Big Screen Versus Small: Cineworld Gets Innovative With 270-Degree Viewing Experience & Attempts To Answer The “Christmas Wish”
With video-on-demand revolutionising the way we consume entertainment, multiplexes in the UK are not just competing with each other but battling to get audiences away from the small-screen and in front of the big one. Top 10 Films editor Dan Stephens takes a look at how Cineworld is tackling the challenge.
High speed internet has changed everything. The way we socialise. The way we shop. The way we do business. And the way we consume our entertainment. It’s also changed the sort of entertainment we’re thirsty for, crudely represented by the newly coined phrase “Netflix and chill”.
It’s the age of the small screen binge watch when TV and film is at our beck and call “on demand”. It’s liberating (and great for the TV and movie-loving consumer) but it’s another challenge for a multiplex industry trying to maintain the wonder of cinema on the big screen.
Hollywood might first have sought to curb this shift from big to small screen by enticing audiences with 3D. But, eventually, it realised such myopic thinking was a rather desperate attempt to appear innovative. 3D cinema’s decline came as no surprise.
Instead of fighting the popularity of the small screen, the industry has simply shifted more money towards exploiting it. But Hollywood has hardly turned its back on the movies (with some of its focus being on developing projects specifically for small screen platforms with, for example, Amazon Prime and Netflix winning distribution deals or making their own films). But where does that leave the multiplex?
Better is Hollywood filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan pursuing IMAX photography for major film productions in order to capture the awe-inspiring delights of this super-sized spectacle.
Underlining the wonder of seeing film on the big screen instead of turning cinema into something that it isn’t (eg. the 3D fad) has been seized upon by the major multiplexes who, while embracing IMAX, have also sought to develop the movie-watching experience for today’s cinemagoer.
Cineworld, which has a dominant presence in the UK and led the way by market share in 2017, has recognised that film can benefit from advancing technology without resorting to short-sighted sideshow.
ScreenX, the UK’s first 270-degree cinema viewing experience, is a perfect example. Originating in South Korea in 2015, the system uses a multi-projection system to supplement the main central image with sidewall images to create a more immersive view of the on-screen action.
Hollywood films had previously been screened in South Korea using this multi-projection technology and, having unveiled the system at Cineworld Greenwich O2, the cinema chain introduced audiences to the Jason Statham actioner The Meg.
Not requiring additional photography (unlike IMAX which, to enjoy the full benefits of the huge screen, requires film productions to shoot with special cameras), ScreenX software seamlessly blends the images, extending the central (and main image) outwards to the left and right.
Byung-Hwan Choi, CEO of one of ScreenX’s developers, CJ 4DPLEX, told Broadcast Now: “ScreenX mimics how the human eye interprets a visual by appealing to both our front and peripheral vision. It honours our commitment to break cinematic boundaries and create amazing cinema experiences.”
This is just one of the ways Cineworld is enhancing the potential of movies in theatres. A Cineworld spokesperson told Top 10 Films: “For us, creating an exceptional cinema-going experience and delivering multiple ways to enjoy a film is paramount in differentiating ourselves from our competitors and encouraging people to come to the cinema. We’ve invested heavily in bringing the latest and best in cinema technology exclusively to our audiences to create unrivalled cinema experiences.
“In this year alone, we have significantly expanded our offering and opportunities to experience film. We introduced movie fans to ScreenX, the world’s first 270 degree cinema viewing experience and we opened our 20th 4DX screen which stimulates all five senses. We’ve also continued our roll-out of Superscreen auditoriums in cinemas across the UK, as well as IMAX with Laser, delivering next-generation technology for the world’s most immersive movie experience.”
Over the festive period, Cineworld will be screening Aquaman, Mary Poppins and Bumblebee on its multi-sensory 4DX screens and Aquaman in the ScreenX format. The cinema chain hopes that by giving audiences unique experiences it will not only dominate the market in December and January but encourage more people away from their TV and tablets.
Of course, cost will remain an issue for many. Offers such as adults paying kids’ prices with the Cineworld family ticket will help while those stuck for gift ideas for movie-loving family and friends should take note of the cinema chain’s night out for two with the Christmas Gift Box, gift card, or year’s worth of cinema with the Unlimited Gift Box.
A very competitive time, Cineworld goes into 2018’s festive period riding not only the crest of the wave resulting from its successful incorporation of new technologies but a Christmas advert that’s rivalling the usual suspects such as John Lewis for acclaim.
“We wanted to create a memorable campaign that would stand out and set us apart from our competitors,” a spokesperson told Told Top 10 Films. “Inspired by the magic of Mary Poppins, our festive campaign was amongst the first to go live and we’ve been delighted with the positive reactions we’ve received so far.
“The advert, “A Christmas Wish”, tells the story of two children who want nothing more than to give their parents a night off to enjoy an evening at Cineworld during the festive season.
“Critics have compared the quality and magical storytelling of our advert with that of leading retailers and achieving 5/5 stars on The Drum for our ad spot was a proud achievement for us, and a testament to the creativity and imagination of those who were involved with making it.”
Mixing innovation in the viewing experience with added value ways to watch movies and outlet refurbishment to include, for example, Starbucks stores in the foyer space, are clear-sighted ways Cineworld is positioning itself as a leader in the multiplex sector.
But cinema chains are still relying on Hollywood (mainly) to produce the movies that people want to see on the big screen. Yet the key to the battle between the big and small screens isn’t necessarily about one triumphing over the other but the discovery of a happy medium.
Nothing can match the spectacle of cinema on the big screen but for us consumers, the urge to travel, to spend extra money, to sit in a chair that is not our own sofa, must surpass the ease of pressing a few buttons on our living room TV or the tablet in ours hands. That’s where the multiplexes have to ensure they can offer a fulfilling experience that simply cannot be had at home.