Secret Cinema is a truly unforgettable experience where you can experience Middle America in the 50s or heaven forbid; a planet far far away. But what can film distributors large and small learn from the zeitgeist our friends in Secret Cinema built?

Let’s forget the glitzy productions, the immersive experiences and the £67 tickets. These are not possible at scale. However, I wager a bet it is possible to build as much anticipation for a regular film releases without getting dressed up in wacky outfits and leaving our inhibitions at the door. After all, the film you are releasing offers something Secret Cinema cannot do for it’s biggest productions…what is that, you ask?…show a film for the first time in all its glory.

You have a film no one has seen and a story yet to be told. How can we include fans in your immersive experience so they feel they are part of it…not just watching it?

Here are some simple lessons we can take from Secret Cinema.

Build Anticipation
When a film grabs the public’s or a select audience’s attention, the media gets in a tizzy – blogs light up and people speculate on who will be cast, what angle the film will take, how will the director interpret the story. This early anticipation is the start of something beautiful. You need to capture it and cultivate it to whip the tizzy into a frenzy upon the film’s release.

There are lots of moments which can build the anticipation and can be shared with fans. like you are all co-creators. Simple moments like ‘Behind the Scenes’ footage, cast interviews and fights-on-set help engage us and bind us to the film long before its release date.

Don’t do overkill but map out moments to build the anticipation and engage your fans’ imaginations.

Build an Audience early
Nobody builds their database of potential customers better than Secret Cinema. People sign up for information out of season and buy tickets without knowing the film.

As it’s part art, part theatre, part folly, they go for a wide appeal. You don’t have to do that. You just have to hone your appeal to your potential audience.

The key here is creating a home for your film and encouraging people to sign up for updates. Even if people don’t sign up but visit the site for updates, you can still connect with them when the film comes out through retargeting technologies like Facebook Pixel and Interest-based Advertising.

This is all gold for when your film goes on sale and you can focus your marketing efforts on converting this audience to buy tickets.

Engage the Audience
So you have now built an audience, big or small, your duty is now to cultivate and engage them. The more engaged, the higher the likelihood of buying tickets for the film, and consequentially, sharing their love for the title with friends.
For the Moulin Rouge, Secret Cinema gave every purchaser a character based on their ticket price. The lowest tier were Children of the Underworld, then Children of the Revolution and if you were feeling flush, you were an Aristocrat. Your character was a real character from the 1890s and you were expected to dress up accordingly as a butcher, rebel or high falutin’ type. This smacks of engagement and is a simple hook to buy people into the experience.

Now forget the costumes and dress up, most films can engage audiences with similar backstories, titbits or lesser discussed topics of the film. Whether your story is about a real life moment such as Dunkirk, an action film like Fast 8, or pure fantasy like Wonder Woman…you can drop fascinating stories about people who fought in the war, power cars through the ages, or powerful heroines to your fans.

Whatever the title, you or the filmmakers will have discovered so many things in pre-production which can be shared during post production to build engagement. Only you have this knowledge, and you don’t know how powerful and interesting it is.

Re-imagine Relationships
Secret Cinema re-defined the fan relationship with their immersive experiences. They allow people to delve into a world physically, mentally and spiritually. For Secret Cinema, the relationship with customers never stops. Fans come back every year and they see relationships nearly as life-time partnerships of discovery.

Whether you distribute blockbusters, documentaries, family films, live events or foreign language films; you are bringing your audiences on a voyage of discovery. You can take them from one story to the next…with data. The bigger the audience you build and the more you know about them, the more you can segment the audience based on their tastes. Heaven forbid, you might even select films to distribute based on the data you have gathered on your established audience.

Deepen Relationships
Secret Cinema can build deep relationships as they are very much responsible for the ticketing process. They know who buys tickets, for what types of shows and this data allows them to strengthen relationships with their fans and segment audiences to cater for taste.

For distributors to do likewise they need to collect more data and with the help of the likes of usheru, perhaps even manage their own cinema ticketing process. Say you have a family film and you know someone buys family tickets. You could offer them merchandise discounts for retail partners. The consumers relationship with the film gets copper fastened when they see the film in cinema, but you can grow the relationship long after the film leaves the cinema. If the film is a franchise, you have a unique opportunity to take someone on a 3 or 10 year journey and you should plan as such for the long-term.

Surprise the Audience
It may be in their name but the very essence of Secret Cinema is in the ‘not knowing’. They build hype by keeping people guessing. We are not suggesting you don’t let your audience know the name of your next film but you can surprise them in other ways.

Give your super fans first access to buy tickets. Run ‘money can’t buy’ competitions for early ticket purchasers like premiere tickets or a chance to interview the stars. Merchandise and swag is gold too. Run a select number of preview screenings for people who joined the journey early. They will no doubt shout from the roof tops and add a viral impact to your marketing campaigns. Offer them some incentive to see your next film. Basically show the love and share the love with random acts of kindness and surprise.

So how can usheru help?
This is not a sales pitch but just so you know, our focus is on providing technology which helps you build a database of audience preferences so you can maximise sales during the lifecycle of a film.

To do this, we develop beautiful and immersive promotional mobile-first websites to be launched the second the film is announced. During the lifecycle of the film, use it to drop trailers, surprises and fun film news. We help you gather emails and film preferences. Every visit to the site counts as marketing credit as you can retarget visitors once the film goes on sale.

We are the first company in Europe which connects to the cinema box office systems which enables distributors to sell tickets directly to consumers. This allows you to build conversion metrics for all marketing campaigns to see what actually leads to ticket sales. You can optimise campaigns to focus on what delivers the best results which saves you a lot of marketing money and also helps you maximise ticket sales for any given marketing budget. With this, you can control your costs and ultimately become more profitable with each film.

The database of ticket purchasers you gather is your most valuable asset. Bring these guys on a longer journey of discovery where you can constantly delight and surprise your growing audience of fans.

To find out more check out our website how we are helping Universal or contact me at ollie@usheru.com to see how we can support you.

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