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Why Cinema & Leisure Development?

If you are thinking of building or redeveloping, from a mall to a high street, a cinema can be a catalyst to change, bringing entertainment, footfall and serving the community. However it is no longer possible to simply add a cinema and expect results. Customers want a variety of leisure entertainment so whilst cinema can still be part of that there is more to consider now. The UK’s high streets and malls are undergoing a significant period of change, accelerated by the advent of COVID 19. Localisation means people want more local services. The retail sector is under pressure and the F&B sector is reinventing itself.

Cinemas are changing too. The days of building a large multiplex box that will attract a number of F&B operators are over. Whilst it is still key to develop and select the right type of cinema for each market, the footprint is shrinking enabling other leisure activities to fit into the space previously required just for cinema.

Our expertise is in carrying out market studies, analysing the feasibility, or viability, for a cinema and leisure, in order to inform you of the best offer mix for your scheme. We will create a credible business plan so you can make the right, informed decision.

The two major factors that drive the development of cinema sites, both in the UK and globally, are commercial advantage and community interests. Over the last decade or so, a lot of cinema development has been spurred on in a commercial sense by shopping centre owners, and in a community sense by local authorities. Each stakeholder often shares the common goal of wanting to transform the fundamental dynamics of their local area or shopping centre asset, with a particular focus on the evening economies.

Town centre’s can, in many cases, become empty and unsafe after shopping hours, preventing locals from wanting to spend time there without a family-friendly leisure activity. This is, quite demonstrably, a lost opportunity, especially where there is a solid case for the addition of a cinema and the surrounding business it can attract.

In large part, the dynamic that drove the commercial angle of a flourishing local economy used to rely on a variety of restaurants to attract customers. Nowadays this approach is coming under renewed consideration, as many of the bigger restaurant chains have failed through

overdevelopment and mediocre offers. The scramble by many of these restaurant groups to inhabit a prime location, and their enthusiasm to pay ever-increasing rents, is now fading. However, there is an emerging market of restaurant companies that are still doing well and growing in this climate.


The appetite of consumers for quality out-of-home dining is still very much alive, that hasn’t changed. But the rents of the last five years were unrealistic - and still are to this day. Instead, food halls such as Altrincham Market (Manchester, UK) and Box Parks (various locations in London) along with innovative restaurant brands, council initiatives and community needs are becoming the new forces to be reckoned with in this area. With the right approach and focus the hospitality trade is still the perfect partner for a cinema development.

As a shopping centre owner, cinema and leisure development is a particularly desirable addition to your business. The presence of both can bring an 18-hour vibrancy to a centre, increases overall footfall and dwell time in your mall. This leads to further spend in surrounding retail units and food and beverage (F&B) destinations.

At The Big Picture, we’ve worked with multiple local authorities in their quest to develop a cinema and leisure offers. While it’s true that a cinema and leisure can attract more footfall and encourage people to spend more time in a shopping centre, it also does the same for a town centre. A local community can share a sense of society and unity if there is a common space to spend time in with a positive, vibrant atmosphere.

Shopping Centres - Commercial Needs

The current emerging markets are now predominantly in the MENA region (Middle East and Northern Africa). In these new markets, where often leisure, mainly family based, is already established, cinema developers are catering to the new desire for a vibrant cinema-going culture. But development in this instance is often dictated by ticket price. Of the emerging markets, there are two clear subsets: the “budget” market and the “premium” market.

Local Authorities - Community Interests

Two examples of the “budget” market are Indonesia and Northern Africa. Development here is dictated by a lower ticket price - around USD $5 - and means that the developers and subsequent operators will be looking at a more streamlined operation, resulting in the use of more basic cinema technology.

Emerging Cinema Markets

On the converse side, an example of a “premium” market is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After a 35 year ban on cinema in the Kingdom ended, operators flooded the market to try and obtain one of the few highly coveted operating licenses that were up for grabs. The development of cinemas in this region is fiercely competitive and popular for two reasons. One is due to the late arrival of this market to the global stage and the big opportunity it presents to some of the best operators in the world (who then implement the best in technology and design). And number two is down to the affluence of the population - a higher disposable income means a higher ticket price of around USD $10-15 that customers can easily afford.

The Budget Market

Cinema development is always driven by the right location. As we touched on earlier, the heart of cinema development is often to regenerate an empty, unattractive town centre, transforming it into an atmospheric "place to be". And without a suitable site (suitable being the operative word), the business case will be a non-starter.

The Premium Market

Once a potential location is identified, TBP carry out a detailed feasibility study to thoroughly analyse and confirm if the site is right before investment is made into the project and development begins. As the developer, you need to know how much scope the site has for reinvention and how you can make it into a place people want to be - hence the term ‘placemaking’.

Cinema Development - Placemaking

The main problems you’ll face as a cinema and/or leisure developer usually fall into two categories. One is how economically viable your proposed site is. Number two is obtaining the required planning permission you’ll need.

Proving economic viability is done through the meticulous due diligence that we carry out, through our methodology that we’ve refined over years of experience. We can provide this for you, so that you have a full armoury of evidence when it comes to putting forward your development case.

We have previously assisted many companies with demonstrating that a particular cinema site is viable. But we’ve provided carefully quantified specifics too, on which type of cinema would be right for the area, how many screens would be appropriate and what the capacity could or should be.

An additional consideration is that if a particularly desirable location already has a cinema, that shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to the case for a new cinema model because we’re also particularly adept at attacking (or defending) an existing site.

What are the Problems with Cinema Development?

Our expertise lies within the detailed analyses and SWOT testing (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) that we carry out in order to support your business case for a potential cinema development. When we’ve gathered our information, we’ll advise you on the best approach to moving forward and if you face any risks or problems.

In addition to advising on the business dynamics of cinema development, TBP will create for you and/or your agents a comprehensive business plan. This will contain the insightful intelligence you need to negotiate a long term lease position.

To clarify: we are not agents and we don’t directly approach operators on your behalf. But our knowledge and experience mean we can thoroughly prepare you and your agent before you take the next steps. Our studies will be unique to your case and unbiased towards any particular operator.

There are, of course, times when after carrying out our analyses, a business case for a cinema may not make financial or developmental sense. In this instance we will honestly and openly advise you on the best course of action.

How TBP can Help with Cinema Development

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