A 10th Anniversary, Theatrical Smash Hits, and a K-Pop Takeover

By Helen Budge | February 10, 2023 4:19 am PST
ECA Slate Day 2023 was held at London's Empire Walthamstow cinema (photo credit: Grainne Clarke)

A full house attended the Empire Walthamstow, London, for the Event Cinema Association’s (ECA) annual slate day, now comfortably back in its January calendar position. Organised by ECA director, Grainne Clarke, one of the most notable things was the anticipated return to content pipeline normality in 2023 for the event cinema sector. Much like mainstream content that has shifted repeatedly over the last couple of years, the event cinema sector has had a similarly challenging time, with the pandemic putting paid to any release schedule consistency. And due to this, as well as significant landmarks like the ECA making it to the grand old age of 10, there was a palpable sense of positivity present throughout the day. 

Luke Williams from Comscore began proceedings with an overview of looking back at the 10 year journey of event cinema and where we are now, broken down by territory, with some interesting highlights – to name a couple, the interest in and success of genres such as K-pop and faith-based content. And, of course, the out-and-out success of theatrical screenings, with NT Live’s “Prima Facie” – the one no one’s quite sure how to pronounce – breaking the impressive record set by the same distributor’s “Fleabag” in 2019. 

The 10th anniversary was, of course, a key feature of the day, and, as such, founder & former Managing Director, Melissa Cogavin, was in attendance to give the keynote welcome speech in the morning. Cogavin’s keynote summarised her time in birthing and growing the ECA after a career “studio-side”, alongside getting around the various challenges she had to navigate, and one of her main highlights of unearthing a whole new supportive, exciting community. After achieving what she felt she needed and wanted to, Cogavin officially handed over the reins to Clarke in October 2018. 

The Big Hitters of the Next 10 Years

The first (and only) panel of the day, titled “The Evolution of Event Cinema: What Happens Next?” and chaired by Powster’s Michelle Stevens, was formed of panellists Caleb Johnstone-Cowan (Odeon, UK), Leo Jordan (NT Live, UK), Camilla Baier (Indy Cinema Group, UK) and Matthew DeVuono (Cineplex, Canada). The panel touched on their thoughts and experiences with the traditional event cinema model – the “one-night-only” approach – with Jordan saying NT Live’s preference was to give audiences more viewing choice, with DeVuono countering, saying he still found the exclusivity of this methodology “sexy”.

Tribute was paid to distributor Trafalgar Releasing and others, who, along with counterparts and peers in the industry, have demonstrated that hard work over the last few years can, and have, taken the event cinema genre from the release schedule periphery to peak cinema viewing times. This was nicely proven by the recent “Billie Eilish: Live at the O2”, screened in a primetime Friday evening slot in January. 

Travelling east around the globe, Japanese genre anime had a big presence during the panel – and throughout the whole day – after exhibitors have seen huge success with big hitter films over the last couple of years like “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” (global box office USD $196.4million), “One Piece Film: Red” (USD $246.5million) and “Demon Slayer” (USD $506.5million). 

And it wouldn’t be right for this writer – and also big fan – not to mention the global, frankly bonkers, success of K-pop boy band, BTS, in the event cinema arena. Their repeated success – their latest “BTS: Yet to Come in Cinemas” broke more global records – with live and pre-recorded concerts streamed to cinemas, shows the sheer dedication of their fanbase (“ARMY”) to boost the profile of the band around the world. Prior to the panel commencing, Stevens mentioned in a presentation a photo booth image generator developed by Powster, specifically for BTS fans in the run up to their cinema events – you can try it out here for yourself. I, of course, have.

An expectant audience watches the big screen at ECA Slate Day 2023 (photo credit: Grainne Clarke)

The Big 1-0

After a good selection of meaty slate presentations from a wide range of distributors and ending on a definite high with Trafalgar Releasing, came the awards section of the day, sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. But to celebrate the association reaching double figures, the awards were put together slightly differently this year, with several awards looking back over the last decade, having been voted for by members and colleagues in the industry in the run up to slate day.

Congratulations to all award winners, who were as follows:

  • Best Event Cinema Distributor: Piece of Magic Entertainment 
  • Best Exhibitor: Vue International 
  • Best Technical Supplier: Deluxe
  • Best Event Cinema Title of the Last 10 Years: NT Live’s “Fleabag” 

And the best performing pieces of content from 2022 were also recognised for their outstanding performances, altogether amassing a global box office of USD $263million:

  • Best Concert: “BTS – Permission to Dance on Stage” (USD $32.6M)
  • Best Theatre Play: National Theatre’s “Prima Facie” (USD $7.2M)
  • Best Ballet Performance: Royal Opera House’s “The Nutcracker” (USD $1.4M)
  • Best Anime: “One Piece Film: Red” (USD $219.1M)
  • Best Esports Title: League of Legends World Championship 2022 (USD $950k)
  • Highly Commended Event of 2022: “Indochine Central Tour in Cinema” (USD $2.3M)

So, with the awards handed out and the drinks drunk, 2023 is looking to be an event(cinema)ful year. We look forward to catching up about it in January 2024. 

Helen Budge