Report Sheds Light on Bigscreen Alternative Programming

ECA data explodes myth that stand-up comedy doesn't work

LONDON — The business of alternative programming in theaters, or event cinema, has long been hampered by a lack of data.

That’s about to change next week, when the Event Cinema Assn. and IHS Screen Digest unveil a report at CinemaCon in Vegas.

Authored by David Hancock, Screen Digest’s senior principal analyst of film and cinema, the report will bring statistics from the U.K./Ireland, France, Germany, Russia, Netherlands, Austria and Sweden.

The report will show that common myths, such as the often cited opinion that stand-up comedy doesn’t work for alternative programming, aren’t necessarily true. The most successful European event so far was a live broadcast last Sept. 23 of French comedienne Florence Foresti’s final performance of her “Foresti Party Bercy” show. The Pathe Live event sold 87,000 tickets at more than 120 venues across France, Belgium and Switzerland, grossing €870,000 ($1.14 million) from the single performance.

Besides known successful areas such as opera, the report will look at how different genres travel cross-borders as well as work in individual markets, enabling distributors to tailor their programming; the impact of 3D on the sector, reportedly waning; and unique territory traits that may offer avenues for other markets, such as the success of TV events in the Netherlands, which account for 23% of all event cinema programming.

The Event Cinema Assn. was set up last fall as a pan-European non-profit industry trade body, to address the problems facing the sector and provide a unifying voice. Chair Melissa Keeping stated at the ECA’s launch on Sept. 7 that the primary goals were to increase public awareness and engagement with live cinema events — something it has started to do with its quarterly trailer reels that play in theaters across Europe — and to provide quantifiable data, to replace anecdote and rumor.

As producers, content providers, distributors and exhibitors around the world look for entry paths into this rapidly emerging market many have either been put off or found financial backers unwilling to commit due to a lack of verifiable data.

“One of the key missions in setting up the ECA was providing the industry with clear and current data,” said Keeping. “This is a real milestone for the ECA as much as the industry, and European exhibition and distribution will certainly benefit.”

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