How cinema can push the boundaries this year
A view from Ruth Cartwright

How cinema can push the boundaries this year

Increased investment, innovations for advertisers and strong box-office takings will ensure cinema features prominently on the media plan, Ruth Cartwright says.

Cinema is the mother of all screens. It is unique, it is engaging and it delivers something that other media cannot.

People go to the cinema because they are passionate about film – they want to be wowed and they are happy to pay for an experience that is premium, impactful and uncluttered.

The proof is that cinema has had a record-breaking couple of years, with continued growth in both admissions and ad revenue in the UK year on year.

Revenues are expected to have risen to £248m in 2016 and this year is forecast to be up 2.6%, according to figures from the Advertising Association and Warc.

The challenge for cinema is to demonstrate that it is able to innovate. But the medium is in a great place, with investment gathering pace and a strong film slate. Box-office revenues hit a record $11.4bn in North America last year.

This momentum should encourage brands and agencies to demonstrate their confidence by maintaining spend on cinema.

The start of this year already looks strong because it is awards season and the big studios want to showcase "the very best that the big screen has to offer", as Tom Linay, head of film at Digital Cinema Media, puts it.

A strong year for film

New movies from Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee, plus the sequel to Trainspotting, promise to be box-office smashes.

In addition, we will see Disney’s latest live-action remake, Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson, The Lego Batman Movie and animation Sing.

There is also the return of the franchises, starting with The Fate of the Furious (the eighth instalment of The Fast and the Furious series) and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Sir Ridley Scott returns with Alien: Covenant, and then there’s the fifth Pirates of the Carib-bean film, Dead Men Tell No Tales.

The Mummy, Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Blade Runner 2049 and Kingsman: The Golden Circle are all on the roster for 2017 too.

The year ends with Star Wars: Episode VIII, following on from The Force Awakens in 2015 and Rogue One in 2016, and it is already forecast to smash box-office records.

So we have great films to keep us entertained. But cinema as a medium needs to keep pushing the boundaries of technology for growth to continue. 

Not every year will see a top film slate – so what is in development?

Cinematic innovations

There has already been innovation around virtual reality, which is perfect for cinema, with long dwell times and a captive audience eager to immerse themselves in engaging content. 

It makes sense that cinema is utilising VR to keep viewers entertained and add to the unique experience.

In September last year, Xbox launched the UK’s first 4DX-enabled cinema ad to promote the release of Forza Horizon 3. Xbox set the bar high for advertisers, blurring the lines between the game and the real world. 

4DX is considered to be the biggest innovation in cinematic technology to date, with the use of high-tech motion seats and special effects. 

Numerous brands are likely to attempt to put their own stamp on this technology in 2017.

New dawn for mobile

And mobile is finally meant to be coming of age this year. While many of us have a sense of déjà vu because there have been many false dawns before, mobile is definitely becoming a more important part of our media plans.

A new commercial partnership between Digital Cinema Media and dynamic mobile ad display company Mobsta will see the two work together to "offer enhanced mobile strategy solutions" for clients – for example, by using cinema ads to prompt a call to action from cinemagoers. 

A good example was DFS, which won Best Use of Dynamic Targeting in Cinema at the Digital Cinema Media Awards, in partnership with Campaign, last year.

Getting the right mix

For cinema to thrive, it needs to prove its value in the wider audiovisual media mix. The future growth of the medium depends on how media agencies are able to balance their plans across multiple platforms to maintain and deliver overall campaign objectives.

Cinema’s strength lies in its engagement and impact, but clients need to know how it complements other media before they decide on the percentage of budget they want to invest.

We need to focus on reach and frequency across campaigns. Where we have traditionally shifted budget from TV into online video, we have seen increased reach – but at the cost of "attentive" reach.

What we now need to look at is the right media mix across TV, video-on-demand and cinema.

Cinema isn’t adding incremental reach but it is providing "attentive" reach in a market where clients and brands are searching for consumers’ attention. The medium brings that in huge quantities. 

With audiovisual at the heart of what Amplifi does, we know we can deliver compelling strategies for brands that take into account both reach and frequency, as well as an all-important competitive ROI.

So the year ahead for cinema looks positive. The appetite from advertisers has grown because of the big screen’s proven ability to stimulate brand growth in the long term.

Ruth Cartwright is the head of AV at Amplifi

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