Cinemark’s annual junket reminded Britta Reid how seldom she now goes out to the movies.
As a rather earnest student I could easily watch three film festival movies in a day. Even when I started full-time employment, I was a voracious movie-goer. I continued to be so until I moved from an apartment into a townhouse with generous and verdant common gardens. The townhouse also had a room which could be devoted to watching videos/DVDs. This sense of space and comfort, perhaps, diminished the need to go out to the movies. Then there were the added advantages of being able to enjoy a decent glass of sauvignon blanc, and being able to chat to my companion and cat while watching a movie.
But on reflection, I think the whole movie going experience had actually just become less pleasant. My local movie house boasts an impressive and massive Baldinelli mural in its foyer, but the the actual cinemas are pretty “bug-housy”. I have experienced broken seats, a whiff of damp now and then, even an occasional drip from the ceiling, and dodgy sound every so often. Add to that, the challenge of trying to watch a movie when the neighbouring teenager is frantically engaged in keeping up with her mates on her phone, and the attraction of staying at home is clear.
Prior to the junket starting, Eric Blignaut, Cinemark’s acting national sales manager, had been enthusiastically chatting to me about Ster-Kinekor’s focus on the movie experience. He mentioned the impressive new revamped Eastgate cinemas, offering both IMAX and Prestige formats, as well as the more regular cinema going experience. His mention of ‘self service’ snacking also had me intrigued.
A week later, I juggled my commitments and set off across town to discover what I had been missing. On arrival at the Eastgate cinemas, the sleek discretely lit white and blue futuristic foyer with elegant banks of self service booking terminals, set into civilised desks rather than uncomfortably attached to pillars, certainly suggested that a great tech experience lay in store for me.
Variety’s Justin Chang had described ‘Deadpool’ as a “scabrously funny big screen showcase for the snarkiest of Marvel’s comic creations”. That sounded like a worthy contender to my introduction to Imax.
Next I explored the self service concession arrangement, which actually means you place your order and pay at another array of computers; then you take your receipt to a familiarly manned counter, where assistants assemble your order. While this was not quite the mechanised fantasy, I had been constructing for myself en route to the cinema, I can see how this approach would reduce queueing time.
With popcorn and sparkling mineral water in hand, I settled into a comfortable seat in one of the spruce IMAX theatres. Indeed, I was captivated and awed by the whole sensory experience – the immersive size and heightened clarity of the picture, the sharp and chest thumping sound. Admittedly, the movie was not really to my taste –probably a ‘gender thing’. (I would hate to attribute my failure to “get it” to age.)
The Imax experience is surely an advertiser’s dream, but a follow-up discussion with Eric, revealed that there is still a challenge around perception at the moment. As he explained “it’s a relatively small footprint of seven screens in total, so advertisers haven’t really jumped on it. Having said that, with the release of Jurassic Park in July last year, five IMAX screens (at that stage) delivered 60 000 people in four weeks – pretty astounding”.
He continued, “what should make it even more attractive, is that we can use stock standard HD digital material that we use in all our other cinemas – the new IMAX projectors do all the scaling, etc. automatically.”
Obviously it could be used used extremely well creatively – Eric’s suggestion was to “think Big Mac”. At the moment, only advertisers following a selected title get the benefit of the platform. Given that Ster-Kinekor has research, which shows that 89% of people believe that if a film is available in IMAX format, it must be of superior quality, it can not be long before forward thinking advertisers attempt to leverage this value.
This research was gathered through the Ster-Kinekor Movie Minds community, a neat initiative, which is essentially an online research panel. While such panels are often quite suspect due to their self-selecting nature, the digital proclivities of the movie going audience, make such a panel ideal.
To return to my immersion in the Ster-Kinekor Eastgate experience, I then tried out the Prestige offering, choosing to view ‘How to Be Single’. This turned out to be a sort of ‘girls just wanna have fun’ rom-com with a surprisingly mature ending. Having an elite foyer, a spacious uncrowded movie house with great picture and sound, and huge leather recliners certainly made the experience feel decidedly more indulgent than my home-viewing experience. There is the option of ‘gourmet catering’ to be enjoyed. I suspect, that as a dedicated foodie and enthusiastic chef, I would still manage to top what is currently on offer. But it certainly expands the movie-goers’ choices.
While neither of these viewing experiences was cheap, there are a variety of schemes – the Ster-Kinekor Movie Club. Discovery Vitality and Edgars Club, for example – that enable movie-goers to enjoy discounts on tickets. I am going to have to activate one of these schemes, and get out to the movies more often.
My outing to Eastgate proved to me that movie-going is once again going to be a rewarding and fun “experience”. Ster-Kinekor has certainly got the viewer experience right, and in so doing, is providing advertisers with superior opportunities.
Britta Reid is an independent media consultant
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