“I think theatre must be an event, an experience, not compete with cinema. When
people are able to download stories on Netflix, you need to give them a good
reason to jump into the car and drive two hours. It has to be something you can only
see in the theatre, and it has to be worth it.”
-Robert Lepage
The advent of the pandemic changed our viewing and shopping habits overnight.
We got swept into a corner of binging on Netflix, traversing over zoom to have
uncomfortable, always strained conversations in an effort to keep some kind of
business activity going, and shopping on Amazon became the mainstay of getting
your essentials. But I am sure at first the lack of a need to commute, and just being
able to roll out of our beds into the comfort of our living rooms with a coffee in hand
to start work sounded rather utopian. That is until the novelty quickly wore off, and
we all realized that this Mr Coroni (aka COVID 19) was not going anywhere anytime
Leisure shopping and entertainment also went out, and that has been the case ever
since. But since the lockdown ensued, I am sure it gave a lot of us time to reflect on
different aspects of our lives, and how we were going to create a new path of
existence in the new world which was put upon us rather suddenly.
As far as the retail and cinema space, there has been a degree of complacency
that most brand-owners and retailers had, not taking into consideration all of the
disruptive legacies which were brewing in the background. First of these was the
massive paradigm shift toward the internet of things, people’s habits were changing
slowly, and retailers were not making enough drastic moves to change with the
times. Instead, they kept acquiring more commercial real-estate and expanding
vigorously. The writing was on the wall, and it has been for a while as some town
centres were beginning to feel the impact of this seismic shift to shopping online with
a lot of shops were closing due to a drop in footfall. The complete collapse of the
Arcadia Group wasn’t an accident; it was on the brink already pre-Covid.
Unfortunately, the pandemic pushed it over the precipice. More have followed
since then.
Yes, we have all adjusted to the sinking into the sofa, and watching endless episodes
of Bridgerton, but I am afraid it is not the same experience as being in a cinema.
Where should I start? The sound, the ability to fill your panoramic vision completely
with a high definition moving image with surround digital 7.1 sound. The sense of
connecting with other cinemagoers when there is that jaw-biting or cringe-worthy
moment that we all share. Almost a collective response like some kind of Mexican
wave. And I haven’t even mentioned the whole build-up of going to the cinema,
the smell of popcorn, and so on.
Retailers and Cinema owners need to win back customers with an altogether
alternative approach. I am afraid they are going to have to offer a little more than
fancy popcorn or some comfy seats. This is a massive opportunity to change the
status quo and to be ahead of the curve, in terms of going beyond people’s
I suggest the cinema experience should be offering a ‘place of destination’
tantamount to a day out in the city where there are bright lights, and lots to offer. It
should offer a hybrid of a lounge, meet come gastropub with a DJ in the
background, and cigar-bar where you go out to eat, drink, meet up with friends and
family. The cinema needs not to offer knee-jerk gimmicky 4DX kind of experiences
which put people off sometimes. The cinema needs to be a new urban square, a
place to meet in an amazing space conducive to being convivial without being
One thing is for sure, and it is not going to be business as usual. There needs to be a
seismic shift by the industry; otherwise, the consumer will not be convinced to go out
and might just keep renewing their Netflix subscription.
I am overwhelmingly optimistic about the future of retail, but only if we deconstruct
the already perceived notion of an experience, and we re-define it to fit the needs
of the new market post-pandemic.
This involves all stakeholders within the value-chain from developers, to brand
owners to retailers. They need to think of how they create lease agreements, and
maybe they should be shorter, and maybe retailers should have hybrid shops where
clothes shops are just exhibition spaces for people to feel fabrics, to see with their
eyes, and to order the items over a bowl of pasta as this will be delivered to their
homes. There will be no need for so many empty offices; consequently, we should
be converting them into homes which will disrupt the real estate prices in most cities
where there is an under-supply of homes. We should be pro-active, and not wait for
a tsunami of change of events that is already overwhelming the retail space. Whilst
in lockdown let’s get ready for the new normal!
Extract from How to build a cinema brand by
Prince Tikare,