A cinema all to yourself (or almost) to watch a film or play games on the big screen
by Angelica Riva
That periods of crisis generate creativity is not a new discovery. In the world of the cinema innovative ideas, perhaps not yet widespread, have been developed precisely during the the pandemic to adapt exhibitors’ strategies to the new situation, combining them with the demands of the general public.
We have, for example, observed the blossoming of opportunities for renting a whole auditorium all to yourself and your family, to watch a film selected from a wide choice of titles. This has proved to be an initiative that has allowed several cinemas - large and small - to react to the lockdown and to the halt in movie production worldwide, guaranteeing keen cinema-goers the experience of watching a film on the big screen.
Amongst the examples presented by Celluloid Junkie, which has drawn up a broad international overview, that of Svenska Bio stands out. In order to respect limits on numbers and tackle the lack of new releases, on its social media and official website the Swedish chain has offered its auditoriums for rent, so that customers may enjoy great Oscar-winning films (like “Parasite” and “1917”), magical animated films (like “Onwards” and “Frozen 2”), as well as Swedish productions. The cost is 95 euro for 8 people. The theatres can also be rented for gaming, for a minimum two-hour slot. Spectators and players may even enjoy food and drink provided by the cinema itself.
Again in Sweden, more precisely in the capital, Stockholm, the Bio Capitol has also offered the possibility to dine during the screening of a film in adequately sanitised and aired auditoriums.
To remain within Europe's borders, amongst the worst hit in the first phase of the pandemic, this drive towards innovation and above all cinema on-demand has been shared by several exhibitors.
They range from the London chain Everyman to the Irish circuit Movies@Cinemas where the cost of renting a theatre, either for watching a film or for gaming, varied from 175 euros (daytime) to 250 euros (evenings).
Nevertheless, because the lockdown was prolonged, this initiative no longer became possible and the Irish company therefore turned the theatres into classrooms for the schools in the area. A similar idea was adopted by the ‘The Space’ cinemas in Italy, which organised virtual lectures in their theatres for students at Parma and Florence universities, with the intention of taking advantage of this experience in the future to run distance conferences and meetings. A similar approach was also chosen by the French chain MK2, aimed mainly at the organisation of cultural events.
Another new idea for using theatres has come from the Odeon chain. In Scotland, precisely in Edinburgh, delayed legal hearings were streamed live on five big screens, thus allowing litigants to follow the proceedings in safety, respecting the distancing measures established by law.
To return to Italy, a striking case is that of the Move In shopping mall in Cerro Maggiore, around twenty kilometres from Milan, which is home to a multiplex belonging to The Space chain: in the box-office area a vaccination centre has been operating since the beginning of March.
The trend towards renting out theatres is not a prerogative of the Old Continent. In the USA, too, family households or groups of friends have been able to rent whole auditoriums. AMC and Star Cinema Grill offer rents ranging from 99 to 175 dollars, whilst Alamo Drafthouse, in Texas, charges 150 dollars for 10 people. By adding another 150 it is possible to obtain food and drinks.
In South Korea a similar sort of offer is foreseen, so as not to leave cinemas abandoned. The CGV chain in Seul has launched the campaign “I watch alone”, which even allows single spectators to enjoy film content. In fact, this is not even a novelty in Asia: in China the “fashion” had already become established before the outbreak of the terrible pandemic.
It thus becomes only natural to wonder whether this new “private cinema” trend is destined to become stable in the cinemas of the future. Celluloid Junkie offers a positive answer to the question, because this is a trend that would reap profits, and word-of-mouth would quickly spread over the social networks. It is, however, true that renting would be better suited to the large multiplexes rather than to small cinemas, since the former have more auditoriums available for renting at the same time.
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