Magazine article Screen International

Event Cinema Close to Saturation in the UK, but International Opportunity Remains, Say ECA Panel

Magazine article Screen International

Event Cinema Close to Saturation in the UK, but International Opportunity Remains, Say ECA Panel

Article excerpt

Growth of industry continues but slows compared to recent years

Violinst and conductor Andre Rieu won at the 2017 ECA Awards

Event cinema may be reaching a saturation point in the UK, but there are large-scale growth opportunities internationally, according to a panel at today’s Event Cinema Association (ECA) conference in London.

The medium grew 6% year-on-year in 2017, a significant decline in growth from recent years, while only one release from the year broke into the all-time top 10 event cinema releases in the UK and Ireland. That was mainstay Andre Rieu’s latest concert release, Piece Of Magic Entertainment’s Andre Rieu 2017 Maastricht Concert, which grossed £1.52m, less than half of the record-setting totals from the National Theatre’s Hamlet and War Horse releases.

Karen Liu, who manages the programming of event cinema titles at Odeon UK, said that the industry “needs some bigger titles coming through”. Her company is looking at more “big ticket events which money can’t buy,” she said, using the examples of concerts or family musicals (such as The Lion King) that are playing sold out runs, creating an opportunity for spill over cinema audiences.

Moderator James Dobbin from National Amusements (which runs the UK’s Showcase cinemas) acknowledged that it’s “hard to secure those titles” and that exhibitors “understand the complications” of securing distribution deals on those events. “In an ideal world, we’d have Wicked on the cinema screen,” he said.

While securing the premium content needed to bolster the UK’s event cinema box office may be complicated, significant opportunities in the international market are being presented.

Alice de Rosa, director of distribution at UK outfit Trafalgar Releasing (which is celebrating its first anniversary today), said that the company had “a really great year in the UK in 2017” but that success had been seen “more markedly in the international market”.

“The UK is very established, it’s debatable that it’s become saturated,” de Rosa commented. She pointed to the example of David Gilmour Live At Pompeii, which had grossed more than $5m worldwide. In contrast, none of the company’s releases had cracked £2m in the UK, the benchmark figure set by the top five releases of all time in the territory. “The rapid growth is being seen internationally,” she added.

“We’re making steps forward internationally,” said Dobbin. “2017 was the first year that every territory was up year-on-year. The US and Argentina were very successful for National Amusements.”

Encore screenings

There were contrasting opinions from the panel on the benefits of encore screenings, i.e. extra screenings of ‘live’ broadcast events played after the original broadcasts.

Dobbin noted that a study commissioned by the National Theatre (which accounts for the top three best performing events cinema releases in the UK: Hamlet, War House, Audience) had revealed that 47% of audiences claimed to have not attended National Theatre releases at the cinema due to ‘inconvenience’.

He suggested that a lack of convenient show times was prohibiting event cinema releases from reaching the maximum audiences. …

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