This post is part of CJ’s Top Women In Global Cinema 2021 – Redux.
How have your role, position and responsibilities changed since you were first nominated for Top Women in Cinema?
I had the honor of being nominated for the 2019 Top Women in Cinema. Since this time, so much has changed due to the unprecedented experience of the pandemic that impacted us all personally and professionally. I spent the months prior to COVID-19 with a totally different marketing plan and, like so many others, had to completely pivot and reprioritize focus.
The shift with theatre closures that happened in mid-March 2020 was also unprecedented for our industry. A lot of the shift went to rethinking how Spotlight can provide premium video opportunities for our clients to continue engaging with film enthusiasts. Less than a month after theatres were closed, we launched an ad supported, movie-centric streaming channel, CineLife, with our sister company, Magnolia Pictures, and two other initiatives, a drive-in network and consumer entertainment platform.
I will also say there are two things that have remained since being nominated: every day is different at Spotlight, and it is a constant adventure! And I still love the people I work with! There is a genuine spirit of cooperation and shared goals—all revolving around helping our partners in exhibition and advertising – that I have not found at other corporations. It was, and continues to be, amazing to experience the camaraderie while all working remotely.
How did COVID affect you and your business personally?
COVID-19 hit the cinema advertising industry hard. As Bette Davis shared in “All About Eve”: “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Well, we have had them fastened for the past 15 months! Even though the road has been bumpy, I’m happy to share that Spotlight is emerging with a few key accomplishments post-COVID-19:
- Newly developed consumer entertainment platform, CineLife, which provides a portfolio of viewing options for moviegoers to connect with quality content and independent film wherever they are on view. Options include in-theatre pre-show, streaming, event cinema, online and app.
- Expanded media portfolio for our advertising partners to reach and engage with moviegoers. Options include in-theatre pre-show and vertical networks: outdoor and premium streaming Advertising-Based Video on Demand (AVOD).
- Our event cinema division, CineLife Entertainment, provided much needed content to exhibitors as their theatres reopened across the U.S. Highlights include the release of John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” which reached over 1,000 screens across the U.S. and Canada during the fall 2020. 2021 includes releases of the critically acclaimed, “Chicago: America’s Hidden War” and “Sopranos Sessions: A Special Theatrical Triple Feature” and fan favorite, John Carpenter’s “Halloween.”
- Enhanced proprietary digital distribution technology to include media and content delivery without use of servers, installation costs and thumb drive shipments
How did your role, position and responsibilities change (if at all) during the pandemic? Can you tell us a little bit about what your days were like and what you were doing over the past year?
The speed with which COVID-19 hit literally stopped everyone in their tracks and its effects on families and daily life led to a deep sense of fear, anxiety, and confusion. While adjusting to these effects, my role at Spotlight intensified tenfold. I quickly needed to develop a proactive plan to effectively work remotely and keep Spotlight top-of-mind while reflecting on-the-ground realities. Some steps taken include:
- Leveraged the benefits of Microsoft Teams and Zoom for internal and external communications
- Created proactive messages and newsletters to distribute via email to our exhibition and advertising partners
- Ramped up digital offerings for our advertising partners with the launch of: (1) A premium streaming AVOD channel, CineLife, with our sister company, Magnolia Pictures (2) Drive-in network (3) The CineLife Pre-show
- Introduced a consumer entertainment platform, CineLife, which provides a portfolio of viewing options for moviegoers to connect with quality content and independent film wherever they are on view. Viewing options include new website, rebranded in-theatre pre-show, on demand and linear AVOD and enhanced mobile app
- Implemented an organic social media strategy to promote CineLife
- Enhanced our proprietary digital distribution technology (Media Director) to include media and content delivery without use of servers, installation costs and thumb drive shipments for exhibition
I expect my role to continue to change as a consequence of the pandemic with more time devoted to strengthening market positioning, data, learning and development as priorities change.
Do you think COVID will change the cinema business? If so, how?
Yes, I expect some change as a consequence of the pandemic. Everyone and everything has already changed. While the dust hasn’t settled yet on what the new normal will be, I believe moviegoing remains a magical experience and cinema will rebound as it emerges from COVID-19. It is encouraging to see how well films, such as “A Quiet Place Part II”, are doing at the box office!
How do you believe the cinema industry can recover once audiences are able to visit movie theatres again?
The cinema industry is resilient. Post-COVID, all are aligned within the industry to move forward – a plethora of content scheduled for release, consumer promotions and most importantly, community support of local movie theatres. It was awe-inspiring to see how our exhibitor partners quickly refocused and communicated continuously with their loyal moviegoers during the pandemic. When theatres began to re-open, moviegoers were bringing gifts to theatre staff. They could not wait to be back!
What do you like most about working in the cinema industry? What is one of your fondest memories?
A few top ‘most likes’ include continuous learning and growth. In-theater marketing will continue to change as new technologies and offerings hit the marketplace and Spotlight’s evolution will continue. We have grown significantly during the past nine years, and I expect nothing less for the coming years.
It has been a great adventure contributing to the progress of Spotlight over the years. Significant exhibitor revenue generating opportunities and advanced digital offerings include preshow and long-form content development, experiential marketing, on demand and linear AVOD and event cinema. I look forward to taking our affiliations to the next level and expanding our offerings and presence even further.
- Previous Entry: Beth Cretors and Shelly Olesen – C. Cretors and Company
- Next Entry: Helena Eklund – Commercial Director Northern Europe, Odeon Cinemas Group
- Complete List: CJ’s Top Women In Cinema Post
- CJ’s Top Women In Global Cinema Redux – 2021 - September 30, 2021
- TWIC 2021: Suzie Welch – Chief People Officer, Odeon Cinemas Group - September 30, 2021
- TWIC 2021: Carol Welch – Managing Director UK, Ireland & Commercial Officer OCG Europe, Odeon Cinemas Group - September 30, 2021