The cinema industry in the UK has remained steady in recent years. Long gone are the years of decline and concern that home entertainment would overtake the exhibition sector, the cinemas have fought back to maintain admission figures. In recent months, there have been several disruptors in the sector looking to offer cheap cinema access.
With those admission figures hovering around 165 million (170.6 million in 2017 – statistics from UK Cinema Association), the cinemas appear to have secured its place in the modern economy. Arguably the number one threat to cinemas is the rise of new home entertainment. No longer does home entertainment have delivery times, but rather SVOD services are providing thousands of movies within several clicks and taps. Yet, the largest players in the SVOD sector are moving away from studio movies and into original content, offering a saving grave for the exhibition sector. As Netflix invest more money in its own originals, exclusive to its platform, its reliance on the product of licensing deals reduces. The impact? Cinemas will likely become the centre for the big blockbusters that bring in the big admission figures.
We are already seeing this trend beginning to take shape. The number of cinema sites has increased each year since 2015, and it was this year that marked a revival in the industry itself. It marked the return of the Star Wars franchise and the latest Bond film hitting the big screen, and several new franchises were marking their foundations, forcing box offices figures higher. 2015 saw a 17.3% rise in box office revenue compared to the previous year, and the increases have continued in recent years, though in smaller percentages.
Not only are cinemas becoming the centre for the large budget films, but cinemas themselves are transforming their premises. No longer is the idea to densify the screens, making for an uncomfortable environment, but rather cinemas are focusing on the entire experience. When SVODs can provide films immediately, cinemas are turning to exclusive styling to attract in audiences. Most of the major chains have began to transform their sites.
Of course, this comes at a price that is passed onto consumers, however as admissions remain stable, it appears that the general public is taking to this new approach. Vue Chief Executive Tim Richards stated that while these transformations mean less seats, there is “a significant increase in occupancy and demand” (LINK – Financial Times). Reclining seats, premium drinks and meals served in the screening – quite luxurious.
cPass – Cinema subscription for multiple chains
However, cinemas may be coming under pressure from a new threat. Cinema subscriptions have offered a great way of bringing in dedicated film fans to the cinema and we look at the concept previously – take a read of that article here. We took a look at the MoviePass concept, a card offering near-unlimited (1-a-day) access to screenings in the US. Funded by venture capital, the scheme hopes to boost admissions for cinemas, while receiving a share of the profit in the future.
However, the model of providing customers with a prepaid Mastercard for use in cinemas is infuriating the exhibition sector in the US. They struggle to decline the card – given its just like any other card – even though MoviePass’ $10 a month price doesn’t appear sustainable.
Yet, the concept has now jumped across the Atlantic and cPass looks like a UK replica of the MoviePass model. It looks set to charge customers £9.95 a month for one screening a day, offering customers a prepaid card. While cPass will likely boost admissions and spending per head, the offering must be sustainable for the long term benefit for the film industry.
When one industry is improving the customer experience with luxurious additions, disruptors look set to challenge the exhibition sector.