Alternative content will offer significant income for cinemas


    MUMBAI: The global market for alternative content in cinemas is forecast to be worth over half a billion dollars by 2014 ($526m), rising from $45.7m in 2008, according to a new report entitled Alternative Content in Cinemas: Market assessment and forecasts to 2014 by media analyst Screen Digest. The USA accounted for two-thirds of global alternative content revenues in 2008, but this will decline to 47.9 per cent by 2014, as the market for non- movie programming in cinemas expands globally.

    The cinema is becoming a multi-arts venue

    Although it has been tested in cinemas for nearly a decade, it is only in the past two years, with the growth of the digital cinema screen base to over 12,000 screens worldwide, that non-movie programming in cinemas has begun to make a real impact. Cinema exhibitors are catching on to the revenue potential of screening events at price levels higher than the average cinema ticket, with some opera-in-cinema tickets in the UK selling at £35/$59, while boosting occupancy rates in what are often traditional downtimes. The cinema is now becoming a multi-arts venue, with a range of live and recorded events attracting new audiences and offering existing audiences more variety.

    However, the report’s lead author, Screen Digest’s head Film and Cinema David Hancock, believes that “despite the sector’s recent development, there are still challenges to be addressed. Further growth depends on several factors coming together, chief amongst which is growth of the wider digital cinema market. This has been driven by 3D during 2009 in preparation for the upcoming James Cameron movie, Avatar, but growth may slow as the move towards to 3D levels out. As well as digital cinema, the exhibitor needs to have a satellite infrastructure in place, something that is still in the early stages.”

    Alternative content offers new players scope for market entry

    Alternative content is most attractive when it can be offered as a recurring business and this needs content aggregators to bring together a range of attractive ‘in-cinema’ programming. The high-profile events tend to be opera, theatre and some sport, but a wide range of other content is appearing on cinema screens, including live Q&A link-ups, comedy, music concerts, poetry, President Obama’s inauguration and even Michael Jackson’s memorial service. As a result, new players are entering the theatrical distribution arena, specialising in these innovative forms of content. These include US screen advertising companies NCM and Screenvision, digital deployment groups such as Arts Alliance Media, Cinedigm and XDC, and specialist outfits including UK’s more2screen and US distributor Emerging Pictures.

    Digital 3D will also drive the development of alternative content in cinemas. Live-action concert films, such as Hannah Montana and U23D, led the first experiments with 3D for alternative content. This area is now growing as some broadcasters, such as Sky and ESPN, lead the way by preparing content for upcoming 3D TV channels. They are experimenting with production and screening techniques on the only medium equipped for digital 3D at present. With over 6,000 3D-equipped screens around the world, and over 10,000 screens committed to installing 3D worldwide, there is sufficient audience potential to attract new content and companies.

    One of these is AEG Live which announced Larger than Life in 3D featuring Dave Matthews Band, to be released onto 400 US cinema screens in December 2009. AEG Live intend to collect performances from as many as 100 artists in 3D by 2010, with the underlying aim of replicating a concert experience for theatrical release, highlighting the potential that 3D alternative content in cinemas offers.

    Film and Cinema senior analyst and co-author of the report Charlotte Jones says “With live 3D the pinnacle of the consumer experience, cinema exhibitors are now poised to capitalise on a expanding portfolio of 3D events scheduled for 2010. Added to the proven success of 3D movies in 2009, digital technology continues to unlock incremental value for exhibitors with alternative content primed to deliver an ancillary but lucrative sideline.”