Rossella Gambetti
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy

In academic studies of business and modes of business communication the challenges to cinematographic communication arising from the adoption of digital technology are considered with a cautious attitude but also with great interest.

The cautiousness is linked to an awareness that the paths of development, affirmation and wide-scale spread of the new information and communications technologies (including digital), which in the recent past have underpinned the appearance and evolution of the new and net economies, are characterised by far quicker timing compared to the time involved for the needs, expectations and competences of the potential target users to mature. This has regarded and continues to regard the application of digital technology to television, which has recently seen the development of a wide-ranging debate in Italy both on the advisability of improving television viewing offered by digital cable and on its potential spread in the medium term. The slow penetration of this technology in Italy is, in fact, demonstrating that there is more need for caution than ever when it is a question of such radical innovations, capable of making an impact on the cultural dimensions of a country and on its capacity for technological modernisation.

The great interest is connected to the considerable potential for competitive differentiation and gain in spectator loyalty, both offered as examples for the adoption by movie theatres of digital projection systems.

I teach corporate communications at the Catholic University of Milan and ever since discussing my thesis on strategies for building and communicating the identities of movie theatres in order to improve their competitive edge in their territories, I have always kept a particularly keen eye on developments in the cinema sector and, in particular, on innovations concerning exhibition. This is because of the wealth of research opportunities arising in connection with some of the main and more recent themes in company communications, such as: the construction of unique and memorable theatrical viewing experiences, the management of cinema-going as an event, the implementation of a cinema brand policy, integrated communication of the theatre’s offer.
Recently, these themes have been joined by that of the spread of digital technology in movie theatres. An issue that obliges those who study corporate communications to reflect on two different aspects and two different motives for research. On the one hand a need is felt to investigate the real added value implicit in the offer of digital projection and the possible impact of this technological innovation on the systematic perception/evaluation and cinema-going behaviour of spectators.
On the other hand, we need to define the most efficient and effective strategies possible for communicating the added value of digital projection and of the cinema itself.

The mere installation of digital projections systems is not enough to produce a competitive edge for the movie theatre: the technological innovation must be adequately supported by an intense and targeted promotional policy that will make spectators aware of its potential and of the differentiation of offer and provision of a unique and memorable viewing experience, leading them to appreciate it.

In particular, the challenge of a promotional policy consists in the “promise of quality” offered to spectators by the digital movie theatre. An all-encompassing quality regarding not only the technological aspect connected to the type of sound and vision experience made possible by digital projection, but also involving the whole range of services the theatre offers its spectators.

In connection with this, and in the context of my teaching, I have recently launched a research project, in collaboration with MEDIA Salles, that draws on contributions from theses by some of my best higher-degree students, analyzing the impact of adopting digital technologies on a significant sample of digital cinemas in Italy and on a sample of theatre-goers. More specifically, the research project aims to investigate the following aspects:

  • with exhibitors, the effects of digital projection on the distinct characteristics of the theatre’s offer, on the main business results achieved thanks to digital projection and on the communication tools used to make known its existence and potential;
  • with spectators, the motives for choosing to watch a digital projection and the evaluation of of the overall quality of the digital viewing experience.
    I believe that the results of this research, even if just in its initial phase, can offer interesting ideas for enriching the debate on these issues.

Dr.Rossella Gambetti is Assistant Professor in Management at Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, where she teaches “Economics and techniques of Business Communication” and “Audiovisuals in Business Communication”.