Alternative content has long been a holy grail for exhibitors, with the potential to create new profit streams - which can even amount to as much as 19% of revenue.
And despite the fact that no solid market for alternative content - be it sporting events, rock concerts or other live events - has emerged in mainstream European circuits, the potential is still there to be exploited, delegates at Amsterdam's Cinema Expo were told.
'The alternative business is a growing one,' said Joost Bert, CEO of the Kinepolis Group, speaking at a seminar on alternative content and new revenue sources. 'Most of my colleagues make their money from the box office and food and beverages, but our alternative revenues [including alternative usage, such as corporate events], account for up to 19%.'
Sporting events are among the more successful forms of alternative content screened in cinemas, partly because they offer something different to films - they are live, and offer a collective experience to audiences.
'You have to figure out who you're going to attract in to what type of alternative content,' said Wendy Aylsworth, vice president technology, Warner Bros. Technical Operation. 'When you go to see a motion picture, you're expecting to get absorbed into that setting - the sound and the image is the focal point. In some of the other alternatives that's not what the whole experience is about - there's something else going on in the mind of that person and you have to cater for that. In a movie, you're going to be sitting quietly, getting absorbed in it. With alternative content, the experience is the focus.'
UK exhibitor UCI has been screening live World Cup soccer matches in some of its sites, charging from around Euros 15 up to Euros 60 for a corporate package. 'Given the fact that you can go to any pub or café in England and see the matches for free, it's quite an achievement that we've seen significant audiences,' said Gerald Buckle, project director of UCI UK.
'You need alternative content that people are willing to pay Euros 5 or more for,' said Kinepolis' Bert. 'And it has to be different and more than what you could get at home.'
According to Ivan Cheah, CEO and president of alternative content producer Arenaplex, different types of content have to show three things to be successful; marketability, availability, and playability. 'It has got to be no more difficult to obtain than booking a film,' he said. 'And it has to work.'