As the cinema industry prepares for a post-pandemic reopening, research and creative content solutions will be key to ensuring a fast return to normality.
Most European countries have set their dates for the reopening of cinemas to the public. Dates range between May and August, depending on circumstances and local government regulations.
In the U.K., the industry bodies are lobbying to reopen in July, but this is still TBC.
The reopening looks like a complex operation involving three key elements: theatre management, audience behaviour and content offering.
On the theatres side of things, it is worth noting that cinemas are highly controlled environments. So, social distancing can easily be achieved through limited admissions. Further safety measures could include no cash payments and no-contact food services.
The industry has been proactively working during lockdown to come up with several guidelines aimed at facilitating reopening.
These, however might not guarantee the automatic return of their audiences, as the perception of safety on behalf of individuals who have experienced a pandemic might be influenced by an emotive response, such as fear of sharing a public space with strangers.
The third element is content. Even if cinemas are open, what content will be available? Will distributors pause further, waiting to identify a window that presents the least possible risk and maximum gain? If this is the case, what options are available to exhibitors to create an engaging programme offering?
An audience-centric and insight-led approach would suggest that the first element to be determined is what demographic is more likely to return to cinemas faster. This would in turn provide answers in terms of what content to offer.
Realistically, it is highly unlikely that distributors will rush to showcase their movies immediately, but this, rather than being necessarily an issue, paves the way to some interesting developments especially for alternative content and event cinema. This is an agile space, not being subject to strict windowing processes and able to respond (often in real time), to what audiences need.
The key question is: what happens between now and the next few months, when, hopefully, there will be a full return to normality?
We think that drive-ins will play a huge role to champion cinemas in this middle-phase, reigniting the passion for movies experienced on the big screen, whilst ticking all the boxes in terms of safety and social distancing.
We at Generation Media are already working in the U.K. and Europe to bring agile and scalable content cinema solutions in real time from Spring 2020.
If you want your brand and content to be part of the biggest social renaissance of the century, please email Greta.Bisetto-Donelan@generationmedia.co.uk
Picture © The Electric Cinema