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Film Booking & Programming

A key element to any successful commercial strategy is to have an insightful film booking and programming approach in place, tailored to and designed with the business plan in mind. Although they sound similar, film booking and scheduling are completely different.

To weave all these elements together with your business objectives in mind we have to know what kind of cinema you are currently (premium, family multiplex, independent arthouse etc), who your audience is and what you’d like to achieve as a brand. Being realistic is key to this positioning and if, for example, you’re a four screen cinema it’s important to be aware of limitations with regard to how many films can be shown and the type of films they should be in order to maximise revenue. We’ll also consider where your brand currently sits in the overall market, advising on how to approach this differently (or tweak your positioning) if necessary.

The above factors and particularly your (desired) positioning in the market will determine the roster of content you carry, whether mainstream / commercial or a more arthouse offering.

Thanks to many years' experience in the industry we’re able to offer operational support in many guises. We can advise on business or commercial strategy, with operational planning specifically in mind and we're well-placed to connect clients with industry contacts from a global perspective, from distribution through to vending to troubleshooting. This will be particularly significant to any cinema estates opening in new or smaller, emerging territories who will benefit from an international voice that can advise and guide them.

Film booking and film scheduling (or programming) are two different beasts, despite sounding similar. TBP offer advice in both areas internationally in the following ways.

Film booking is the process of securing a roster of films to screen in a cinema, of which there are many different stages. TBP can take you through this process, covering the following areas:

  • Type of content to book

  • How and when to order film product

  • Implementing an effective scheduling programme

  • Understanding relevant film information

  • Maximising revenues

  • Training & developing film programming management (in-house)

Film Booking

Scheduling (or programming) films focuses on the cinema's timetable of which film should go in which screen at what time. Specific circumstances will dictate how an effective film schedule is laid out, usually based on the above factors of who the cinema brand is and what the audience expects.

One important aspect to note is that, depending on geographical location, all markets and content need experimentation. The ideal film schedule takes time to perfect - observation is key to seeing what works and which films perform well in different territories.

A good example of this is the Middle Eastern market. There, Hollywood, Bollywood and local content need to knit together in the right mix to satisfy consumer demand. But limited space presents a challenge on top of getting the right film content combination. A malleable approach is essential to keeping on top of continual international industry changes and developments.

Film Scheduling

Often the primary problem is the lack of vision for, or awareness of, the scope of the project. Placemaking is not an overnight strategy and is certainly not a quick fix to any regeneration requirements, but needs to be thoroughly planned. If a local authority has a clear and exciting vision for a place of interest then we can help with the realisation of this but the more detailed the vision the better.

It’s important to note that the approach shouldn’t solely be based on cherry picking the best bits from another successful model. Copy and pasting a particular feature won't make it right for any location - there’s no guarantee of replicating the same success. It should be a promotion of strengths and best qualities, bringing them into focus and exploiting them so as to be an original celebration of what the area has to offer. Alternatively (or as well as) the rich heritage of the region, where relevant, can and should be used as a selling point.

Problems Arising From Placemaking

New audience growth is a vital to a thriving cinema business. Key to the success of this is the identification and development of new film and other onscreen content is key to attracting these much-coveted new audiences. Integrating a suitable event cinema programme and trialling a range of arthouse product, based on what type of audience you hope to attract are both effective ways of doing this.

Proper trialling of different content is crucial to ensuring a sound scheduling programme. This should include slotting in different types of content at different points in your schedule - one film showing at 10pm on a Tuesday evening does not equal a proper trial. Usually six to twelve months is necessary to give a type of film a chance to breathe, develop and face the audience. This all has to be part of a long term strategy, and a continually revised plan so that if/when films underperform this is as good a chance as any to learn what didn’t work and then adapt accordingly.

To build a loyal following of returned customers, audiences need to be confident that a cinema will show the kind of films they wish to see with plenty of availability to see it even after the opening night. Operators also need to build a similarly constructive relationship with the distributors they work with. The latter need to be confident that the former will support their films through effective marketing and a well-thought-out schedule in order to reach and build audiences.

Both film booking and scheduling will take shape as a result of earlier planning stages - and all strategic phases and areas of the business must be all on the same page for a cohesive business to work effectively. In broad terms, an initial brand positioning discussion will then lead to a marketing strategy. Taking into consideration the size of screens and audience type, this will then flow into a programming strategy.

We can advise on as much or as little as you require. TBP has vast experience in developing content strategies and growing audiences. Plus we have the connections to recommend and locate external third party services where necessary. Or alternatively we can recruit, train and develop relevant staff.

Content is King

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