Choosenick. Notes and observations on service design, as well as other interesting things/thinking. By Nick Marsh.

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Experience innovation at the movies: Five things cinema brands could do to make watching films better and their customers happier

Image from Phill.d on Flickr

Bad experiences really irritate me, and they get me itching to make them better (this is called design!) For the past few years, every time I've been to the cinema I've been disappointed with the experience - I've seen some great films, sure - but all the other stuff round the edge of the film, i.e the experience of actually going to the cinema, has been poor.

Why is going to the cinema such a poor experience, and why does the cinema model have such a poor recent track record of innovation?

I love going to the cinema. So do lots of other people. Its a fun experience, and the cinema industry offers a variety of different services and offerings for different film fans - but it could be so much better!

Here's some ideas I've had swirling around my head about how to make the cinema better - if anyone out there wants to commission me to make some more sense of them and then do something about it, I'm listening!

A lot of these are business model innovations, not technical solutions, and they'd be easy to prototype, and easier still to gather some customer insight into their desirability. I'm sure that that the main challenge to innovation in this area is all the legal contracts and deals between movie studios and cinema brands, but come on guys - you've got to step up and be a bit more awesome, and stop being so last century.

1. Create variable prices for different films depending on how popular they are.

This is so obvious, I don't know why someone hasn't given it a go. It could make more money for cinemas, and allow less popular films to be seen more regularly.

Sure, I see the logic behind a simple, flat pricing structure, but every other type of media and entertainment experience (and lots of other stuff involving tickets) is variably priced to match the popularity and scarcity of the media.

At the movies, this could still be really simple - tickets for opening weeks for block busters cost more, and prices go down over time. Cinemas could take a punt on showing less popular, older films and classics, but charge more. They could have off-peak prices during the day, and charge a premium for Saturday nights.

If cinemas tied this into the idea below about engaging their customers in more depth, its easy to imagine a crowd sourced part of the cinema programme that film fans vote on and commit to buying slightly more expensive tickets for if enough people also want to watch the film too. There's so many classic films I'd love to see on the big screen. Die Hard. Short Cuts. Last of the Mohicans. Rear Window. A full season of The Wire over a whole weekend. That would be awesome.

2. Make it ad-supported

These days, when I go to a big commercial cinema complex the one thing that really, really pisses me off is sitting through 15-20 adverts - i.e 30 minutes worth before getting two trailers. I'm not against the idea of advertising (although I don't generally like ads), but I am totally, utterly against the idea of paid media that contains ads! That's a rubbish, rubbish experience.

When I was a kid, they used to maybe have one or two ads before lots of trailers. Things have changed a lot since then (for one thing, no intervals and ice cream ladies - I'd defiantly bring them back) and nowadays I expect ads to either pay for my media/experiences, or, well, not be there.

Why don't cinema's offer two tiers of pricing? A cheaper ticket (or even a free one) that means you have to sit through 30 minutes of ads, and a more expensive one that has a different time on it that means you don't. This would mean allocated seating, but that's hardly rocket science is it.

3. Make it multi channel

Every other media supplier/provider/creator and so on has embraced the multi channel world - except the cinema. Why!? Some really obvious stuff here.

Why don't cinemas give you a token/code to watch the film online when you get home? You're probably not going to watch it at the cinema again. In fact, why don't cinema brands offer online streaming of films!? Its such a natural extension of their brands, and watching at home is not the same as going to the cinema, nor is it in competition - its a different film related experience, and cinemas should get in the living rooms of film fans. I reckon they could use this to get more people to go to the cinema to be honest.

4. (Really) engage your audience

So this leads to the next area that cinema brands are bad, bad, bad at! Actually getting involved with film fans. Its bonkers! Film fans love films, but of the major UK cinema brands it's only really Odeon that's ever tried to get 'filmy' with its brand, and that hasn't been very successful.

Places like the drafthouse, the chapter, the showroom and all sorts of independent cinemas do get more stuck in with their clientele, but there's surely a much bigger opportunity to do this at an international level.

Generally speaking, the movie studios and cinema chains are just rubbish and brand management beyond the movies themselves. Why the hell is Apple the top hit when I Google movie trailers!. Why does MGM's website suck so hard! Sorry to pick on you MGM, but the best you can do is ask me to sign up to a newsletter and send me off to iTunes, Hulu and Amazon. Honestly, this is poor!

4.1 Let them choose what's on!

If cinemas really got stuck into engaging their local audiences I'm sure they could quite literally get them involved in programming what films are shown, and when. How hard would it be to run, alongside the mainstream releases, a range of classic films selected by the audience? You could easily engage audiences online, and in the actual cinemas. This would build loyalty, create relationships and enable more people to see more great films! What's not to like.

5. Extend cinema brands to be about film experiences, not sitting in a cinema

Ultimately, cinema brands need to step up and start being more about films, film lovers and the experience of watching films together, and less about running an out of town retail operation with a license to show movies for a few weeks before they are available online, built on a business model that relies on ramming ads down your customers throats.

They need to focus on the really great things about watching films at the cinema - it's a special, real space with a bloody great big screen, with great sound, that you can go to with other people, where you can really get engrossed in a great film that you can't or won't see elsewhere.

What do you think? Would these ideas help make the cinema experience better? How would you improve the experience of watching films with your friends? Shoot some answers in the comments or on Twitter.
February 27th, 2010 / Trackback / Comments