Wednesday, 7 October 2009

London Arthouse Alliance

In Amsterdam, arthouse cinemas got together and agreed on offering an unlimited card scheme to customers, (like the Cineworld Unlimited Card here) called CINEVILLE. While in Venice I met Raymond Walvarens, the director of the RIALTO cinema, and one of the forces behind the idea.

This made me think that a similar idea for London arthouse cinemas would be fantastic. According to Raymond, admissions have grown, the scheme pays for itself, and it's increased loyalty and frequency of visits from the arthouse crowd. The arthouse market spends so much time competing with each other that we can easily forget that we need to be fighting the real competitor, the mulitplex, who increasingly progamme more and more arthouse (particularly cross-over titles that are our bread and butter) and who use their marketing machines to take the little disposable income audiences have.

An unlimited card would incentivize audiences not only to visit our venues more, but also to take risks on films - buying an arthouse unlimited card would not only be an economically sensible thing to do, it's also an investment in quality. Quality of the programme, but also of experience. Our venues are better at customer service, at providing drinks and food, at showing the film in the right format, at the right sound level, in a safe and comfortable environment.

The cons to the deal are huge: what about each individual cinema or group of cinemas? Would they lose their identity? Would they lose members? How do we even get competing exhibitors in the room?

Understanding the common problems and challenges we share and finding solutions can solidify our sector, increase our market share, and consolidate the marketing presence of our type of cinemas. United we could stop the hemorrhaging of customers to their local multiplex. I'd be interested to hear of anyone thinks this is possible, particularly from the exhibition sector.


  1. OK, no comments from the "exhibition sector" - so I hope you don't mind my Two Cents...
    By "Crossover Titles" I presume you're refering to films similar to the one that's opening in (I assume!) all three of Brighton's Cinemas this Friday? From what I've seen in the Trailer, I'm gonna want to see the BEST presentation possible! Are you showing a Digital Print? (Also, from what I've seen in the Trailer, why isn't THIS movie in 3-D?! Ha ha ha!)
    OK, so The Duke's is going to be my first choice, anyway (as it was with The Dark Knight - even with a 35mm Print, I can be assured that it's gonna look better with YOU than with anyone else!) Maybe the majority of punters aren't as geeky and obsessive as I am...
    I think I've mentioned before that, in addition to being a Picturehouse Member, I'm also a Cineworld Unlimited cardholder. This enables me to see lots of films at a very reasonable price (and I watch a LOT of movies!) Mostly, however, these aren't the sort of films that are showing at The Duke's - but they're still movies that I want to see. Having said that, the standard of presentation at the Marina (varying from "acceptble" to "downright awful") leaves a lot to be desired (Crawley is better - and it shows more of those crossover titles!) If Odeon were to offer a similar service (meaning I could have unlimited access to the superior Brighton Odeon) at Five Pounds more, per month, then I'd upgrade without any hesitation... I have a limited cinematic budget, each month, and I have to make a value judgement...
    I probably visit The Duke's 4-6 times a month. In addition, I visit my brother, in London, every month and we, invariably, end up going to see a movie. His "local" is the Renoir - but it's usually the Curzon Soho, PCC or Ritzy. The cinematic presentation, eclectic choice of films, service and atmosphere at Independant Cinemas far outstrips that of the mulltiplexes (save for the Soon-To-Be-Demolished Odeon West End.) How wide-ranging would you hope your "London" Unlimited Card to be? Encompassing yourselves as well as the best in Independant London Cinema? Even at Twenty-Five Quid, this would save me Ten to Fifteen pounds a Month (and allow me to spend more on your wonderful Coffee!)
    OK, maybe a self-confessed Cinema Geek like myself isn't really the sort of customer that you're worried about losing to the multiplexes; but it would represent a fantasic loyalty incentive - and imagine the Word-Of-Mouth recommendations...
    My own personal view is that Independant Cinemas and Multiplexes can co-exist - each doing what they do best... But a co-operative of Independant Cinemas would be an exciting prospect for the film fan who still thinks that the best and ONLY place to see movies is on the Big Screen...

  2. Thanks for that Binary - ideally it would be a national scheme but realistically it could really only work if we did within the M25 ring. So of course people like you would benefit the most, with less frequent vistors 'subsidising' your discounts and making the scheme work commercially.