Anyone more than casually reading this blog will know what big cinema fans we are at FR towers. Seeing the industry we love facing such exceptionally challenging business environments is hard for us.
So we have enjoyed seeing some positive developments this month – especially that Christopher Nolan’s summer tentpole release Tenet now has a confirmed UK release date (in drive-ins and cinemas too). But also that picture houses around the country are being fed with a fresh new releases. Also, we’ve been able to help a bit too, having supported an amazing new concept which could be a look ahead at the ‘future of cinema’ (not our words, but they popped up regularly).
Working with the French architects behind the stunning new Ōma cinema design concept, we spotted immediately that not only is this a breathtaking approach to auditorium design, but it is also perfected suited to deal with the social distancing challenges facing many cinemas.
Typical banked seating rows are making it very difficult for many cinemas to run their screens at anything more than about 30% capacity, while the lack of new releases also means many which have decided to open are screening recent hits for a second time alongside classic favourites.
The ‘pod’ concept of the Ōma, which has captured the attention of movie lovers around the world, not only offers a premium approach with flexible seating concepts possible on each different balcony, but it inherently separates audiences from each other while allowing cinemas to maintain a good capacity of seating.
After working with the Ōma cinema to share an exclusive first look at the design with the Daily Mail’s This is Money section, we knew the design would appeal to cinema fans around the world. We’ve been blown away by just how much – in just a few weeks, mentions and shares of the ‘Star Wars’-esque design have gone truly global, with a reach of nearly 2 billion people – meaning 1 in 3 of you reading this have probably already seen it. In the comments on Reddit, Twitter and plenty of other social channels there were certainly a lot of cinema lovers offering to book plane tickets to Paris right now, to visit a cinema that’s still under construction.
Cinema is facing a lot and trying to adapt quickly. Innovations like the Ōma and nostalgic favourites finding new leases of life like the drive-in, are reconnecting with audiences with the joy of the silver screen experience.
But, it’s also facing new threats – shortening release windows in the USA, the rise of streaming (even if most streaming services don’t directly challenge the big screen, films going to streaming first is a new weapon in the fight), not to mention the scores of screens around the country who have had to survive months with no revenue and no product.
We believe wholeheartedly in the cinema. We think there will always be a place for it. Even if its role has to evolve to meet the new world we all face.
First things first – this isn’t going to be another piece talking about why it’s important to keep marketing during lockdown, or a recession. The world has had more than enough of those hot takes, and we won’t be adding to them.
No – this is a message to PR and marketing communications agencies and individuals around the country. Through my career I have had the great fortune to work with a wide range of agency side and in-house marketers, and with only a few notable exceptions they’ve been utterly lovely. Smart, dedicated, focused and knowledgeable people. The kind of people you like to have a good chat with because you know you’ll learn something and come out stronger the other side. It’s why I’m enjoying involvement with the PRCA Marcomms Council so much – there’s a great mix of people.
Our profession is often tagged with being so competitive. Pitches are often celebrated in terms of which, or how many other agencies you beat in the process. Its easy to buy into this dog-eat-dog process but beneath the surface there are often plenty of people willing to help each other out, and up, on an individual basis.
The country has seen a mass coming together and growth of community spirit, at least in certain areas, just when we’re all physically more distant from each other than ever. Its hitting marketing hard. Numerous reports are taking pessimistic views of the months to come; PR Week surveys have three quarters of agency heads ‘very concerned’ about business. This isn’t the time for us to scatter like drops of mercury. Its time to help each other out.
If any line of discussion about the impact of Coronavirus is consistent at the moment, its that business will change as a result. Whether its in terms of office space, agencies managing to survive through the lockdown and others managing to restart and get clients back on board – its that we need to be more flexible in our approaches. Open. Collaborative. We all have skillsets, knowledge and talent which is unique to our business. Resources can be pooled to help us to come through this.
You may dismiss this as naivety. It does sound a little utopian. But it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for us to have the will to help each other. There’s a post currently spreading around my LinkedIn like wildfire of people offering recommendations and assistance to help people they know to find work if they have lost their jobs due to COVID. It’s not many steps forward to think of ways agencies can be pooling resources and knowledge, or just changing their practices, to be helping out any way they can. We’re open to fractional support for people who may just need a blog post or a press release as a standalone to maintain line of sight. Bigger, much less flexible organisations wouldn’t consider changing service offerings like that. But if one thing is clear at the moment, it’s that operating models will change post-Lockdown, and we need to be open to that change.
In marketing, the topic of changing business models is a perennial one – you can almost count on it coming around year after year like spring florals or metallics for the Christmas party. The current situation has the potential to make flexibility meaningful, and potentially lasting. We’re used to thinking on our feet in PR and finding new, alternative suggestions. We could be doing that, now, together – for the common good.