‘The Cinema Will Never Die’: Flimmer Founder Christopher Zwickler Q&A
By Lesley Haw
Many of us arrive at the cinema just in time for the film starting, climbing and stumbling over other people to avoid what feels like endless ads and trailers. It’s a half hour that could just as easily be spent in the pub chatting with friends or walking the dog.
But now there’s a real incentive to pitch up early and watch the whole lot courtesy of Flimmer, a Berlin-based startup dedicated to film trailers. And what better way for a film-related startup to make a splash than to throw an Oscars party? Around 200 people gathered at Factory, many glamming it up in their gladrags, to walk the red carpet, eat, drink and be merry, and make catty comments about the real life Oscar outfits.
Silicon Allee was there to check out the vibe as part of our entertainment and gaming edition, and we spoke with Flimmer CEO Christopher Zwickler to figure out the company’s plot. The 30-year-old movie geek and film producer explained how he still believes traditional cinemas have a bright future in spite of the rise of video on demand.
SILICON ALLEE: What’s the idea behind Flimmer?
CHRISTOPHER ZWICKLER: When we founded it two and a half years ago, the idea was to show not only trailers but to give the watchers of the trailers a kind of incentive. So you watch trailers, answer questions about them, collect points with every right answer and then redeem the points into cinema tickets, DVDs, blu-rays, video on demand vouchers and all that sort of stuff. So it’s similar to flying round the world where you collect air miles, only now you can now collect them for watching movie trailers. Our idea was to get more young people into cinemas.
SA: Aren’t cinemas a thing of the past?
CZ: In Germany, two years ago was the strongest cinema year in history and this isn’t a downwards trend. People are watching less DVDs and will probably watch films on video demand channels instead of going to the DVD stations to rent a DVD. So I think in the future there will probably be two ways to watch movies — to go to the cinema and to go online and stream it. In my mind the cinema will never die.
It really depends on the content, so if there’s going to be ten to 15 very big movies released then it will be a good year, but if there’s not enough good content it won’t be such a strong year. The cinemas are being creative when thinking about new revenue streams. For example, the 3D option to watch movies developed in the last year which led to very big cinema revenues, especially two years ago, resulting in the strongest revenues in history.
SA: How does it depend on the content? What films bring in the most viewers?
CZ: Generally the big American features like The Hobbit, but German brands as well — such as the Til Schweiger movie released in December, Honey In The Head Head, which has had around six million spectators in cinemas. That’s a good example of how it depends very much on the content. Look at a German video on demand platform like Videolog, which was one of the first and did quite a good job, and then Netflix comes into the country and brings along exclusive brands like House of Cards which everyone wants to watch. Videolog doesn’t have this — it just has things that every other platform has. So content is a very strong part of our business.
SA: You say cinema will never die — how does Flimmer encourage people to watch films on the big screen?
CZ: You go to Flimmer.de, view the trailers then answer a question about it. If it’s right you are rewarded with Flimmer points. When you’ve watched enough trailers and answered the questions correctly, you can redeem your points into cinema tickets. So from my point of view as a movie producer — I produce movies too — it’s a very nice way to motivate young people. If they get to go the cinema for free with their Flimmer ticket after they have watched enough trailers, they will talk about it. Also, they are probably not going alone to the cinema and are taking their friends, and therefore boosting the film industry.
SA: Is it just for film geeks, then?
CW: I think it’s for everyone. Very geeky people who are already watching a lot of trailers, and young people and students who have time and money, are interested in films and who are a very big target for the film industry. They don’t have to be total geeks. They are into it and go to the cinema with their mobile phones, so if they are waiting for the bus they are Flimmering the latest trailers.
SA: Has Flimmer proved a success?
CW: Yes, we have 150,000 users — most of them very active. We have very good connections to the film industry and studios and are being asked to do more concepts, such as how they studios can talk and connect with the young target group, as we have good connections with them as well.
SA: So you are mainly targeting young people?
CZ: Not only young people. But I think we know this group very well, so it’s very easy for us to tell more about that group. We also know about new trends. For example we are just hosting a new campaign for Fox together with the Dubsmash app where you can synchronise actors’ voices, so we are doing a lot of concepts for other platforms, too.
SA: Why did you branch out from producing films and found Flimmer?
CZ: I’m a producer and film geek and it got on my nerves whenever I tried to watch a trailer on the Internet because of the 30 second advertisements beforehand, so I wanted to make my own platform where there were no such ads and produce an incentive for people to watch them. The industry has a strong interest in people watching trailers — they’re talking about them in schools and universities, so I thought it would be good to make it more comfortable for people to watch trailers.
SA: Being in films, you must know how to do marketing — how have you made a splash, beyond hosting an Oscars party?
CZ: We found an investor, Roland Emerrich, the director of films like Independence Day, so he was a very big help and we were able to do some press work with his name. I also found a co-founder in Germany, so we have a big network and good access to the studios. We did an event called Pop Up Cinema where we did film premieres at special locations, so for example for Planet of the Apes we put a fully-equipped cinema into an abandoned amusement park in Berlin called Spreepark and had 500 guests, press, media, YouTubers. We showed the movie there and it was a very unusual feeling to watch it in this kind of place.
SA: Do you plan to branch out into other areas?
CZ: Right now we are seven people at Flimmer and in five years we’ll probably have a lot more people working for us, not only to show the trailers, but to be more of a bigger media company with new ideas and be the channel to go through when people want to promote their movies.