In retrospect, 2017 has been a disruptive year for the entertainment industry. There have been important technological and service advancements that will change the way cinemas operate, as well as different business models challenging the current status quo of movie theaters.
This summer, theater-goers at Lotte Cinema World Tower in Korea have been able to enjoy the captivating and vibrant viewing experience of the first ever commercial cinema LED screen designed, developed, and installed by Samsung Electronics. Thanks to collaboration with HARMAN Professional Solutions and Samsung Audio Labs, the experience also offers true-to-life audio based upon recent reports from the Samsung Newsroom. Specifications are impressive with the screen width of nearly 34ft and resolution of 4,096 x 2,160 and brightness reportedly ten times greater than standard projector technologies for greater flexibility in varied lighting conditions and use.
Started in 2011, the cinema subscription service MoviePass allowed movie-goers to subscribe to purchase a single movie ticket per day for a flat subscription fee of up to $50 per month for unlimited plans. Beginning August 2017, subscription plans shifted significantly to a modest $9.95 per month to see up to one movie per day, all month long in over 4K theaters nationwide.
The low monthly fee is so attractive that over 150K membership debit cards have been issued and that number is trending upward for good reasons. Conceptually, selling movie tickets via the internet and through mobile apps isn't new, the newer concept of movie theater subscription is eliciting both excitement from cinemagoers and anxiety from theater owner-operators and large chain cinemas as well. This paradigm shift towards a “Netflix” model for movie theaters is re-thinking the way the industry operates.
There is a lot of discussion attempting to understand the financial viability of this business model. The subscription strategy has proven its effectiveness in a wide range of industries like games, home entertainment, loot boxes, personal hygiene, and many others. If successful, this new business model for movie theaters could revolutionize the day to day operations as other services and maintenance could also adopt the same model to be aligned with the revenue stream.
Industry complexities brought on by movie streaming services, as well as piracy and movie theft, evolving studio relationships, and international investments, prompted several of the world's major cinema operators to join an industry group launched this June known as the Global Cinema Federation (GCF).
Founding members of the GCF include major exhibitor chains such as AMC, Cinemark, Cineplex, Cinepolis, Cineworld, CJ-CGV, Event Cinemas, Les Cinemas Gaumont Pathe, Regal Entertainment Group, Vue International, and Wanda Cinemas. Founding trade organizations and trade bodies include NATO and UNIC.
Membership in the GCF is open to exhibitors with more than 250 screens and other national trade bodies. The organization's first meeting was at CineEurope last month and again during CineAsia the second week of December. The next GCF meeting is April 2018 and will be held during CinemaCon at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The meetings will address a variety of priorities facing the industry today.
Innovations in technology and services during 2017 have opened the door to improved audience experience and introduced the possibility of unintended consequences that could challenge the cinema industry well into 2018 and beyond.