Cinemas must engage more with audiences outside of the theatres, according to the CEO of Digital Cinema Media.

Cinema is “going through a phase of resetting itself”, according to DCM CEO Simon Rees.

Speaking at the inaugural Cinema of the Future conference in London, Rees cautioned delegates that while the big screen experience remains robust, exhibitors need to address the way they interact with audiences in order to ensure continued growth in the sector, which is experiencing significant challenges in 2014.

“Cinema is going through a phase of resetting itself,” said the executive during a panel on the digital landscape. “It’s learning pretty quickly that it needs to reset itself in the eyes of its customers.

“The quality of the content is strong - the big screen experience is strong - but the key challenge is in cinemas’ relationships with their audiences.

“I’d argue that that relationship to a large extent isn’t inside the cinema. It’s about how cinema engages its audience through mobile and social media”.

Pearl and Dean CEO Kathryn Jacob echoed Rees’ sentiments, and cautioned that cinemas must offer greater value for time, not only money.

“We’re competing against online shopping, going to the football and all the other forms of entertainment,” she said. “If you’re going to ask people to spend three hours watching a film the experience needs to be amazing. It’s about value for time, not only value for money.”

Andrew Turner, UK and Ireland sales director at 20th Century Fox, speaking on the same panel, said that the cinemagoing experience relied on much more than just strong content: “It’s not just about the film. It’s the presentation, the staff, customer service, and more.  It’s the whole experience that needs to be judged.”

The executive acknowledged that while this year had seen a “mixed bag” in terms of film offering, “next year, on paper, does look like being one of the biggest ever”.

The inaugural Cinema of the Future exhibition conference, organised by the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, is takes place today at London’s O2.