Why cinema won’t exist in the future

Wait, hang on. That title might be a bit misleading. I’m not saying here that cinema won’t exist at all in future. Just that in its current format it’s far from fit for the modern age we are now in. And it’s ripe for change. So it will exist, just it will be a very different experience to today.

Any film fan like me will almost certainly have great childhood (and indeed adulthood) memories about great experiences in their first or favourite cinema. My cousin got me interested in cinema by taking me to Tim Burton’s ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ and I have been hooked since. I love the cinema. So I’m not bashing it.

But Nostalgia only takes you so far these days. It wasn’t enough to maintain established and well-loved businesses like Nokia, Kodak and Woolworths. They needed to evolve what they offered their customers. And how they did it.

And nowadays, we all demand more.

A lot of people say Netflix have ‘disrupted the film industry’. But I don’t think they really have. Not in a profound way anyway. Distributors make cash by retaining rights to their films and selling them to various broadcasters for a reducing price at certain dates after release. First come the cinema chains, then DVD sales, next satellite broadcasters, then terrestrial broadcasters. Netflix have become another revenue stream for (a small number of) distributors but they haven’t gone near cinema.

What they have done is change attitudes towards film watching, where today many people (3 million in the UK and rising) are more frequently watching films in their own home and on the move. (#NetflixandChill say no more!)

And we’re not going to the cinema like we used to. The BFI say that UK box office admissions have been fairly flat since 2000, and in 2014, were 5% down on 2013.

Compare that to the 15% Year on Year growth in VOD (video-on-demand, like Netflix) TV and film content and it doesn’t take an analyst to see a trend emerging.

But why are people choosing to watch films at home and on the move, rather than in cinemas?

The experience hasn’t changed since it was created decades ago

When cinema came to the UK in the 1930s it was a hugely popular social event.

And if you go to the cinema today, you basically get the same experience as the 1930s.

You turn up when you’re told, you pay (a lot if you’re in central London), you sit in an uncomfortable chair in a room of strangers, you watch the film, then you leave. Exactly the same. Yes cinema chains have started to sell us more while we are there, and offer us better service like comfy sofas and 3D films. But basically, it’s the same.

Almost every other entertainment sector has had catastrophic and earth-shattering disruption. But not film.

So what’s driving the change?

The millennials will continue to drive the on-demand economy

My nephew is five years old and uses an iPad (not his own may I add) at least once a day. He knows how to find and watch tv programmes, films, cartoons, whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Sometimes I watch how oddly comfortable he is using it. Like most kids his age, he is programmed from an early age to have his digital world fit into his schedule. Watching content on his terms, when and where he wants. 10- 15 years from now, telling him he can only watch the latest release film at a weird uncomfortable building miles away at the time that suits a large corporate organisation will be a concept as peculiar as self-tying shoelaces or self-drying Jackets (Wasn’t Back to the Future Day great by the way!)

People want a more personalised and specific experience

As can be seen in other leisure and entertainment sectors, people want a unique service. It’s likely a result of the digital age in which we live.

Starbucks were the pioneers at personalisation. It’s a coffee, but ask 20 people in your Starbucks this morning, and they’ll all have a different style, type, flavour, even temperature, of coffee. Look at Amazon, where the stuff they show me on the site will be different to you, and so on. Spotify the same.

The rise of the independent cinema has reflected this trend. Independent films make up a greater % of total UK box office spend than ever before, at 16%. In today’s digital age, customer have more choice than ever, and are more prepared than ever to empower themselves to extend their cultural capital.

So what will happen?

I don’t know. But I predict big change. I can see some or all of the following happening.

Multi-platform new releases. I predict more releases like this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-34631799 where the lines continue to blur between cinematic release and television release. Customers can buy multi- platform access to films and watch wherever and whenever they want; in the cinema, at home or anywhere else.

Additional services or benefits ‘something more’ for going to the cinema. Like a DVD extras (remember them??). Some ‘added value’. Access, membership, services, extras. Be part of an exclusive club.

Film distributors have a disproportionate amount of power. And we’ve seen in the last ten years that intermediaries have a short shelf life in the digital age (ask travel agents, insurance brokers, taxi companies, and so on). Consumers and creators are coming closer together.

Be prepared for change. Coming soon to a screen near you!

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