Last July the Event Cinema Association announced that Grainne Peat would be its new managing director, replacing founder Melissa Cogavin who left to pursue other opportunities. Cogavin, who established the ECA in 2012 left behind an internationally recognized brand and the primary trade body for the alternative content sector. By all accounts, she left the ECA in good hands. Since taking the reins officially last October, Peat has quietly put her own stamp on things.
She came to the ECA with considerable industry experience, gained from her time spent at the UK Cinema Association, where she was instrumental in driving forward a diverse range of policy issues, most notably in the areas of disability and access, security, skills and employment and sustainability. Peat was the main lead for the association’s networking events, including the annual conference, which has become a key event in the industry calendar.
I recently spoke with Peat to get her views about her first few months leading the ECA.
Digital Cinema Report: Now that you’re approaching the end of your first full six months as ECA managing director, how would you describe the experience?
Grainne Peat: The transition period has certainly been a busy one. Melissa stepped down in March 2018, so there was a great deal to address when I started back in October 2018. I spent a great deal of time meeting with colleagues from across the industry to gain their perspectives on what the association was doing well, not doing and more importantly what more it could do.
Most notably, I have been truly overwhelmed by the passion of all of those working in the event cinema sphere, there is genuine interest and belief in the content and to want to help drive engagement with audiences.
Looking back, we’ve certainly achieved a great deal in these initial six months both internally and externally, it has indeed been a challenging, busy but already rewarding period.
DCR: What lessons from your UK Cinema Association experience were you able to apply to the ECA?
GP: I worked at the UK Cinema Association for over five years and I learned a great deal from Phil [Clapp UKCA CEO] in terms of leadership and how to run a successful trade body. Structure and a clear offering are vitally important for any trade body. Members need to have a good understanding on how their needs can be met and represented.
Meeting the needs of members and knowing how prioritize is certainly the greatest lesson to be learned for any trade body. The UKCA focus is around the interest of cinema operators. The ECA has a more diverse membership and understanding [their different needs] has been an interesting learning curve. Having had a cinema exhibitor focus will certainly bring a new dimension to the ECA.
DCR: How does the job compare with what you expected?
GP: Tricky question. It was difficult to know what to expect but I went into the role knowing there were a number of changes I wanted make. I think realizing you can’t change everything at once and there really are only so many hours in the day, has also been a learning curve. I love the variety of people I get to interact with on a daily basis; everyday is different and something new is announced or comes through.
DCR: What has been your favorite part of the job so far?
GP: My highlight to date is without a doubt the ECA Slate and Insights Day. The event was effectively our re-launch event and the first under my leadership. The level of attendance and enthusiasm throughout the day was hugely encouraging, plus the wealth and diverse range of content presented really demonstrated how much event cinema is evolving and growing. There was notable focus on promoting music events, E-sports and art and exhibitions, all of which are gaining credible traction with cinema audiences in addition to core content such as theatre, opera and ballet.
The insight discussions added an extra level to the event. The collation and sharing of data around event cinema, is one that has been overlooked. The presentations clearly demonstrated just how well event cinema is performing and how we (content providers, vendors and exhibitors) can use that to better profile and market to audiences throughout their cinema journey.
There was certainly a great deal to celebrate and enjoy over the course of the day. 2018 was an incredibly successful and interesting year for event cinema. It was a great opportunity to demonstrate the new vision of the ECA and provided the perfect forum to announce the association’s new Board appointments: Trafalgar Releasing’s Marc Allenby and former International Union of Cinemas CEO, Jan Runge. We also announced plans for the Association’s annual conference.
DCR: What changes have you implemented?
GP: Ensuring that the association was still abreast of the key priorities for the range of members was a key focus in my first few months. Having discussion with colleagues from across the industry helped me formed the future strategy and vision for the association, an offering now, I believe, is one with a clear focus that requires the input and will ultimately benefit all members.
The new member brochure was launched in December of last year and has been well received. It has certainly been a great tool for reinvigorating membership and offered a platform for me to engage with the broader industry on the (growing) importance and potential of event cinema.
We have already implemented a number of changes to the member offering including the member fee. The board and I felt it was hugely important to have a member fee that was affordable and provided value. Cost was not to be barrier to prevent involvement, but ultimately need to run the association. It was agreed to have a flat fee (£500) for any company with a reduced fee (£200) for individuals and smaller cinema operators (those with ten sites or less). Membership also offers two tickets per member to attend ECA events.
The member brochure talks through the three key areas that the association will focus on and develop – data, technology and marketing.
DCR: What is the state of event cinema today?
GP: Event cinema is going from strength to strength, 2018 incredibly successful and interesting year for event cinema, a year that we can certainly take a lot from to really help grow the potential that event cinema can offer. Box office figures for 2018 in UK and Ireland finished at GBP £41.5 million, which is up 19 percent from 2017. 2019 is already 34 percent up on 2018. It clearly shows that the appetite for alternative content is growing which is reflected wealth and range of content now on offer to audiences.
DCR: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
GP: The ECA has some really exciting plans for CineEurope. It will be our biggest presence to date and I look forward to officially announcing our plans soon. Secondly, the annual ECA conference will be the first one held outside of the UK. We hope it will send a clear message that the association wants to attract and draw in best practice and share experience, trends and constraints from all professionals who support event cinema.
The Event Cinema Association http://www.eventcinemaassociation.org/