming back.