Cinema Service Providers and Vendors Face Uncertainty During Prolonged Coronavirus Closure

By Claire Beswick | April 1, 2020 12:02 am PDT

It’s been a little over a week since the majority of the world’s cinema screens turned dark and despite an absence of customers, new releases and box office analysis, in many ways our sector has never been busier as it turns to new challenges and opportunities. Players from all sides are implementing contingency plans to engage with their customers and prepare themselves for the inevitable re-opening.

Much of what is being reported is centering on either cinemas themselves or film distribution and consequential release date moves or VOD strategies. But as we well know, this industry “takes a village” and there are countless key players who contribute equally to the cinema experience and the running of our sector. This is what some of the key companies and players are doing.

Comscore: Paul Degarabedian – Senior Media Analyst

Comscore can in many ways be seen as the heartbeat of our industry. It’s difficult to imagine an industry without box office reporting, but without box office to report on, where does this leave them?

The immediate impact of cinema closures has meant that they “have to be nimble and responsive to the new world that we are living in” but are committed to their partners in exhibition and distribution, “stand(ing) with them during this unprecedented and challenging situation”. They have obviously had to press pause on the traditional reporting of box office numbers, but with Comscore’s voluminous archive of data “we are able to supply historical data to provide a unique perspective and insights into the theatrical moviegoing experience”.

“We don’t know what the future holds and the situation is changing by the day, but once resolved people will have a huge appetite for those outside the home activities that have always been a part of our daily lives such as concert-going, attending sporting events, going to restaurants and bars and of course enjoying the communal and immersive experience of the cinema.  We all look forward to that day”.

Digital Cinema Media: Steve Davis – Exhibition Director

With cinema sites across the United Kingdom having temporarily closed their doors, DCM has also temporarily paused its advertising services until further notice. The biggest challenge for them, as for everyone, is not knowing how long this will be the case.

“We are providing advertisers with flexible opportunities, including the option of a full refund or to defer their budget to when cinemas reopen, with no penalties incurred. Even during these unprecedented times, we are committed to delivering for our customers and will go to every endeavour to do so.”

With clients both in the shape of cinemas and advertisers, measures need to be taken to address the needs of both.

“We very much hope that this is a short-term measure and will continue to service the industry at this time. [We are] turning our attention to virtual ways we can bring each other together to scope out business plans for the future, while also focusing on developing systems and tools to ensure we are fully operational and up-to-speed as soon as we can get back to business as usual.”

As a company, their proposition is that they are “Always Looking Forward” and this very much remains the case. “We are passionate about working collectively as an industry to step-forward together through these challenging times.”

Despite the uncertainty, Davis remains optimistic about the future. “These are unprecedented times and it’s hard to predict the impact this will have long-term. Our hopes for six months’ time are that cinemas will be open once again, following government advice. We have been overwhelmed by the support from our industry friends and their commitment to the cinema medium and expect brands to start investing again in cinema when the opportunity allows. We have no doubt that audiences will return to experience great movies on the big screen and cinemas will be busy once more. With the movement of big titles to Q4, such as Bond, we’d expect that cinema is well placed to finish the year strongly. We are confident our industry will bounce back from these difficult times.”

The Coca-Cola Company: Oliver Delaney – European Cinema Development Director

Coca-Cola plays a key part in the cinema going experience. A key challenge for food and beverage suppliers is to work with cinema operators with regards to stock levels and machinery, as well as planned promotions or product launches.

“The closures of all cinemas is a situation no one could have imagined a few months ago, but it’s here. It’s unparalleled in modern times, and we are working with our Cinema partners on managing the many implications to our shared retail businesses,” Delaney says.  “As we are now in the close down period, it’s about ensuring the beverage equipment is turned off and sanitised, reviewing stock on site, and postponing all activities we had planned for this period –  including the planned activation of Coke Zero Sugar and Bond.”

Delaney thinks the key to weathering this storm is collaboration, “In order to address this situation, [in] times of crisis its critical to work collectively. All of our teams who manage our relationships with our Cinema partners across Europe are in daily/hourly contact with their customers ensuring we are doing all we can together to weather this storm.  If ever there was a time for partnership, it is now.”


CinemaNext: Tim Potter – VP Sales

While cinemas in most territories are now completely dark, there are a few remaining countries with theatres still operating or allowing construction projects to continue thus requiring engineers out in the field (at the time of publication, these include Germany, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia). For hardware suppliers and engineers, business as usual must prevail here until told otherwise.

“Where possible, our engineering teams continue to operate as normal until local government action takes precedence. They are taking all precautionary measures necessary, utilising gloves and face masks where needed as well as relevant cleaning wipes to maintain their and our customers’ safety,” Potter explains. “Work schedules have been adapted, with a rotation of workshop-based activities to allow ongoing pre-build works – this minimises interaction between staff. We also continue to operate our International NOC facilities with remote homeworking. For countries where cinemas are closed, the NOCs and field engineering teams will be ready for when equipment is switched back on prior to cinemas reopening”.

Cinema equipment must be safely turned off during this down time and CinemaNext produced guides on how to do this. They are also using their time efficiently in providing refresher training sessions for the engineers currently not on site, all held via video conference.

With regards to the shipping of equipment and spares, “our supply chain teams are working in keeping with the required safety measures. They are also in regular contact with suppliers and carriers to anticipate any interruption to services,” says Potter. And for any operator worried about any immediate impact on availability once future restrictions are lifted: “we have parts stocks in our local country and central Belgium facilities.”

Like many working in the sector, Potter is also optimistic about the boom which we might see once restrictions are lifted.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. The majority of distributors understand the economic benefits of the theatrical window and are postponing their theatrical releases to later in the year,” he says. “Filmmakers such as Chris Nolan also want to ensure their content is seen in the format in which it was intended – on the big screen. Historically, the second half of the year is usually the strongest for the cinema industry. Combine that with an audience that will be raring to get out of their homes and be entertained, I am sure that we can get the box office back on track quickly. We as an industry will get through this together and come out the other side stronger.”

Claire Beswick