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8 Alternative Programming Ideas to Keep the Revenue Flowing at Your Cinema


Image with text 8 Alternative Programming Ideas To Keep Revenue Flowing At Your Cinema


Cinemas have evolved in recent years to become much more than movie hubs for the latest blockbuster. Different programming like event cinema, cultural activations, educational opportunities, etc. have become mainstays for cinemas to stay relevant and engage their communities. Start ingratiating your cinema in your surrounding area through research + experimentation. 


Does your area include a lot of people interested in Bollywood & Tollywood films? Are there a lot of millennials that crave premium experiences? Or, do you have a crowd that loves Opera? Once you’ve determined your target crowd, you can experiment with different programming until you find what really resonates with your intended crowd. Check out our list of alternative programming ideas to bring in new patrons and keep the revenue flowing at your cinema.


1. Event Cinema


photo of Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer and Margot Robbie as Barbie in front of an explosion
Justine Goode | NBC News | Universal | WB

With new concert movies, Barbenheimer, and anime movies, moviegoers want more unique experiences at the cinema. Babenheimer, the epic premiere date of both Barbie and Oppenheimer, led to a cultural phenomenon that benefitted cinemas, studios, and moviegoers alike. The online nickname led to an epic one-day must-see event with many cinemas creating costume contests, signature cocktails, and fun trivia games.


Now, Barbenheimer may have been a once in a lifetime opportunity, but you can create your own local event cinema experience.  Host a large party for Beetlejuice Beetlejuice by encouraging fans to wear their best black and white striped outfits. Or, host your own Fly Me To The Moon kids camp with skills for kids to master to become an astronaut (ex. Saturn ring toss, space trivia, alien bowling, galaxy dance party). Although there might not be viral buzz around these films yet, create your own hype by marketing through local outlets, social media, and word of mouth!



2. Film Festivals


a group of people sitting in seats at a cinema
Backstage

We’ve all heard of the Cannes, Tribeca, South by Southwest, and Sundance film festivals with the newest independent & blockbusters showing and competing for studio distribution. Your most loyal moviegoers are always looking for new films and nostalgia classics. Your cinema can create your own local film festival. Find young filmmakers and allow them to premiere their short films with an opportunity for a Q&A after the showing. 


Not many filmmakers in your area? No problem! Create your own nostalgia film festival or kids series! According to a 2022 study by The Cinema Foundation and The Quorum,  60% of respondents, which included active moviegoers and non-active moviegoers, were interested in repertory films from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Create your own ‘80s horror film festival in Sept + Oct to screen the classics and some lesser known titles. Or, screen your own ‘70s Western film festival for audiences to see John Wayne epics and laugh at Blazing Saddles! If you want to encourage more families into your cinema, create a kids film festival. Screen family friendly titles from the past few years or classic kids films to evoke nostalgia amongst parents and introduce new fun films to today’s kiddos. Create a punch card for each film & every kiddo that sees every film in the series wins a free ticket or discounted kids concessions combo.



3. Corporate Buyouts


red movie theater seats with a laptop on one showing a man
Inc | Getty Images

Surrounded by large companies? Near a convention center or business heavy area? Use this to your advantage! Market your cinema for corporate buyouts for team building events, holiday parties, or large business meetings. Lean into your marketing team to create materials to boast about your projectors for presentations, special group concessions, and cinema buyout pricing. 


Utilize your space effectively! Upgrade your party rooms for business meetings with video/audio conferencing capabilities. Or, promote your party rooms for family & kids birthday parties. Create custom private label party kits to enhance the experience and offer special group concessions deals. Need help with party kits? Email us at hello@onnicreative.xyz to start the conversation.



4. Concert Films


Beyonce standing to the left of Taylor Swift
Salon | Getty Images

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour & Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé killed it in 2023! Both in the top ten of highest grossing concert films of all time, created an experience for fans that didn’t have the opportunity to see either tour in-person. Swifties traded homemade + cinema provided friendship bracelets and the Beyhive paid for premium concessions + promotional items for souvenirs.


There are so many concert films releasing that resonate with audiences. Do you research and find what resonates with your community. Are there a ton of kpop fans in your area? Trafalgar Releasing is at the forefront of concert films for over about a decade. They recently distributed Suga: August D Tour D-Day the Movie, which showcased Suga of BTS’s recent solo tour. This concert film grossed almost $1M in its opening weekend alone! Don’t forget the collectible titled concessions that fans were eager to purchase to enjoy the concert!



5. Premium Dining


two men sitting on lounge chairs with burgers, pizza popcorn fries, and an assortment of other foods on a round table between them.
The Box Office Company

Moviegoers love popcorn + a soda to cement the moviegoing experience.  But, moviegoers are now expecting more premium dining, cocktails, and concessions with their films. Start upgrading your menus with unique cocktails, fusion concessions, and premium desserts. Plan your strategy throughout the rest of 2024 with exciting film themed cocktails like “The Horizon Hurricane” or the “Beetlejuice Sour.” Create a premium dining experience where moviegoers can have dinner while enjoying the latest film.




6. Live Events


A man on stage with a microphone in his hand. To his left are the mic stand and a stool with a bottle of water ontop. In the background are event seating.
Getty Images | Ringer Illustration

Does your cinema have the capacity to host live events? Your cinema has the opportunity to host different events like comedy shows or concerts! Some cinemas have a built-in stage with their screens. Use this stage to invite local comedians or regionally popular bands into your space. Work with the acts to leverage their networks to sell tickets! Schedule for nights that are typically slower for your cinema to up revenue for those evenings. Be sure to offer pre-show drinks and concessions for the hungry audience.


Remember, pre-promotion for successful events is key! Allow yourself enough time for a full marketing and press push via local outlets, social media, and email marketing!



7. Nostalgia



Frodo Baggins holding a ring arm's length from his face
Fathom | WB

Per The Cinema Foundation + The Quorum study mentioned above, active & inactive moviegoers are interested in repertory screenings of nostalgia films. Host a throwback night once a week for Oscar winning films, classics chosen by your staff, or poll your followers on social media for the nostalgia films they’d like to see at your cinema. Work with Fathom to screen their repertory films to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The NeverEnding Story, 2024 Studio Ghibli Fest, or the extended edition of each Lord of the Rings Film. Target your marketing efforts to the age groups that these films will resonate with the most.



8. Live Stream Events


2 men with their mouths wide open. Text reads: UFC 303. MCGregor vs Chandler. June 29 SAT on PPV
UFC

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to show the new NBC Olympics live stream at their cinema. But, you can still live stream events! Work with your local high school or University to live stream away games. Decorate your cinema  in the school’s colors and invite the mascot to interact with audience members to enhance the live sports atmosphere!


Is there a growing MMA fan base in your region? Work with Iconic Events to host live-stream UFC events at your cinema! For fans that can’t make it to see these events live, screen these high adrenaline events, so fans can watch the action on the big screen from the comfort of their own premium seats. Create drink + food specials for UFC fans to enjoy during the fights!



Keep researching about your community, experimenting with events, and thinking up fun activations + experiences! Design a unique lineup of alternative programming to transform your cinema into a destination for must-see events!


Want to uncover insights into your community? Wish you knew if kpop or Bollywood resonates more in your area? Check out our Social Media + Social Listening services or email us at hello@onnicreative.xyz.


Interested in film activations + fun content? Check out OC’s Promotions + Digital Content Calendar! Looking for personalized activations or personalized social media content? Contact us at hello@onnicreative.xyz.


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