As the Northern Hemisphere of planet earth burns to a crisp amid what seem to be endless record setting heat waves, I am reminded of a focus session during last month’s CineEurope. On a panel titled “A Cinema Experience for All Audiences” Dorothy Smith, the Managing Director of Zeffirellis, an independent cinema in Ambleside, England, stated that she really likes when it rains because more people come to her theatre. Smith said this quite a few times during the session, to a point where it became a running moment of levity every time she mentioned her desire for foul weather.
However, in the midst of a blistering summer it is worth noting that movie theatres can also be beneficiaries without any precipitation. Remember it was movie theatres that helped introduce air conditioning to the masses back in the early Twentieth Century. There is some debate over which cinema was first to deploy any form of air conditioning, though many believe it to be the New Empire Theater in Alabama during 1917. At that time cinemas were abandoned during the sweltering summer months, too hot for patrons to sit inside.
This is one reason why the Rivoli Theater in New York City approached Willis Carrier to install one of his company’s newfangled air conditioning units. Audiences showed up en masse to watch movies in a cool environment. Carrier is now considered the father of modern air conditioning. After cinemas around the country followed the Rivoli’s lead and adopt the new technology, the summer blockbuster season was soon born.
For decades cinema owners would advertise their theatres air conditioning on marquees and newspapers as an amenity, the same way operators now market Dolby Atmos, reclining chairs or premium large formats. These days patrons assume most modern movie theatres will have air conditioning.
Yet, as thermometers begin to top out and residential air conditioners struggle to keep up with the unusually hot weather amid global energy crisis, it might be worth reminding audiences that relief can be found at their nearest cinema.
Showcase Cinemas in the United Kingdom employed a similar marketing tactic on the hottest days of the year, giving away free tickets to redheads, a group genetically proven to be more at risk for skin cancer. There’s been no word from the chain on whether the ploy was successful in attracting throngs of carrot tops, but it certainly managed to generate a lot of international press attention.
While this hot advice may apply mostly to cinema operators above the equator for the next couple of months, we also have a hopeful message, if not marketing guidance, for those in the Southern Hemisphere where rainy seasons might be dominating the weather forecast. It comes fresh from Dorothy Smith herself.
I recently connected with her on LinkedIn so that I could advise her I would be referencing some of her comments on the panel, without mentioning any specific quotes. Her unprompted response? “Happy for you to include. Having a good week this week. It’s been raining!”
Discover how Nope extends beyond the conventional horror genre
Watch director Jordan Peele discuss how the precision of Dolby audio and visual technologies allowed him to execute anything he wanted to have happen in the story.
Celluloid Junkie is the leading online resource dedicated to the global film and cinema business. The Marquee is our newsletter focused on motion picture exhibition; keeping industry professionals informed of important news, the latest trends and insightful analysis