Magazine article Marketing

Front Seat for Cinema Brands

Magazine article Marketing

Front Seat for Cinema Brands

Article excerpt

Cinema marketers' strategies are coming under the spotlight as the curtain rises on some of the biggest action the industry has seen for years.

Remember the first time you were allowed into town with your friends to see a film? Chances are this 'coming of age' took place in an ABC cinema, complete with pop-corn-encrusted carpets and middle-aged usherettes showing you to a faded red seat by torchlight.

You'd have to be at least in your late 20s to have experienced this, because the chain was token over by Cannon (now MGM) in the mid-80s and the name disappeared from our high streets.

But it emerged last week that the 60-year-old brand is on its way back. Former managing director of MGM Cinemas Barry Jenkins is negotiating to buy up to 90 MGM high street sites from new owner Virgin Cinemas. In terms of sites this would create a market leader, with Odeon a close second and UCI third. UCI, however, leads the growing multiplex sector.

ABC is likely to be back before the end of the year, the date by which MGM has to disappear. Likewise, Virgin will have stamped its brand on its own sites by then.

Virgin bought the MGM chain last July. So far it has only rebranded its Dublin site, with Rochester next to take the Virgin colours. Head of marketing Ian Grey says that, in typical Virgin style, the company plans to bring a radical approach to cinema branding.

Grey is tight-lipped over details, but the company is understood to be looking at translating some of its airline's marketing ideas into cinema. Those could mean 'Club Class' screens, and improved bars and catering.

Virgin has also been toying with the idea of introducing multiscreen cinemas, with up to 17 separate screens, which would "blow the competition out of the water", according to one observer.

Big screen action

There is much speculation in the industry that the emergence of the Virgin brand, and the relaunch of ABC, will bring about a marketing war in an industry that has traditionally been isolated from the need for serious branding.

"Traditionally, location has been the key issue in consumers' minds when deciding where to go to the cinema," says Odeon Cinemas marketing executive Stuart Francis.

"Virtually everywhere except London, people will visit the cinema closest to them. We are not yet at the stage where the majority of cinemas are in direct competition. …

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