Nationally, cinema attendance levels have hit a 40-year high while in the capital one of its iconic cinemas – the Odeon Leicester Square – has recently re-opened after a multi-million pound refurbishment. Confidence in the sector is high and there’s good reasons why.
Many decades ago cinema was credited as having ‘killed off the music hall’, and its own slow demise was predicted in the face of first, television, and then digital downloads. Ironically, it is TV which is now arguably being more impacted by online entertainment although Netflix – which is supposed to bring the cinema into your front room - continues to haemorrhage money while the cinema chains count the takings.
The ability to ‘deliver an experience’ is the key to cinema’s resilience as a leisure pursuit. What the new Selfridges screen and the refitted Odeon have in common is that they want to offer an enhanced customer experience.
The Selfridges project is a joint venture with the people behind The Olympic cinema in Barnes. A quick perusal of its description of how the former recording studios were turned into a cinema (‘We went to Norway to find the comfiest reclining seats and then wrapped them in snuggly wool felt’) tells you about their approach.
And there’s a symmetry about a retailer branching out into cinema as both sectors know they have to provide an experience-led offer if they are to thrive. In this respect they are both complementary and aligned.
This ‘premium-isation’ of cinemas has started in the boutique end of the sector but it will inevitably spread to the multiplexes. Operators are striving to make sure that the cinema experience continues to beat watching a film in your living room.
After all, no matter how big your TV is, it’s no match for the silver screen.