Read my article on early results from Pressing Play on the BFI Film Audience Network The Bigger Picture website here.
Watch my segment on the Comscore’s webinar ‘Coronavirus and the UK & Ireland cinema industry’ here.
If you would like to discuss any programming or audience development projects please get in touch.
When the UK went into Lockdown In March, I was reeling in shock. Over two days I had dozens of film bookings postponed or cancelled, and the exhibition projects that I was working on were all suddenly on pause.
I felt that I had to try and process this situation in some way and to look ahead to consider how we in exhibition might begin to talk to our customers and encourage them back to cinemas after this enforced intermission.
It became very clear very quickly that it would be relevant and helpful to talk to my peers and colleagues in exhibition about their own plans, anxieties and expectations, so I created Pressing Play, a snapshot survey which aimed to take the pulse of the current situation we’re in, specifically by asking exhibitors to consider venue closures and life on the other side of Lockdown.
Based on the number of people working in programming roles or similar and who may not have been furloughed the target sample of respondents was set at 100.
This felt realistic and meant that the sample would still maintain as minimal a margin of error as possible. It also meant that I could access input from a broad mix of venues working across the sector, hearing from cinemas, arts centres and film societies.
In all, there were responses from 97 exhibitors.
It was completed by representatives of 49 cinemas, 29 arts centres and 18 Film clubs/societies.
The size of conurbations represented scaled from those with under 10,000 residents to those with over 200,000 residents.
The number of screens each organisation programmed ranged from 1 to more than 5.
The questions asked in Pressing Play revolved around the areas of:
- Our own fears about attending events.
- How we feel future attendance by different audiences may be impacted by COVID-19.
- Specific barriers to attendance we might want to consider.
- The nature of the messages we may use with our audiences to encourage them back into our cinemas.
- And what type of activity we may present as part of our reopening strategies.
The survey ran from Wednesday 1st April until Tuesday 19th May 2020.
Written within responses is a note of uncertainty, but as time and responses have moved on we can see that confidence is returning to the sector.
Ultimately Pressing Play is an exercise in understanding and empathising with audiences – and one which I hope may help the sector find an easier route to returning and celebrating our artform with our customers.
I hope that it proves useful.
When audiences will return
63% of respondents are very worried about the speed that audiences will return to the cinema.
45% of us are particularly worried that audiences may not return to cinemas at all after restrictions lift.
Impact on particular audience segments
We are less anxious about the impact on younger adults and families’ cinema attendance.
60% of respondents to Pressing Play believe that attendance by older audiences (60+) will be greatly affected (over 25% reduction).
Barriers to attendance
93% of respondents are worried about the impact that fear of infection may have amongst audiences.
49% of exhibitors are worried about the impact of the pause on audiences and the industry.
48% of respondents are anxious about the possible impact of new VOD practices and strategies.
33% of exhibitors are anxious about what will be available to screen when cinemas reopen.
Exhibitors’ outgoing communications on reopening will be made up of an offer of safety, togetherness, a request for support and patronage, and exciting programming.
58% of respondents will lead with ‘Our venue is clean and safe’ as a key message.
72% of us want to make a fuss of reopening, marking it with a special event or activity.
33% of organisations will launch new pricing initiatives and 32% will offer free tickets.
Exhibitors are now resigned to opening with restrictions.
58% of exhibitors who have completed Pressing Play have not undertaken any online activity with audiences.