How to Market a Cinema and Not Alienate People…

You can watch movies practically everywhere nowadays. On your phone, your laptop, in your car, on a plane in the sky…There is so much I can  In the future, all we’ll have to do is close our eyelids and have films streamed into our eyelids in some Blade Runner type optical cinematic experience. It’s great that cinema of new and old is so easily accessible in your hand!

But there is nothing quite like watching a film in a movie theatre, is there? The hum of chatter as you walk through the foyer, the sweet smell of freshly made popcorn, and the fervent excitement of an audience in bated breath to be entertained. There’s a thrill to submerging yourself into a dark room away from the real world, your eyes glazed in wonder as you enter a story of characters and colours. You cannot beat sharing an experience with another fan and the electrified chatter in the air sending shivers of glee down your spine.

Oh, and, there’s absolutely no smartphone in sight. Absolutely not. None. Nope. No.

I don’t mean to sound like an old woman, moaning about new technology and how it is incomparable to the ways of the past. It’s just that, not only is my adoration for cinemas a deep-set belief, like a preacher raised in the church, it’s also my job.

Hello, I’m Sarah, and I am a cinema marketing manager.

The main crux of my job, as small part of the film industry, is to get you, potential audience member and customer, into my cinema to watch the latest releases. That’s it, in the most simplistic of terms.

But it runs deeper than that, I reckon. If you allow me to flourish a little bit, it’s my job to get you jacked up on cinema. I’m supposed to make you excited and get you talking. Sure, the big aim is to get you to buy a ticket or snacks, but a lot of it is to keep the conversation flowing. It’s to make you aware of the next film, and the movie after that, and the project after that, or the festival you have to go to. It’s a cycle of blockbuster belters, incredible independents, and movies that flow between. I’m meant to guide you through this, making you aware of your new obsessions and likes. I’m a cinema cheerleader, corralling you to shout loudly about movies.

There are many different ways to do this on site, on social media, and with partners. Most people recognise posters in cinemas and it’s my job to make sure each frame is filled with a winner. You’re heading to see Infinity Wars. Great, then you’ll love to see the brand new poster for Deadpool 2. You’ll also love these postcards or this chalkboard – pick up one, take a snap . Similarly for trailers, after the ads those teasers you see as you settle in your seat have been strategically plucked for your amusement.

Occasionally you get to do something bloody cool on site and that’s displays. I’ll be honest; I have no artistic skill in crafting beautiful and impressive artworks to promote a special film. Yet I know people who can and I have brilliant ideas. These are always wonderful ways of getting a team together to produce marvellous, imaginative works and honestly, some of the ones I’ve seen have been particularly special.

Social media platforms are perhaps the most modern and yet the most vital marketing tool for getting people engaged (because people just love to talk on social media.) Whilst it’s great for getting ticket links and sales in, it’s also brilliant to keep people twittering. Instagram can be wonderful for just showing how pretty your venue is and Twitter is good for short bursts of ingenuity, aiming for that viral level or simply making a few people chuckle. You are also the social media face of a company and have to act as customer services too – so you have to be prepared for complaints!

Other components to marketing is liaising with the staff to make sure they are up to speed on the latest releases, working with local businesses on special offers for a wide customer base and doubling up on promotion with the companies. There’s also occasionally fun activities such as manning Q&As, working with film talent, and introducing films too – there’s a wide variety of special events you can do with your company. Maybe a costume or two!

Also press. Getting press to cover your releases is magic, especially with print media. The weight of big names giving you the stamp of approval can influence customers coming to your site. For example, if you can get your screening in Time Out Magazine, then you’ve practically sold your listing. Especially if you live in London. That listing is like getting a golden ticket. Keep press informed and in a happy mood always.

Cinema marketing is tricky because it’s constantly changing. Whilst statistics and ticket sales are helpful aids in what works best, you’ve got to be able to shift and slide with each project as they are just as unique as the last. It can be tricky because you could put all your weight behind one project and not sell many tickets. You have to pick and choose your battles – you can’t do full campaigns on a week where five films are being released. So managing your priorities and realising what release would work best for your site is crucial. Movies can surprise you and keep you on your feet (but I guess that’s part of the fun.)

I’m lucky enough to work for a chain where cinema is a passion and each site has their own particular marketing manager. From being an usher, and having a manager who helped cultivate my skills, I now run marketing for one of the best cinemas in the country and I couldn’t be happier.

If you have the talent for whipping up hilarious social media posters, have an eye for what posters work in a particular venue, can listen to the conversation and swiftly change (like the coursing river,) and absolutely adore films in all their glory, than cinema marketing may be just for you!

Too long, did not read? Here’s a helpful video on cinema marketing!

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