Magazine article Screen International

Event Cinema Comes of Age

Magazine article Screen International

Event Cinema Comes of Age

Article excerpt

Billy Elliot, André Rieu and Monty Python are leading the charge for the growth of event cinema.

Overpowering the sound of ballet shoes hitting the stage might have been the sound of jaws hitting the floor. On the morning of September 30, the UK industry awoke to the news Universal's Billy Elliot The Musical - Live was top of the UK box office.

A theatrical showing of a West End musical had beaten the likes of Denzel Washington's latest action title The Equalizer.

The fact a live broadcast of a musical that opened nine years ago led the box office on $3.1m (£1.9m) is something that might have shocked industry players even five years ago; a decade ago the idea would have been laughed at.

Now, event cinema's first weekend leading the UK box office is confirmation of what a major force alternative content has become (both creatively and financially) within the film industry.

And it's also revolutionising the live events industry. I saw Stephen Fry Live: More Fool Me at Royal Festival Hall on October 1 and he frequently referenced the event cinema crowds across 300 UK sites and a host of other countries (Picturehouse Entertainment distributed via satellite).

You have to wonder if an event like this would have even been done as a one-off in London without the potential to connect to further audiences.

At our own Screen Awards (to be held October 23 in London), we've added a category for best Event Cinema Campaign. The shortlist of nominees shows just how diverse event cinema's offerings have become: André Rieu's 2014 Maastricht Concert, Monty Python Live (Mostly), Nymphomaniac One Night Stand, RSC's Richard II and D-Day 70 Years On.

Each of these was successful financially and creatively and shows appetites are growing for alternative content.

So is that bad for films? As the UK box office drops in admissions and grosses, exhibitors are glad of any good news and most are embracing event cinema.

Distributors may have more mixed feelings - if your indie film is kicked off prime Saturday night slots because of opera or theatre that makes the fight to stay on screens week to week even tougher.

Some distributors do see event cinema releases as cannibalising their audiences and in some cases that's true, but others see smart business opportunities.

As Universal's Niels Swinkels says in our latest feature on event cinema: "We are exploring future opportunities that will help grow our market share in this growing business. …

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