Cinema Strikes Back: The Rise of the Boutique


People say that cinema is dead, but it doesn’t seem that way within the walls of Red Bee.

As an agency born in entertainment, naturally we’re obsessed with cinema and film: from the constant stream of water-cooler conversations through to our recent Oscar ballot (of which the less I say about my performance the better). Our interests and opinions are most probably not the norm for the UK but cinemas still feature on nearly every high street and in the majority of shopping malls.  However, I don’t believe this is proof enough.
The UK cinema industry has had its ups and downs: from the post Second World War years, in which there were record ticket sales of 1.64 billion, through to the 1980s, when admissions slumped to just 54 million. In 2019 we saw 176 million ticket sales – slightly down from 177 million in 2018, which was the best attended year for cinema since 1970.
Objectively, film is the number one passion for adults in the UK, with 76% being regular cinemagoers. This rises to over 90% when you look solely at 16-24-year-olds. And, whilst attendance remains the same, ticket prices are increasing at a faster rate than inflation and the UK cinema industry keeps ticking along nicely.
But why are people still going to the cinema? The rise of streaming giants would seem to make this improbable. Is it because of the novel films? Or increased marketing budgets? Maybe it’s Hollywood rehashing old films as remakes and sequels? These could all be factors, but I believe that the UK’s boutique cinemas should put their hands up and be seen as the heroes.
Take, for example, Everyman Cinema. Founded in 2000 with just one site in Hampstead, they now have 34 sites across the UK and have their eyes set on 50 sites by 2025. There is high demand for experience in cinema and Everyman are leading the pack in this regard.
Everyman CEO, Crispin Lilly, believes that creating an experience around films has led to the exponential growth of the business. Their ethos is simple: they can’t control the film, but they can control everything that surrounds it – from food and drink, to seating, to service. You can go to an Everyman Cinema and watch a terrible film but you can still have a great time.
Everyman, Curzon and Picturehouse continue to push the boundaries of comfort, entertainment and service in cinema: from partnerships with top consumer brands to the broad range of films they offer. I could see mega-blockbuster Avengers: Endgame in Curzon Soho one day and go back the next to watch British indie flick The Souvenir, something that I would rarely be able to do in my local Cineworld.
This year The Academy snubbed American and British films for the first time to vote Parasite as Best Film at the Oscars. Curzon’s Artificial Eye has distribution rights for the film in the UK and it is set to be the biggest box office success of Curzon’s history, projected to surpass that of any instalment in the James Bond or Star Wars franchises.
I always say that you have to see an Everyman to understand why it’s so special, and maybe I am tooting their horn too much, but I genuinely believe this is the future of cinema. We need more experimental thinking and innovative ideas if cinema is to survive in the age of streaming and increased piracy. Cinemas need to add more to the experience and ensure that the cinemagoer is front of mind. This is where Everyman and Curzon have excelled.
Odeon have long noticed the increase in demand for experience and continue to invest millions of pounds in repurposing their cinemas into Odeon Luxes. They repurposed the Everyman model and have adopted it in their own way to maintain their market share. Cineworld went further by acquiring Picturehouse, much to the dismay of their employees on the ground at the time. 
With all this being said, Cineworld, Odeon and Vue continue to dominate individual market share with 24%, 22.5% and 19.9% respectively and Everyman only has 3% of the £1.3 billion UK cinema industry. But when you combine boutiques and independents you get a staggering 25.3% market share - 1.3% more than market-leaders, Cineworld.
Probably the best evidence for my reasoning is relative share price fluctuations over the past year. Cineworld’s share price has dipped over 13% from the start of 2019 whereas Everyman’s share price has increased nearly 20%. Investors too are seeing a correlation between experience and cinema.
Expect to see more boutique cinemas popping up on your local high street. Expect to see them opening in unlikely places, or taking over an old derelict cinema down the road. Expect a further resurgence in cinema with boutiques being the reason.
So, if anyone tells you cinema is dead, take them to an Everyman on a Friday evening and watch their jaw drop.
George David, Account Manager