Non-film programming such as opera and ballet increasingly are being shown on movie screens in Europe and around the world, rapidly driving a lively market for so-called alternative content or event cinema (EC), according to an IHS Screen Digest cinema intelligence report from information and analytics provider IHS.
Across Europe, opera was the genre most heavily dominant on cinema screens in 2012, averaging 36.7 percent of all event cinema performances in a sample covering eight countries. At its peak, opera made up 56.9 percent of the shows in Russia, while at its lowest accounted for 24.0 percent in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, ballet represented 13.0 percent as an average in all countries, and was especially strong in France at 24.0 percent.
At the other end of the cultural continuum, popular music took an average of 11.3 percent, peaking at 17.1 percent for the Dutch market. Classical music, in comparison, is far less prevalent, making up only 5.0 percent across all territories. Theatre as a genre is hit-or-miss at the moment with an average of 7.0 percent of events across Europe, but not available at all in two of the eight countries covered.
The United Kingdom was the most advanced event cinema market in Europe, with 131 shows screened in U.K. cinemas last year, up from 109 events in 2011; estimated gross revenue for the events amounted in 2012 to £12.5 million (about $19.1 million). After the U.K., the Netherlands was the next most active European market with 129 events, and then Ireland with 87. Other European markets within the sample included France, Russia, Germany/Austria and Sweden, each with more than 35 screened events in 2012. All told, the data is the first presented for a range of European countries outside of the U.K.
Including Europe, event cinema is now available in well over 50 countries globally, present also in such countries like the United States, Japan, Israel and Mexico.
The market for non-film content in cinema has developed as the digitization of cinemas has progressed. Globally 78 percent of screens are now digitized, and digital cinema projectors are able to show a wide range of content previously not possible with the 35-millimeter format. The new market aims to help fill cinemas in off-peak times and make the business model more efficient, IHS Screen Digest believes.
Big cultural brands such as the Metropolitan Opera of New York, Russia's Bolshoi Ballet and the UK's Royal Opera House still tend to drive content for the event cinema space, but the type of content and the institutions interested in this particular revenue window are expanding.
For example, a new type of event will appear in cinemas in June this year, with the British Museum coordinating a show on the ancient city of Pompeii and its destruction, to be screened live into a planned 250 movie theaters. And in another sign that the sector is maturing, the market now even has its own trade body in the form of the Event Cinema Association, a forum for discussion and a lobbyist for issues unique to the event cinema industry.
The highest-grossing event cinema show in Europe to date is a concert by French comedienne Florence Foresti, which attracted 87,000 visitors and grossed EUR1.2 million.
Live events are in the minority in most markets compared to recorded-live in Russia takes up only 20.0 percent-compared to the growing number year-on-year for recorded in many places.
Nonetheless, a business model seems to exist for both types. Live events fit into the whole notion of an "event," a one-off special driven by scarcity and a shared temporal experience. On the other hand, the motivation and business model for recorded is fueled more by cinema exhibitors and the flexibility of programming that digital allows.
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